Seductive Pseudo Science

Eat this and never suffer from heart disease—the numbers in our small study are conclusive. Drink that and prevent cancer—we know what your doctor won’t tell you. Take this supplement and feel younger—it’s a Hollywood secret. Use this scientifically proven face cream and your wrinkles will vanish in days. Believe and manifest the reality you want to live. Control your body on a cellular level and live like a king…

The lure of pseudo science is seductive. Newsfeeds on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are filled with new “discoveries” and “ancient remedies” that sound like magic, because they are magic—in the sense that your money magically disappears. Add the anti-aging creams in women’s magazines with long lists of ingredients that fall into the either the “exotic all-natural” or the “clinical/medical” categories to the paper thin TV reports on new breakthroughs and the pseudo science mix in the media, and you have a lot of unsubstantiated claims and outright lies.

Why am I blogging about this? It’s fascinating! It reveals our obsessions with youth, beauty, and health. It demonstrates how tailoring a pitch with just the right amount of “science” will sell the otherwise impossible lie.

I came home last night and felt drawn to a homemade poster revealing the great secret about SIN—that it is connected to an amino acid in tears. The poster looked like a cut & paste homework project with images sourced from the back pages of women’s health magazines with handwritten black marker explanations about this scientific revelation. It was leaning against a wall in the Union Square station, across from the young man with a typewriter offering poetry written on the spot and a couple of lonely Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I couldn’t help myself. My brain started spinning stories about the way a few “science-y” words or references to ancient wisdom transform a boring report on a study too limited to be significant or a thesis too silly to be taken seriously into something that gets normal people to jump and possibly pull out their credit cards.

The seductive nature of pseudo science is great fiction fodder. It’s MAGIC!

Magical transformation… A belly dancer becomes a winged creature and flies!



  1. One of my friends who had cancer a few years ago warned me that certain people would proffer all sorts of alternative treatments to me for my diagnosis. The gist of most of them being, “It’s magic!”

    • Candy Korman

      That’s an arena where the con artists and the true believers occupy adjacent spaces. I’m not opposed to complimentary and/or alternative therapies, but I’m astonished and angered by the “this works only when you believe it works” or the “you brought this cancer on yourself because…. (fill in the blank). The pseudo scientific terminology that are the basis of many of these “magical” cures makes them dangerous when patients don’t tell doctors about supplements they take or when they make suspect choices.

      About a million years ago—when I was in my early 30s and still reeling from a melanoma diagnosis (caught early—in situ— by me, surgery only) I was referred to a psychic as a writer. Yes, I was drawn to the idea of being a ghost writer for a psychic! I thought it was very funny. Then she did a reading of me that I didn’t think it was funny. She said I’d given myself the tiny melanoma on my breast because I was afraid of romantic relationships. She said I’d manifest the cancer to protect myself. I staggered out of there. The cruelty in her magical assessment was off the charts. The doctors blamed summer sunburns every year as a child and there are plenty of pictures of me at the beach with and without tops at 2, 3, 4…. Since then I’ve had plenty of arguments with people promoting the idea that we give ourselves grave illnesses. Yes, we can smoke or eat badly or not exercise and cause the situations that invite diseases and we can stress our systems with worry, work, fear… but we don’t give ourselves cancer in a negative magic. One of my dear friends was into one of those manifest the reality because we and everything is made of up of atoms, blah, blah… She was caught up in the causality until I asked her flat out if she thought I’d given myself cancer. That’s when she stopped.

      This is my long way of saying that because it’s very hard for humans to accept that there are random things (good & bad) that happen and we want to assign blame or cause or credit to each situation, we are susceptible to the lure of magical cures and pseudo scientific explanations.

  2. -blush- I know this is going to sound like more mumbo jumbo, but you might find iodine helpful, Jeri. Don’t drink it or anything like that. Just ‘paint’ it onto your skin every day – about a 2 inch? diameter circle[ish].

    What I can say as fact is that :

    -your immune system uses iodine as a kind of fuel. If you’re not getting enough iodine from your diet, or it your immune system is working harder than normal, adding some extra iodine may help,
    -iodine can be absorbed into the body through the skin,
    -iodine leaves a ‘stain’ on the skin [be careful with your clothing],
    -if the iodine ‘stain’ takes 24 hours to disappear it means your body doesn’t really need it. 8 hours and yes, you do need. Less than 8 hours and you’re using it up faster than normal for some reason. Apply twice a day instead of once.

    As far as I know, there are no ill effects from using iodine as stated above, and it won’t hurt your wallet, but it may do some good.

    I don’t want to put any pressure on you so please don’t reply to this. Just get well soon. -hugs-