Richard Feynman is an outstanding American scientist whose work in a theoretical physics major was responsible for introducing a cargo-cult term related to pseudoscience, theoretical writings that don’t have any true meaning. In his famous 1974 speech at the California Institute of Technology, he first compared pseudo-scientific research with religious practice because neither makes any sense. According to Feynman, we can build on theory that helps us to distinguish pseudoscience from real knowledge. Simon Oxenham, a neuropsychologist, provides an article review on Feynman’s legendary speech.
How to Distinguish a Pseudoscience from a Real Science?
People who accept pretend science are no different than ancient tribal societies that accepted all events as magical rather than examining the nature of the events to determine their cause. Just as the people of cargo-cult tribes simply copied the rituals of people from developed countries, cargo science is just a pretend science. So, rather than accepting ideas expressed in impressive-sounding terms, individuals should learn to analyze what they hear and read. With that thought, how does one become smarter by learning how to understand something? Oxenham gives us the answers in his article review of Feynman’s speech.
First, do not be misled by the use of scientific-sounding terms. Just because someone uses certain words does not mean that person understands those words. Not only that, but special words and terms need to be defined in scientific writing. A term can have one meaning in a certain context and a completely different meaning in another context. Another issue that Feynman was fighting was the phenomenon of the dishonesty in some science fields. For example, some scientists would base their experiments on the prior results of others’ experiments. However, the second experiments falsified results based on the prior experiments, using the falsified results to manipulate others.
When writing an article review, one should offer insight to the reader. Oxenham does this in offering useful advice for those who want to separate true knowledge from idle talk. He suggests that individuals ask questions. First, ask yourself after listening to a lecture or reading some material: What did I learn from this? In addition, one way to expose a pseudo-scientist is to ask him to explain his ideas in simple words, without using specialized terms. Even the most difficult theory in the world can be explained to a five-year-old. To ask questions until you understand the sense of the matter is a habit that that leads to knowledge. Improve your knowledge, and never let anyone fool you. Search for the true meaning of ideas and concepts as a smart student.