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    The Pseudoscience Black Hole
    By Massimo Pigliucci | December 23rd 2013 04:52 PM | 35 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Massimo

    Massimo Pigliucci is Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.

    His research focuses on the structure of evolutionary

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    As I’ve mentioned on other occasions, my most recent effort in philosophy of science actually concerns what my collaborator Maarten Boudry and I call the philosophy of pseudoscience. During a recent discussion we had with some of the contributors to our book at the recent congress of the European Philosophy of Science Association, Maarten came up with the idea of the pseudoscience black hole. Let me explain.

    The idea is that it is relatively easy to find historical (and even recent) examples of notions or fields that began within the scope of acceptable scientific practice, but then moved (or, rather, precipitated) into the realm of pseudoscience. The classic case, of course, is alchemy. Contra popular perception, alchemists did produce a significant amount of empirical results about the behavior of different combinations of chemicals, even though the basic theory of elements underlying the whole enterprise was in fact hopelessly flawed. Also, let's not forget that first rate scientists - foremost among them Newton - spent a lot of time carrying out alchemical research, and that they thought of it in the same way in which they were thinking of what later turned out to be good science.

    Another example, this one much more recent, is provided by the cold fusion story. The initial 1989 report by Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann was received with natural caution by the scientific community, given the potentially revolutionary import (both theoretical and practical) of the alleged discovery. But it was treated as science, done by credentialed scientists working within established institutions. The notion was quickly abandoned when various groups couldn't replicate Pons and Fleischmann's results, and moreover given that theoreticians just couldn't make sense of how cold fusion was possible to begin with. The story would have ended there, and represented a good example of the self-correcting mechanism of science, if a small but persistent group of aficionados hadn't pursued the matter by organizing alternative meetings, publishing alleged results, and eventually even beginning to claim that there was a conspiracy by the scientific establishment to suppress the whole affair. In other words, cold fusion had - surprisingly rapidly - moved not only into the territory of discarded science, but of downright pseudoscience.

    Examples of this type can easily be multiplied by even a cursory survey of the history of science. Eugenics and phrenology immediately come to mind, as well as - only slightly more controversially - psychoanalysis. At this point I would also firmly throw parapsychology into the heap (research in parapsychology has been conducted by credentialed scientists, especially during the early part of the 20th century, and for a while it looked like it might have gained enough traction to move to mainstream).

    But, asked Maarten, do we have any convincing cases of the reverse happening? That is, are there historical cases of a discipline or notion that began as clearly pseudoscientific but then managed to clean up its act and emerge as a respectable science? And if not, why?

    Before going any further, we may need to get a bit more clear on what we mean by pseudoscience. Of course Maarten, I and our contributors devoted an entire book to explore that and related questions, so the matter is intricate. Nonetheless, three characteristics of pseudoscience clearly emerged from our discussions:

    1. Pseudoscience is not a fixed notion. A field can slide into (and maybe out of?) pseudoscientific status depending on the temporal evolution of its epistemic status (and, to a certain extent, of the sociology of the situation).

    2. Pseudoscientific claims are grossly deficient in terms of epistemic warrant. This, however, is not sufficient to identify pseudoscience per se, as some claims made within established science can also, at one time or another, be epistemically grossly deficient.

    3. What most characterizes a pseudoscience is the concerted efforts of its practitioners to mimic the trappings of science: They want to be seen as doing science, so they organize conferences, publish specialized journals, and talk about data and statistical analyses. All of it, of course, while lacking the necessary epistemic warrant to actually be a science.

    Given this three-point concept of pseudoscience, then, is Maarten right that pseudoscientific status, once reached, is a "black hole," a sink from which no notion or field ever emerges again?

    The obvious counter example would seem to be herbal medicine which, to a limited extent, is becoming acceptable as a mainstream practice. Indeed, in some cases our modern technology has uncontroversially and successfully purified and greatly improved the efficacy of natural remedies. Just think, of course, of aspirin, whose active ingredient is derived from the bark and leaves of willow trees, the effectiveness of which was well known already to Hippocrates 23 centuries ago.

    Maybe, just maybe, we are in the process of witnessing a similar emergence of acupuncture from pseudoscience to medical acceptability. I say maybe because it is not at all clear, as yet, whether acupuncture has additional effects above and beyond the placebo. But if it does, then it should certainly be used in some clinical practice, mostly as a complementary approach to pain management (it doesn't seem to have measurable effects on much else).

    But these two counter examples struck both Maarten and I as rather unconvincing. They are better interpreted as specific practices, arrived at by trial and error, which happen to work well enough to be useful in modern settings. The theory, such as it is, behind them is not just wrong, but could have never aspired to be scientific to begin with.

    Acupuncture, for instance, is based on the metaphysical notion of Qi energy, flowing through 12 "regular" and 8 "extraordinary" so-called "meridians." Indeed, there are allegedly five types of Qi energy, corresponding to five cardinal functions of the human body: actuation, warming, defense, containment and transformation. Needless to say, all of this is entirely made up, and makes absolutely no contact with either empirical science or established theoretical notions in, say, physics or biology.

    The situation is even more hopeless in the case of "herbalism," which originates from a hodgepodge of approaches, including magic, shamanism, and Chinese "medicine" type of supernaturalism. Indeed, one of Hippocrates' great contributions was precisely to reject mysticism and supernaturalism as bases for medicine, which is why he is often referred to as the father of "Western" medicine (i.e., medicine).

    Based just on the examples discussed above - concerning once acceptable scientific notions that slipped into pseudoscience and pseudoscientific notions that never emerged into science - it would seem that there is a potential explanation for Maarten's black hole. Cold fusion, phrenology, and to some (perhaps more debatable) extent alchemy were not just empirically based (so is acupuncture, after all!), but built on a theoretical foundation that invoked natural laws and explicitly attempted to link up with established science. Those instances of pseudoscience whose practice, but not theory, may have made it into the mainstream, instead, invoked supernatural or mystical notions, and most definitely did not make any attempt to connect with the rest of the scientific web of knowledge.

    Please note that I am certainly not saying that all pseudoscience is based on supernaturalism. Parapsychology and ufology, in most of their incarnations at least, certainly aren't. What I am saying is that either a notion begins within the realm of possibly acceptable science - from which it then evolves either toward full fledged science or slides into pseudoscience - or it starts out as pseudoscience and remains there. The few apparent exceptions to the latter scenario appear to be cases of practices based on mystical or similar notions. In those cases aspects of the practice may become incorporated into (and explained by) modern science, but the "theoretical" (really, metaphysical) baggage is irrevocably shed.

    *****

    Can anyone think of examples that counter the idea of the pseudoscience black hole? Or of alternative explanations for its existence?

    Originally on Rationally Speaking

    Comments

    Michael Martinez
    I can't counter anything but I had to look up "epistemic warrant" to see what you're referring to and unfortunately I found only a smattering of challenges to the notion, so it's unclear to me how well accepted it is in philosophical circles (much less scientific nomenclature).
    Not being well-versed in Chinese medicine either, I am only aware of the fact that it has been faithfully practiced for (I guess) thousands of years, according to a set of principles about which I know nothing.

    Assuming for the sake of discussion that these two concepts provide a model for what we could call "a scientific frame of reference within a biased context", it follows that one man's science may be another man's pseudoscience, and that neither man is in a position to dissuade the other.

    The battle between Creationism and Evolutionary theory comes to mind.  I have no particular affinity for Creationism but I do know that as the "facts" of evolution are rewritten every now and then the Creationists take some delight in the apparent instability of the knowledge accumulated by the science.

    Rather than resurrect a weary argument, let us suppose there is a body of accumulated empirical knowledge and principles that comprise what to its organizers are a "science".  This body of knowledge and principles, being alien to us, might seem pseudoscientific to us simply because it is organized according to principles we don't follow.

    While it's easy to say this alleged pseudoscience is inferior to our science if it's, say, used to argue for the existence of Bigfoot, it's not so easy to dismiss it if, say, an intelligent species from another galaxy uses it to visit us (and I do not mean that we can use this body of apparent pseudoscience to discuss UFOlogy).

    These hypothetical aliens might look at our science (or some of it) and dismiss it as irrational nonsense, especially if we keep changing our views every few years.  Would they be wrong to do so if their science contradicted our science?

    Which is to say that scientific knowledge is not self-actualizing, even if the scientific principle can be applied in multiple disciplines.  So the rational conclusions we draw based on our scientific knowledge are only as reliable as the knowledge itself, and perhaps less so if our reasoning is flawed.

    In which case, would that not mean that pseudoscience may be able to prove itself to be scientific with a radical change in context (thinking and presentation), wherever such changes are compatible with both contexts?  But would it not also mean that some pseudoscience might simply be scientific in a different rational, logical context that our science cannot embrace?
    Lysenkoism?

    That's what came to my mind when I recently read about trauma-induced phobias being inheritable. See e.g. http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/5152/20131202/phobias-may-be-inh.... I would like to read a knowledgeable and unbiased discussion of how this sort of thing relates to Lysenko's theories.

    Perhaps continental drift theory?

    Thomas Leahey
    Author, Psychology and the question of pseudoscience (1983).

    Yes, this is a very important example because the rejectionists were so utterly wrong in their evaluation of the evidence for relative motion of continents. Their only real justification was Wegener's inadequate mechanism. But this amounts to putting theory before evidence. So who was really being pseudo-scientific?

    AGW extremist scenarios or any of the other global disaster "sciences" So much money to be made and power to be seized when humankind can be made to believe a crisis must be held at bay.

    John Duffield
    I'd say Maarten's idea is flawed. His lack of knowledge of physics has coloured his views on cold fusion, and he's underplaying the way chemistry grew out of alchemy. Robert Boyle was an alchemist. And see this quote from Newton's Opticks query 30: "Are not gross bodies and light convertible into one another?" It's true. A fire does convert a small percentage of matter into energy. Nowadays we perform 100% conversion via pair production and annihilation. Given that Newton knew that you could convert light into matter, I can excuse him a little dabbling. If you can turn light into gross bodies, turning lead into gold ought to be a piece of cake. And yes, we can do that too. But there is no evidence whatsoever for string theory of supersymmetry or the holographic universe or the multiverse. Or the black hole information paradox, or Hawking radiation, or white holes. And the Higgs mechanism contradicts E=mc². So all in all, I'd say the situation isn't black and white. Thomas: good one.
    I tend to agree that the situation isn't completely black and white, but I want to point what appear to me to be a couple of small mistakes:

    The standard model Lagrangian is Lorentz invariant, so how does the Higgs mechanism contradict E=mc^2?

    Regarding supersymmetry, as I understand it, there are results deduced from the theory that are consistent with known experimental results, and there are predictions of new physics, supersymmetric particles etc, that the proponents have offered to high energy experimentalists to help establish their theory. Although no sparticles have been discovered thus far, particle theorists are not suggesting that their colleagues at the LHC, or FermiLab are conspiring against them, and are willing to modify their theories to comport with emerging experimental findings. From your definition one would have to say that there was "no evidence, whatsoever" for the Higgs, or the W and Z bosons, for that matter, until they were discovered at CERN. Are you really claiming that supersymmetry is no different than a pseudoscience? The situation appears more black and white to me than to you, I guess.

    Electrotherapy.

    The earliest neurologists (Erb, Duchenne, etc) experimented intensively with various types of AC and DC currents to cure or ameliorate psychiatric and motor disorders. They achieved lots of documented results and established firm protocols for placement of electrodes, frequency, voltage, etc.

    When the pill-pushers took over psychiatry, galvanic therapy was discredited, forgotten, and treated as quackery from 1910 to 1980. Now it has been reinvented under new names like TDCS and TENS, and it's accomplishing EXACTLY the same cures that galvanic therapy had ALREADY accomplished in the 1880s.

    In general the 19th century was right about everything and the 20th Century was wrong about everything. A few of those 20th century disasters are being fixed now.

    I actually think main-stream science does not control nearly well enough for the placebo effect. As such, it has a 'mote' in its eye similar to pseudo-science.

    I am mildy autistic which makes me a serious detail person. My experience with Pseudoscience is that it is painfully obvious long before it even gets started in the explanation. Pseudoscience always begins with the conclusion and then moves backwards to hand waving and/or conspiracy theories. Science starts with the details and then moves forward to the conclusion. The type of people who believe psuedo science tend to believe all pseudo science. "Ghosts exist", "Your fuse box is killing you", "Cold Fusion", "Consensus proves this", "Big Pharma is poisoning you with jet planes", etc.

    They rewrite the facts to support the conclusion and then move forward until it becomes a former shadow of itself. The more recent ludicrous claims of "The Population Bomb" when disproven are simply replaced by less obviously wrong claims. Any facts are rewritten or flipped perspective to prove the Psuedo science conclusion (or are a giant conspiracy if they don't).

    Sorry the link to this article is Pseudo Science is very unlikely to move to real science because the people who believe in it aren't looking for proof of their their theories or science. In their mind their theory is true. Now they have to convince everyone else their Pseudo Science is true. They are the type of people who don't think scientifically by their inherent nature. It is very hard (maybe impossible) to find the supporting facts if you aren't looking for them.

    I disagree with your statement, ". The type of people who believe psuedo science tend to believe all pseudo science." Martin Gardner, years ago, wrote "Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science".
    He got responses like, "on the whole, the book was good, but why did you include ( flying saucers, orgonomy, handwriting analysis- take your pick) with all that quackery?

    "All" is a little strong and badly worded. People are born susceptible to psuedo science and often tend to believe in two or more of them. I remember an environmental presentation where someone put up on the board two slides. One from the Neolithic period and one from modern day. The conclusion "the earth is rapidly deforesting". Many people were wondering around the room convinced the earth is deforesting after. Two cherry picked slides and a convinced presenter was all it took.

    Multi vitamins, margarine, global warming ( more popular than the Acopalypse as a doomsday "theory.) Yes, I know, 78% or was it 94% of scientist are willing to amen for the research funds but, science is 100% as in if I drop this glass it will fall down. The unscientific doubter, deniers or misguided fundamentalist who ask for a 99.9% gold standard for science are stupid (quote Dawkins) Evolution is so seriously flawed but so stoutly and vigorously defended by the true believers that any rational discussion is impossible. It is not Genesis that makes Christians skeptical of evolution. It is Matthew 23:24 which is curiously, the one verse Dawkins didn't strain for gnats He would be better occupied straining his theory as carefully..

    The very conception of science (that you invoke) counters your "black hole" notion. At a certain time the present philosophy and practice of science was not used, and its practice emerged from what should retrospectively be called pseudoscientific precursors (ie. metaphysics, mysticisms, non-western medicines).
    Your claim is that all practitioners outside of the field you presume to supervise are flawed in their methods and that they should join your club. The world may lose nothing with the abolition of ufo-ology, but it may lose a lot if contravercial thought is relegated immediately to the dust bin.
    Particularly in a market based society, like ours is becoming; the tendency for old thinking to preserve itself by shirking its competition is a danger when outsiders are called instantly and eternally abject.

    "What most characterizes a pseudoscience is the concerted efforts of its practitioners to mimic the trappings of science:" Like sociology?

    Hank
    And almost all social sciences, really. But it happens everywhere. As Gary Taubes put it succinctly in an interview here, pseudo-junk can have value;
    I used to joke with my friends in the physics community that if you want to cleanse your discipline of the worst scientists in it, every three or four years, you should have someone publish a bogus paper claiming to make some remarkable new discovery — infinite free energy or ESP, or something suitably cosmic like that. Then you have it published in a legitimate journal ; it shows up on the front page of the New York Times, and within two months, every bad scientist in the field will be working on it. Then you just take the ones who publish papers claiming to replicate the effect, and you throw them out of the field. A way of cleaning out the bottom of the barrel.
    Meteoritics?

    Good one! This is one of the most egregious examples of scientific arrogance I know of. In the past, meteorites generally fell in rural areas, so only peasants whose testimony counted for nothing would know anything about it. It took the French Revolution to overturn this particular bit of scientific arrogance.

    I might also add: evolution.

    The notion that species are not fixed, but change with time, was profoundly antagonistic to the philosophical climate of its day. Species were viewed as reflecting fixed essences. Darwin's insight was to reject essentialist thinking and view species as populations of individuals.Pre-Darwinian theories of evolution, such as Lamarck's, also had many pseudoscientific trappings.

    Darwin's theory had the advantage of being correct, so it moved into the realm of real science. But this took a while, with some dubiously scientific excursions (orthogenesis, saltationism, and so on) being considered before the modern synthesis came together in the 1930s. At that point the transition to science was complete.

    Michael Martinez
    Of course, there is always the coelacanth.  To say that species "change" may not be as accurate as to say that new species emerge from older ones.
    Science means "to know". A key characteristic of science is to predict with certainty a future event, e.g. gravity always works, mass in free space is attracted to the earth. Other types, palm readers, psychics, and religious cult leaders also predict the future, but with an broad inexactness, and mumbo jumbo that permits all subsequent events to have been plausibly predicted. Or not. In the latter part of the 19 century, it was common that Laudanum (Opium) and cocaine (Coke) was taken as patent medicines for a host of maladies, and was scientifically guaranteed to make one feel better. It worked, but as man learned more, the negative predictions, IE addiction, were slowly recognized as valid. This is the classic dilemma of scientists who make a good living while slowly learning that their bread and butter fact, produces harm, poison. This is the event horizon of a black hole of unvarnished truth. Few scientists have declared, "I was wrong, all wet." No politician, or journalist ever retracts their non truth, often after their enemies prove conclusively that they lied, the black hole from which truth never escapes.

    A series of potential examples come to mind. Perhaps the most interesting is a physician in turn of the (20th) century New York who treated cancer with a broth. This was derived from skin scrapings of patients with erysipelas that was incubated in a broth and given to patients as treatment. The rationale was the observation that patients with cancer who developed erysipelas were occasionally cured of their cancer after they recovered from their skin condition, He used this treatment with some success. He reported his experience in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (a series of patients he treated) published in 1917. (I think, I haven't looked for it in more than 20 yrs, but I did see it once). He apparently gave up using this modality of treatment when a patient bled out and died on his front stoop after treatment. He bled into necrotic tumor.
    If I understand correctly, Dr Vince Devita who was later head of the NCI, made his reputation at the NIH in the 50's debunking Cooley's toxin as a method of cancer treatment in a series of papers. Not long after he completed this series of reports, the first papers describing cachexin, what we now call a cytokine was published. My understanding is that erysipelas is thought to produce cytokines that are toxic to tumors, eg tumor necrosis factor alpha or beta and that this is the presumed modality of action of cooley's toxin. Cytokines are now thought to be important potential modality for treating tumors or infections. So Cooley's toxin has gone from being a technique suitable for reporting in an important US medical journal JAMA to being useless in Dr Devita's work to being an important potential source of future treatments.
    A second example might be Dr MacDonald, a physician practicing in the Ohio valley in the early 1800's who is reported to have removed abdominal tumors surgically from patients via interabdominal procedures. His first patient is reported to be a woman who rode five miles to his cabin, swept out the dirt floor slept there overnight and after prayer the next morning he remove a 22 lb tumor (thought to be ovarian) from her. Several days later she rode off and is reported to have lived to a ripe old age. This was in 1804, without anesthesia, antibiotics, or aseptic technique. He did this three more times before he travelled to Vienna, the home of many important medical schools and presented his results. He was laughed (or hooted) off the stage. The story is recounted in an article in the American Heritage magazine. I don't have a specific reference, but it is before 1971. In addition, there is a commemorative stamp with his picture on it printed in the 50's. You should be able to find the story connected to it there also. When I first read about his "accomplishments" I was amazed at the reception he got in Vienna. As I have gotten older, I have become amazed they didn't treat him worse. He should not have been able to do (get away with) what he did. Today, despite the reception he (rightly) got in Vienna or probably anywhere else he presented his data, procedures he first performed are routinely performed all over the world. This example may not fit your designation of back from the black hole, because it isn't science, but it is an example of a technique used, discarded by the medical community and the readopted. Like phrenology, but with a happy ending,
    Similar stories exist with shorter turnarounds. The story of the development of ether as an anesthetic agent fits this description. The use of vaccinia to prevent small pox might be another. It clearly was not immediately accepted. The use of bleeding to restore the balance of humors in the eighteenth century is another potential, depending on the requirements for turn around. we occasionally use bleeding to keep the hematocrit low in patients with polycythemia or to induce iron loss in hemochromatosis (although there are other ways to do this)

    Best example of pseudoscience happening right now: the hoax of man-made global warming.

    Ignaz Semmelweis.

    His method (aseptics) of fighting childbed fever was for a long time rejected by medical community. And for a good reason: there were no scientific justification of Semmelweis findings.

    So it was pure pseudoscience. Semmelweis has published book about it. He's claimed he has data supporting his method. But everybody was thinking he's a charlatan.

    What about hypnosis? Didn't it start out as pseudoscience, while now being accepted as a true phenomena?

    Hank
    ha ha ... good one. It's just the opposite, of course, it started out as being considered possible, and now is regarded in the same way as sham acupuncture, homeopathy or other placebos.
    Oh, and cryptozoology...sort of. I mean, we have found the once mythical Giant Squid. If true evidence for Big Foot or Nessie ever appear...well first I would be somewhat surprised, but it would be exactly the example you re looking for.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    This article called 'What Pseudoscience Tells us About Science' by Steven Dutch at the University of Wisconsin points out that 'Many definitions of the scientific method have been formulated, and all have their merits. However, every single one can be counterfeited by pseudoscientists. Thus, pseudoscience has profound implications for models of science....Pseudoscientists also make extensive use of naive falsification, the assertion that a single contrary result is enough to undermine a scientific concept'. 
    For example, physicist Dayton C. Miller performed the Michelson-Morley Experiment (the basis of Relativity) in the 1930's and got results contrary to everyone else. There continue to be people who argue that his contrary results show that:
    • Relativity is wrong.   
    • Science is merely a social construct or consensus  
    • Science suppresses findings it finds embarrassing  
    • All of the above  
    However, any such conflict has two sides. On the one hand we have an anomaly that indicates the prevailing scientific view is wrong, on the other we have a large body of accumulated data that indicates that the anomaly either doesn't exist, was incorrectly observed, or has some other explanation. Since there's a huge body of evidence in support of relativity and no credible experiments in support of Miller, we are justified in concluding that Miller's experimental methods were wrong rather than relativity.
    Even so there does seem to be quite a lot of evidence reported in the press lately and even here at Science20 showing that some quite generally accepted scientific experiments and assumptions could not or cannot easily be reproduced. 
    Maybe the answer to the problem of pseudoscience claiming to be science and some accepted science possibly being pseudoscience is to create a global science auditing organization to randomly audit scientific research claims and publications in a similar way to how auditors currently audit companies financial accounts and statements, except that these science auditors would also be tasked to randomly select and replicate their 'scientific' claims and data? 

    The consequences for data falsification and misrepresentations should be severe and the benefits from being audited and given scientific approval should be highly beneficial with a publicly recognised global stamp of approval. Science auditing could also provide some interesting jobs for scientists :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Science auditing is precisely what Tenure seeks to avoid. For example Einstein was originally considered a flake because his theories flew in the face of the "science" of that era.

    Also keep in mind Science auditors at the UN have a very bad record. Organizations like that tend to continue on forever trying to find a purpose and cause more damage than help. The example often used is the "Population Division" at the UN which was going to use science to stop the mass starvation and wars that were predicted in the 1990s. True science increased crop output to the point we can feed everyone with less land than the 1980s (even with our population increase). The UN agency still flounders around looking for a purpose but they still have funding...

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat

    Science auditing is precisely what Tenure seeks to avoid. For example Einstein was originally considered a flake because his theories flew in the face of the "science" of that era. 
    OK, so in that case 'tenure' and pseudoscience have something in common :) Wouldn't a scientific audit of Einstein's work have shown that his scientific research and claims were valid and that he was not a pseudoscience flake? Surely he would have welcomed a scientific audit!
    Academic tenure 'Under the tenure systems adopted as internal policy by many universities and colleges, especially in the United States and Canada, tenure is associated with more senior job titles such as Professor and Associate Professor. A junior professor will not be promoted to such a tenured position without meeting the goals of the institution, often (though not always including) demonstrating a strong record of published research, grant funding, academic visibility, teaching and administrative service, with emphasis different across institutions (though often focused on research in universities). 
    Typical systems (such as the Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure) allow only a limited period to establish such a record, by limiting the number of years that any employee can hold a junior title such as Assistant Professor. (An institution may also offer other academic titles that are not time-limited, such as Lecturer, Adjunct Professor, or Research Professor, but these positions do not carry the possibility of tenure and are said to be "off the tenure track.")

    It looks as though 'tenure' is achieved for some scientists but only after a form of science 'auditing' has taken place and that this then gives lifetime academic freedom to those scientists who achieve the required academic status within a limited time frame. This must exclude many women academics who take time off to have children and/or work part time for obvious societal reasons simply because women are usually the primary carers for their young, disabled and elderly family members.

    Considering how many people are getting early dementia these days and/or suffering from mental disorders in their lifetime I don't think that a one off science audit of an academic is sufficient to guarantee that all of their future science research and claims can be guaranteed to be free from pseudoscience and are valid and reproducible. Imagine if the same applied to private industry and Chief Company Accountants, Bankers and Financial Directors were audited and assessed within a set time frame and then given tenure and from then on their financial statements were never audited!
    Academic tenure is primarily intended to guarantee the right to academic freedom: it protects teachers and researchers when they dissent from prevailing opinion, openly disagree with authorities of any sort, or spend time on unfashionable topics. Thus academic tenure is similar to the lifetime tenure that protects some judges from external pressure. Without job security, the scholarly community as a whole might favor "safe" lines of inquiry. The intent of tenure is to allow original ideas to be more likely to arise, by giving scholars the intellectual autonomy to investigate the problems and solutions about which they are most passionate, and to report their honest conclusions.
    Academic freedom is obviously a good thing and pseudoscience is obviously a bad thing but they are not necessarily independent of each other. Tenure appears to be a one off form of a science audit for some science academics who then achieve almost God like status for life, so maybe this needs to be reassessed after a period of time just as car drivers are also reassessed as they get older?
    In North American universities and colleges, the tenure track has long been a defining feature of employment. However, it is becoming less than universal. In North American universities, positions that carry tenure, or the opportunity to attain tenure, have grown more slowly than non-tenure-track positions, leading to a large "academic underclass". For example, most U.S. universities currently supplement the work of tenured professors with the services of non-tenured adjunct professors, academics who teach classes for lower wages and fewer employment benefits under relatively short-term contracts. There is also a discrepancy when it comes to who attains tenure; since 1989 only 40% of women faculty members held tenured positions, compared to 65% of their male colleagues.
    So who is scientifically auditing this large academic underclass and ensuring that their scientific research is not generating pseudoscience and that their scientific claims are valid and reproducible and not pseudoscience? This large academic underclass are being supervised or are at least under the umbrellas of tenured academics who may possibly have since become mentally disordered or worse still even become immoral pseudoscientists who are receiving large paybacks and research grants from private industry who have unscientific ulterior financial motives.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Also keep in mind Science auditors at the UN have a very bad record. Organizations like that tend to continue on forever trying to find a purpose and cause more damage than help. The example often used is the "Population Division" at the UN which was going to use science to stop the mass starvation and wars that were predicted in the 1990s. True science increased crop output to the point we can feed everyone with less land than the 1980s (even with our population increase). The UN agency still flounders around looking for a purpose but they still have funding...
    Just because science auditors at the UN have a bad record and according to you have done more damage in the past than help surely that doesn't mean that they can't be improved does it? The UN is currently a toothless tiger but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have a purpose and that one day it can't improve and take on a more powerful role and grow some teeth.

    This planet is one planet with many nations and over 7 billion people with species and habitats going extinct at an alarming rate, scientists predict that 50% of the species that still remain now will be extinct by 2100 so surely the only real hope for a civilized sustainable future for this planet and every living creature on her is for the nations to unite and govern themselves sensibly. 
    Animated tiger JennyCreationsToothless Tiger by Jenny's Creations

    Imagine the Star Ship Enterprise Star Trek crew arriving at a distant planet similar to Earth where there were many different nations all competing with each other for limited resources and polluting and destroying themselves and their environment with out of control materialistic consumption and population growth and they had a United Nations that was powerless to do anything about it. Wouldn't they see that UN toothless tiger as the main problem on that planet? If so then why can't we see that too?

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    The science of cold fusion improperly went into the annals of pseudoscience and there is an example of how declaring things pseudoscience not worth any further consideration is just wrong. http://www.e-catworld.com/ Cold fusion is in fact on the cusp of commercialization. No thanks to the scientific establishment who control what is worthy of appearing in science journals. A nobel laureate just recently announced how he was not going to publish in mainstream journals anymore because of academic suppresion. Brian Josephson and Julian Schwinger were also grossly incensed by the mainstream treatment of cold fusion. Eugene Mallove quit his post at MIT over the scientific fraud used to show that the MIT results were negative when in fact they were positive. It is in large part because of Mallove that any sort of decent research continued for cold fusion. Rest in peace, Mallove, you will be vindicated and celebrated. I dare anyone to try to find supporting evidence for it. Wikipedia also has a long history of supressing any sort of positive news regarding it because everybody just knows that cold fusion does not deserve any sort of thought outside of regurgitating strawmen arguments from hot fusioners, whose endless sink of money is the real scam.

    Hank
    The science of cold fusion improperly went into the annals of pseudoscience 
    Improperly? Maybe, but only if we clarify to note it is absolutely not even close to being science much less technology - so perhaps junk science rather than pseudo-. I certainly appreciate the zealous PR effort that site does, we get spammed from them 5 times a week, but that doesn't make it real. 

    Obviously fusion has been studied for 50 solid years and it may take another 50 until it is ready, but it will be worth it. This cold fusion nonsense that still gets promoted is just that.