Questions to help distinguish a pseudoscience from a protoscience (a new science trying to establish its legitimacy)


adapted from Lee Moller's on-line article "BCS Debates a Qi Gong Master," Rational Enquirer, Vol 6, No. 4, Apr 94 (published by the British Columbia Skeptics Society)


  1. Has the subject shown progress?
  2. Does the discipline use technical words such as "vibration" or "energy" without clearly defining what they mean?
  3. Would accepting the tenets of a claim require you to abandon any well established physical laws?
  4. Are popular articles on the subject lacking in references?
  5. Is the only evidence offered anecdotal in nature?
  6. Does the proponent of the subject claim that "air-tight" experiments have been performed that prove the truth of the subject matter, and that cheating would have been impossible?
  7. Are the results of the aforementioned experiments successfully repeated by other researchers?
  8. Does the proponent of the subject claim to be overly or unfairly criticized?
  9. Is the subject taught only in non-credit institutions?
  10. Are the best texts on the subject decades old?
  11. Does the proponent of the claim use what one writer has called "factuals" - statements that are a largely or wholly true but unrelated to the claim?
  12. When criticized, do the defenders of the claim attack the critic rather than the criticism?
  13. Does the proponent make appeals to history (i.e. it has been around a long time, so it must be true)?
  14. Does the subject display the "shyness effect" (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't)?
  15. Does the proponent use the appeal to ignorance argument ("there are more things under heaven … than are dreamed of in your philosophy …")?
  16. Does the proponent use alleged expertise in other areas to lend weight to the claim?