, is a pejorative neologism
referring to research that falls short of adhering to the scientific method. The term was popularized in the book Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud
, by professor and scientific skeptic Robert L. Park
. Other authors have used the term, but it remains most closely associated with Park.
The term also appears in an earlier article title by W. Booth, "Voodoo Science" , and even earlier in a 1984 US Government report "Oversight Hearing on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention".
Park uses the term voodoo science as a catch-all concept covering four categories sometimes difficult to distinguish from each other:
- pathological science, wherein genuine scientists deceive themselves
- junk science, speculative theorizing which bamboozles rather than enlightens
- pseudoscience proper, work falsely claiming to have a scientific basis, which may be dependent on supernatural explanations
- fraudulent science, exploiting bad science for the purposes of fraud
Park, a physics professor, science administrator/lobbyist/journalist and outspoken scientific skeptic, outlines his seven warning signs that a claim may be pseudoscientific and analyzes beliefs in popular culture and the media with a skeptical eye. Those seven warning signs are:
- Discoverers make their claims directly to the popular media, rather than to fellow scientists.
- Discoverers claim that a conspiracy has tried to suppress the discovery.
- The claimed effect appears so weak that observers can hardly distinguish it from noise. No amount of further work increases the signal.
- Anecdotal evidence is used to back up the claim.
- True believers cite ancient traditions in support of the new claim.
- The discoverer or discoverers work in isolation from the mainstream scientific community.
- The discovery, if true, would require a change in the understanding of the fundamental laws of nature.
These warning signs are nearly identical with those of pathological science, as discussed by physicist Irving Langmuir in 1953.