Science Denialist Tactics

Science advocates and scientific skeptics rely on the methods of scientific research, critical thinking and methodological skepticism. Science denialists, on the other hand, also have their own methods to push their misinformation and artificially inflate fear, uncertainty and doubt.

These are called denialist tactics, and range from quoting scientists out of context to make it appear as if they are saying something they are not to organized and targeted attacks on the credibility of individual scientists. Learn about denialist tactics to sharpen your ability to stop pseudoscience and quackery.

Fake Experts

Because pseudoscience is not supported by the bulk of scientific evidence, proponents need to create the appearance of intellectual respectability with the help of fake experts. These are individuals who give the superficial appearance of being experts, while not actually having done the scientific research needed to be considered a real expert.

False Balance

Since pseudoscience is not based on evidence, science deniers need to make it appear as if they represents a different, yet equally valid, approach to reality. This is done by demanding that equal treatment be given to both science and pseudoscience.

Conspiratorial Thinking

In order to explain away the massive amount of scientific evidence contradicting their pseudoscience, proponents have to invent conspiracy theories of why the establishment is conspiring together to hide the truth.

Quote mining

Since there is virtually no evidence for different pseudosciences, proponents need to abuse the words of actual scientists by distorting or taking them out of context. This makes it look like the scientists are saying something completely different than they actually are.

Merchants of Doubt

Science deniers often attack scientists who publish inconvenient research. This is done by funding NGOs, harassing scientists with spam requests for emails, distorting those communications and sending the package to an ignorant or sympathetic journalist. These journalists then write misleading hit pieces on the scientist in an effort to undermine their credibility.

Selective Skepticism

Selective skepticism is used by pseudoscience activists to applying enormous and harsh skepticism against evidence that contradicts their beliefs, while exposing data that superficially supports their claims to virtually no critical analysis.

Cherry Picking

In order to create the illusion of scientific supports, science denialists must pick out those few anomalous studies that appear to support their beliefs while ignoring the bulk of scientific evidence showing that they are wrong. This form of cherry picking distorts the scientific knowledge mass in a deceptive way.

Moving the Goalposts

Since pseudoscience activists want keep believing nonsense, they must continue to demand more and more evidence and never be satisfied. By erecting these impossible expectations, denialists can move the goalposts again and again and never have to give up their position.

Obfuscating Basic Science

Many anti-science activists are often ignorant about basic scientific facts about issues they discuss, so they push simple misunderstandings about definitions, mechanism, arguments and evidence.

Anomaly Hunting

Because anti-science activists cannot defeat scientific explanations, they put extreme focus on one or a few tiny details that are unexplained and try to claim that this undermines the entire scientific knowledge mass in that area.

Confusing Mechanism With Fact

Another common tactic is to attempt to spread uncertainty and doubt about a scientific fact by questioning some aspect of the proposed mechanism, which may be less researched that the scientific fact itself. By confusing mechanism with fact, they work to undermine confidence in well-established scientific facts.


One way to attack the massive amount of scientific evidence for mainstream scientific models is to insist that there is a scientific controversy where there really isn’t one. By portraying the situation as a controversy, they can make it appear as if it is reasonable tor reject mainstream science.

Playing the Martyr Card

Because science denialist almost never get traction with the scientific community, they must explain this somehow. The typical way they do this is to compare themselves with Einstein or Galileo and insist that they are oppressed martyrs. But not all rebels and mavericks are budding scientific revolutionaries. Some are just mavericks.

Blowing Honest Errors out of Proportion

Scientists sometimes make honest errors. Pseudoscience activists love to blow these errors out of proportion, and make it look like a small error in some details is somehow a major error about larger issues in a specific scientific field.

Gish Gallop

The Gish Gallop involves spewing a torrent of as many bad and unscientific claims as possible in a short amount of time to overwhelm any science advocate and make it difficult to counter all of the misinformation. Named after the young earth creationist Duane Gish who often used this tactic when debating scientists on evolution.

%d bloggers like this:

Hate email lists? Follow on Facebook and Twitter instead.