Fringe science is an inquiry in an established field of study which departs significantly from mainstream theories in that field and is considered to be questionable by the mainstream.
Fringe science may be either a questionable application of a scientific approach to a field of study or an approach whose status as scientific is widely questioned.
For mainstream scientists, attributes of fringe science include being highly speculative or relying on premises already refuted. Fringe science theories are often advanced by persons who have no traditional academic science background, or by researchers outside the mainstream discipline. The general public has difficulty distinguishing between science and its imitators, and in some cases a "yearning to believe or a generalized suspicion of experts is a very potent incentive to accepting pseudoscientific claims".
The term "fringe science" covers everything from novel hypotheses which can be tested by means of the scientific method to wild ad hoc hypotheses and mumbo jumbo. This has resulted in a tendency to dismiss all fringe science as the domain of pseudoscientists, hobbyists, and cranks.
Other terms for questionable types of science are pathological science, voodoo science, and cargo cult science. The term junk science is used to criticize research seen as dubious or fraudulent, as opposed to "solid science".
A concept that was once accepted by the mainstream scientific community may become fringe science because of a later evaluation of previous research. For example, focal infection theory, which held that focal infections of the tonsils or teeth are a primary cause of systemic disease, was once considered to be medical fact. It has since been dismissed because of lack of evidence.
The term "fringe science" denotes unorthodox scientific theories and models. Persons who create fringe science may have employed the scientific method in their work, but their results are not accepted by the mainstream scientific community. Fringe science may be advocated by a scientist who has some recognition within the larger scientific community, but this is not always the case. Usually the evidence provided by fringe science is accepted only by a minority and is rejected by most experts.
The boundary between fringe science and pseudoscience is disputed. The connotation of "fringe science" is that the enterprise is rational but is unlikely to produce good results for a variety of reasons, including incomplete or contradictory evidence. Pseudoscience, however, is something that is not scientific but is incorrectly characterised as science.
The term may be considered pejorative. For example, Lyell D. Henry Jr. wrote that, "fringe science [is] a term also suggesting kookiness." This characterization is perhaps inspired by the eccentric behavior of many researchers of the kind known colloquially (and with considerable historical precedent) as mad scientists.
Although most fringe science is rejected, the scientific community has come to accept some portions of it. One example of such is plate tectonics, an idea which had its origin in the fringe science of continental drift and was rejected for decades.
The confusion between science and pseudoscience, between honest scientific error and genuine scientific discovery, is not new, and it is a permanent feature of the scientific landscape .... Acceptance of new science can come slowly.
Some historical ideas that are considered to have been refuted by mainstream science are:
Relatively recent fringe sciences include:
Some theories that were once rejected as fringe science, but were eventually accepted as mainstream science, are:
Michael W. Friedlander has suggested some guidelines for responding to fringe science, which, he argues, is a more difficult problem than scientific misconduct. His suggested methods include impeccable accuracy, checking cited sources, not overstating orthodox science, thorough understanding of the Wegener continental drift example, examples of orthodox science investigating radical proposals, and prepared examples of errors from fringe scientists.
Friedlander suggests that fringe science is necessary so that mainstream science will not atrophy. Scientists must evaluate the plausibility of each new fringe claim, and certain fringe discoveries "will later graduate into the ranks of accepted" — while others "will never receive confirmation".
Margaret Wertheim profiled many "outsider scientists" in her book Physics on the Fringe, who receive little or no attention from professional scientists. She describes all of them as trying to make sense of the world using the scientific method, but in the face of not being able to understand the complex theories of modern science. She also finds it fair that credentialed scientists do not bother spending a lot of time learning about and explaining problems with the fringe theories of uncredentialed scientists, since the authors of those theories have not taken the time to understand the mainstream theories they aim to disprove.
Towards the end of the 20th century, some critics (such as Answers in Genesis) began to cite fringe science theories with limited support. Often their goal was to classify as controversial entire fields of scientific inquiry (notably paleoanthropology, human sexuality, evolution, geology, and paleontology) that contradict literal or fundamentalist interpretation of various sacred texts.
As Donald E. Simanek asserts, "Too often speculative and tentative hypotheses of cutting edge science are treated as if they were scientific truths, and so accepted by a public eager for answers." But the public is ignorant of the fact that "As science progresses from ignorance to understanding it must pass through a transitional phase of confusion and uncertainty."
The media also play a role in propagating the belief that certain fields of science are controversial. In their 2003 paper "Optimising Public Understanding of Science and Technology in Europe: A Comparative Perspective", Jan Nolin et al. write that "From a media perspective it is evident that controversial science sells, not only because of its dramatic value, but also since it is often connected to high-stake societal issues."
The 21 grams experiment refers to a scientific study published in 1907 by Duncan MacDougall, a physician from Haverhill, Massachusetts. MacDougall hypothesized that souls have physical weight, and attempted to measure the mass lost by a human when the soul departed the body. MacDougall attempted to measure the mass change of six patients at the moment of death. One of the six subjects lost three-fourths of an ounce (21.3 grams).
MacDougall stated his experiment would have to be repeated many times before any conclusion could be obtained. The experiment is widely regarded as flawed and unscientific due to the small sample size, the methods used, as well as the fact only one of the six subjects met the hypothesis. The case has been cited as an example of selective reporting. Despite its rejection within the scientific community, MacDougall's experiment popularized the concept that the soul has weight, and specifically that it weighs 21 grams.Anomalistics
Anomalistics is the use of scientific methods to evaluate anomalies (phenomena that fall outside current understanding), with the aim of finding a rational explanation. The term itself was coined in 1973 by Drew University anthropologist Roger W. Wescott, who defined it as being the "serious and systematic study of all phenomena that fail to fit the picture of reality provided for us by common sense or by the established sciences."Wescott credited journalist and researcher Charles Fort as being the creator of anomalistics as a field of research, and he named biologist Ivan T. Sanderson and Sourcebook Project compiler William R. Corliss as being instrumental in expanding anomalistics to introduce a more conventional perspective into the field.Henry Bauer, emeritus professor of science studies at Virginia Tech, writes that anomalistics is "a politically correct term for the study of bizarre claims", while David J. Hess of the Department of Science and Technology Studies at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute describes it as being "the scientific study of anomalies defined as claims of phenomena not generally accepted by the bulk of the scientific community."Anomalistics covers several sub-disciplines, including ufology, cryptozoology, and parapsychology. Researchers involved in the field have included ufologist J. Allen Hynek and cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans, and parapsychologist John Hayes.Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is a pseudoscience. It uses aromatic materials, including essential oils, and other aroma compounds, with claims for improving psychological or physical well-being. It is offered as a complementary therapy or as a form of alternative medicine, the first meaning alongside standard treatments, the second instead of conventional, evidence-based treatments.Aromatherapists, people who specialize in the practice of aromatherapy, utilize blends of supposedly therapeutic essential oils that can be used as topical application, massage, inhalation or water immersion. There is no good medical evidence that aromatherapy can either prevent, treat, or cure any disease. Placebo-controlled trials are difficult to design, as the point of aromatherapy is the smell of the products. There is disputed evidence that it may be effective in combating postoperative nausea and vomiting.Earthquake light
An earthquake light (EQL) is a luminous aerial phenomenon that reportedly appears in the sky at or near areas of tectonic stress, seismic activity, or volcanic eruptions. Skeptics point out that the phenomenon is poorly understood and many of the reported sightings can be accounted for by mundane explanations.Fringe theory
A fringe theory is an idea or viewpoint which differs from the accepted scholarship in its field. Fringe theories include the models and proposals of fringe science, as well as similar ideas in other areas of scholarship, such as the humanities. The term fringe theory is commonly used in a narrower sense as a pejorative, roughly synonymous with pseudo-scholarship. Precise definitions that distinguish between widely held viewpoints, fringe theories, and pseudo-scholarship are difficult to construct because of the demarcation problem. Issues of false balance or false equivalence can occur when fringe theories are presented as being equal to widely accepted theories.Journal of Cosmology
The Journal of Cosmology describes itself as a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal of cosmology, although the quality of the process has been questioned. The journal has been closely related historically with a similar online website, Cosmology (or Cosmology.com). The journal was established in 2009 and is published by Cosmology Science Publishers. Rudolph Schild is the editor-in-chief and executive editor.Journal of Historical Review
The Journal of Historical Review is a non–peer reviewed journal published by the Institute for Historical Review in Torrance, California.
The journal was founded by the far right political activist Willis Carto. Its subject is primarily Holocaust denial. Its critics, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Danish Center for Holocaust and Genocide studies, and other scholars, such as Robert Hanyok, a National Security Agency historian, accused the journal of being pseudo-scientific. When Noam Chomsky defended an author who wrote articles for the journal (Robert Faurisson), it led to great controversy, though Chomsky insisted he was defending Faurisson's right to free speech rather than any specific claims made in his articles.
The History Teacher wrote that the "[journal] is shockingly racist and antisemitic: articles on 'America's Failed Racial Policy' and anti-Israel pieces accompany those about gas chambers... They clearly have no business claiming to be a continuation of the revisionist tradition, and should be referred to as 'Holocaust Deniers'."The Organization of American Historians commissioned a study of the journal in which a panel had found that it was "nothing but a masquerade of scholarship".Russian historians Igor Ryzhov, Maria Borodina note that the publication by the Institute for Historical Review of its own "historical journal, the Journal of Historical Review, helped not only to unite the deniers into a single movement, but also to give their activities a form of pseudo-scientificness."The journal commenced publication in the spring of 1980 as a quarterly periodical. Publication was suspended in 1986–1987, and thereafter continued until 2002. Publication of the journal is now again suspended. However, back issues continue to be distributed and sold by its associated organization, the Noontide Press.Journal of Parapsychology
The Journal of Parapsychology is a biannual peer-reviewed academic journal covering research on psi phenomena, including telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis, as well as human consciousness in general and anomalous experiences.
It was established in April 1937 by Joseph Banks Rhine (Duke University). It is published by the Rhine Research Center and the current editor-in-chief is Etzel Cardeña (Lund University). The journal is abstracted and indexed in PsychINFO. It publishes research reports, theoretical discussions, book reviews, and correspondence, as well as the abstracts of papers presented at the Parapsychological Association's annual meeting.Journal of Psychohistory
The Journal of Psychohistory is a journal in the field of psychohistory, edited by Lloyd deMause and published by the Institute for Psychohistory. It aims to provide "a new psychological view of world events — past and present". The journal is published quarterly and contains subjects such as childhood and the family (especially child abuse), psychobiography with extensive childhood material, political psychology and psychological studies of anthropology.List of organizations opposing mainstream science
This is a list of organizations opposing mainstream science by frequently challenging the facts and conclusions recognized by the mainstream scientific community. By claiming to employ the scientific method in order to advance certain fringe ideas and theories, they are often charged with promotion of various forms of pseudoscience.Neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis
Neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis (NICO) is a controversial diagnosis whereby a putative jawbone cavitation causes chronic facial neuralgia; this is different from osteonecrosis of the jaw.. In NICO the pain is said to result from the degenerating nerve ("neuralagia"). The condition is probably rare, if it does exist.Also called Ratner's bone cavity, a neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis was first described in dental literature by G V Black in 1920. Several decades later, oral pathologist Jerry E Bouquot took especial interest in NICO.The diagnostic criteria for NICO are imprecise, and the research offered to support it is flawed. The diagnosis is popular among holistic dentists who attempt to treat NICO by surgically removing the dead bone they say is causing the pain.It has been rejected as quackery by some dentists and maxillofacial surgeons. In its position statement, dated 1996, the American Association of Endodontists asserted that although NICO occur and are treatable in toothless areas, NICO occurrence and treatment at endodontically treated teeth is generally implausible, that the diagnosis ought to be a last resort, and that routine extraction of endodontically treated teeth is misguided.NeuroQuantology
NeuroQuantology is a monthly peer-reviewed interdisciplinary scientific journal that covers the intersection of neuroscience and quantum mechanics. It was established in April 2003 and its subject matter almost immediately dismissed in The Lancet Neurology as "wild invention" and "claptrap". While the journal had a 2017 impact factor of 0.453, ranking it 253rd out of 261 journals in the category "Neuroscience" as reported in the 2018 edition of Journal Citation Reports, Clarivate Analytics delisted the journal in its 2019 edition.The journal describes itself as focusing primarily on original reports of experimental and theoretical research. It also publishes literature reviews, methodological articles, empirical findings, book reviews, news, comments, letters to the editor, and abstracts.
In the Norwegian Scientific Index, NeuroQuantology has been listed as "Level 0" since 2008, which means that it is not considered scientific and publications in the journal therefore do not fulfill the necessary criteria in order to count for public research funding.
Neither the editorial board nor the advisory board contain scientists working in the fields of quantum physics or neurology.Oxyhydrogen
Oxyhydrogen is a mixture of hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) gases. This gaseous mixture is used for torches to process refractory materials and was the first
gaseous mixture used for welding. Theoretically, a ratio of 2:1 hydrogen:oxygen is enough to achieve maximum efficiency; in practice a ratio 4:1 or 5:1 is needed to avoid an oxidizing flame.This mixture may also be referred to as Knallgas (Scandinavian and German Knallgas: "bang-gas"), although some authors define knallgas to be a generic term for the mixture of fuel with the precise amount of oxygen required for complete combustion, thus 2:1 oxyhydrogen would be called "hydrogen-knallgas"."Brown's gas" and HHO are fringe science terms for oxyhydrogen.Polonnaruwa (meteorite)
The Polonnaruwa meteorite is an alleged meteorite that fell on 29 December 2012 close to the city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka, and recovered soon after by Chandra Wickramasinghe's team.Twelve days after the Polonnaruwa meteorite was "seen falling" to Earth, Chandra Wickramasinghe published in the online fringe science Journal of Cosmology that, after studying some electron micrographs, his team discovered fossilized diatoms (microscopic phytoplankton) inside the meteorite as well as cells similar to those found in the Red rain in Kerala that fell in 2001. In addition, his team of scientists reported in a separate article that they are certain that it is a meteorite that originated from a comet and that it also contained living diatoms.The rock is not deemed by peer scientists to be a meteorite, so it was not recorded in the international Meteoritical Society database.Progress in Physics
Progress in Physics is an open-access academic journal, publishing papers in theoretical and experimental physics, including related themes from mathematics. The journal was founded by Dmitri Rabounski, Florentin Smarandache, and Larissa Borissova in 2005, and is published quarterly. Rabounski is the editor-in-chief, while Smarandache and Borissova act as associate editors.Protoscience
In philosophy of science, there are several definitions of protoscience.
Its simplest meaning (most closely reflecting its roots of proto- + science) involves the earliest eras of the history of science, when the scientific method was still nascent. Thus, in the late 17th century and early 18th century, Isaac Newton contributed to the dawning sciences of chemistry and physics, even though he was also an alchemist who sought chrysopoeia in various ways including some that were unscientific.
Another meaning extends this idea into the present, with protoscience being an emerging field of study which is still not completely scientific, but later becomes a proper science. An example of it would the general theory of relativity, which started being a protoscience (a theoretical work which had not been tested), but later was experimentally verified and became fully scientitific. Protoscience in this sense is distinguished from pseudoscience by a genuine willingness to be changed through new evidence, as opposed to having a theory that can always find a way to rationalize a predetermined belief.
Philosopher of chemistry Jaap Brakel defines protoscience as "the study of normative criteria for the use of experimental technology in science."Thomas Kuhn said that protosciences "generate testable conclusions but ... nevertheless resemble philosophy and the arts rather than the established sciences in their developmental patterns. I think, for example, of fields like chemistry and electricity before the mid-18th century, of the study of heredity and phylogeny before the mid-nineteenth, or of many of the social sciences today." While noting that they meet the demarcation criteria of falsifiability from Popper, he questions whether the discussion in protoscience fields "result[s] in clear-cut progress". Kuhn concluded that protoscience, "like the arts and philosophy, lack some element which, in the mature sciences, permits the more obvious forms of progress. It is not, however, anything that a methodological prescription can provide. ... I claim no therapy to assist the transformation of a proto-science to a science, nor do I suppose anything of this sort is to be had".The term prescientific means at root "relating to an era before science existed". For example, traditional medicine existed for thousands of years before medical science did, and thus many aspects of it can be described as prescientific. In a related but somewhat different sense, protoscientific topics (such as the alchemy of Newton's day) can be called prescientific, in which case the proto- and pre- labels can function more or less synonymously (the latter focusing more sharply on the idea that nothing but science is science).
Compare fringe science, which is considered highly speculative or even strongly refuted. Some protosciences go on to become an accepted part of mainstream science.Society for Scientific Exploration
The Society for Scientific Exploration, or SSE, is a group committed to studying fringe science. The opinions of the organization in regard to what are the proper limits of scientific exploration are often at odds with those of mainstream science. Critics argue that the SSE is devoted to disreputable ideas far outside the scientific mainstream.The Hum
The Hum is a phenomenon, or collection of phenomena, involving widespread reports of a persistent and invasive low-frequency humming, rumbling, or droning noise not audible to all people. Hums have been widely reported by national media in the UK and the United States. The Hum is sometimes prefixed with the name of a locality where the problem has been particularly publicized: e.g., the "Bristol Hum" or the "Taos Hum" or the "Windsor Hum."
It is unclear whether it is a single phenomenon; different causes have been attributed. In some cases, it may be a manifestation of tinnitus.ViXra
viXra is an electronic e-print archive set up by independent physicist Philip Gibbs as an alternative to the dominant arXiv service operated by Cornell University. Its name comes from arXiv spelled backwards.