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Politicized pseudosciences

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Politicized pseudosciences are those pseudosciences whose advocates use political processes to promote their theories. A curiosity of pseudoscience is that while some pseudosciences are very politicized, some others are apolitical or close to that state. This raises the question of why that is the case, something that it is hard to find out about.

Apolitical pseudosciences

Some popular pseudosciences are totally apolitical, and it would be interesting to imagine what politicized versions of them would be like.

Astrology

Astrology is a rather popular pseudoscience, at least at the Sun-Sign level. However, astrologers are not known for demanding that astrology be discussed alongside of mainstream astronomy or psychology.

Astrologers could maintain that the Universe of mainstream astronomy is cold and harsh and unfriendly, while their Universe is much more friendly and meaningful and connected to humanity. They could additionally argue that school students ought to be invited to choose which sort of Universe they want to believe in.

Vitalism

Vitalism is the belief that living things are alive because they contain a special "vital force", that their being alive is not some emergent property. This was a common hypothesis in the past; Aristotle even identified three types of vital force: the vegetable soul, the animal soul, and the rational soul. But over the last few centuries, vitalism has died a slow death, with molecular biology continuing to hammer nails into its coffin. But despite the complete discrediting of vitalism in the mainstream scientific community, it remains a part of the "theoretical justifications" offered for various "alternative medicine" therapies. But while the advocates of such therapies sometimes lobby for official support for those therapies, they do not have much interest in promoting vitalism, and they often do not call themselves vitalists. Parallel to that, most mainstream biologists ignore those theories and do not bother to debunk them.

Vitalists could argue that belief in vitalism is more conducive to human dignity than the belief that we are nothing but biochemical robots. They could point to school shootings and the like as object lessons in what happens when people reject vitalism.

Others

There are some other notable apolitical pseudosciences, like

  • Ufology
  • Cryptozoology: lake monsters, Bigfoot/Sasquatch, etc.

Politicized pseudosciences

Some politicized pseudosciences represent rather obvious commercial and theological interests, like global-warming denial and creationism. But there are some other politicized pseudosciences that do not fit these categories very well. The two examples cited below both got the approval of powerful people in totalitarian countries.

Cosmic Ice Theory (WEL)

Hans Hörbiger's Welteislehre (Cosmic Ice Theory) is a cosmic-catastrophe crackpot cosmology that states that the Earth has had several moons before the moon it now has, and that most Solar-System objects are covered with ice. Hörbiger claimed that his theories were rejected because they were contrary to astronomical orthodoxy, and his followers would sometimes heckle astronomers' meetings: "Out with astronomical orthodoxy! Give us Hörbiger!"

They formed a pressure group to get people to accept the WEL, and when the Nazis rose to power, they associated themselves with Nazism. They even compared Hörbiger to Hitler, stating that they were both successful Austrian "amateurs" who successfully fought Jewish influence. Some Nazi officials ended up stating that one could be a good Nazi without believing in the WEL.

After World War II, the WEL's advocates dropped out of sight, though they reappeared in the 1950's and 1960's. Since then, however, they seem to have disappeared; they have no discoverable Internet presence.

Another Nazi-era pseudoscience was "German physics" or "Nordic physics". Its advocates rejected relativity as "Jewish physics", claiming that they were reviving the physics of great Nordics like Kepler and Newton.

Lysenkoism

Lysenkoism was a pseudoscience that had its heyday during the Stalin era in the Soviet Union. Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was a plant breeder and quack geneticist who claimed that he could do a much better job at breeding useful crop plants than mainstream biologists. He claimed that genes do not exist, that mainstream biologists were wasting their time crossbreeding fruit flies, and that he could systematically alter crop plants' heredity with his experimental treatments.

His experimental procedures were remarkably shoddy; he claimed that statistical testing is a waste of time. But that did not stop him from making grandiose claims of success, and he got the favor of Communist Party officials, all the way up to Joseph Stalin himself. His followers struggled with mainstream biologists in the 1930's and 1940's, with the Lysenkoites triumphing in 1948. Among their victims was the eminent biologist Nikolai Vavilov, who discovered "Vavilov zones" of plant domestication. He was sent to prison on trumped-up charges that he was a British spy, where he died some months later of malnutrition. Other mainstream biologists were made to recant their bourgeois idealist Mendelist Weismannist Morganist heresies.

Some Lysenko imitators hoped for similar triumphs in physics, declaring quantum mechanics to be contrary to Dialectical Materialism, the philosophical basis of Communism. But the mainstream physicists beat them back, enabling the Soviet Union to develop nuclear bombs.

Commercial interest

  • Global-warming denial
  • Tobacco-effects denial

Some consultants who had worked with tobacco companies on tobacco-effects denial then worked with fossil-fuel companies on global-warming denial, as George Monbiot has documented (The denial industry (The Guardian)). Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway have documented this connection in great detail in their book Merchants of Doubt.

Theological interest

Those ought to be rather obvious. Shroud of Turin advocates show little interest in the Cloak of Kandahar, supposedly Mohammed's, or the Tooth of Kandy, supposedly the Buddha's, and creationists show little interest in non-Abrahamic creation stories.

This article was originally at the Beacon Library (now defunct).

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