Voodoo Theories

According to WIKIPEDIA (August 8, 2011):

Voodoo science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud is a book published in 2000 by physics professor Robert L. Park, critical of research that falls short of adhering to the scientific method. Other authors have used the term “voodoo science”, but it remains most closely associated with Park. The book is critical of, among other things, homeopathy, cold fusion and the International Space Station.

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”.

Along the same line, we read/talk/write about “voodoo economics”, “voodoo mathematics”, “voodoo statistics”, “voodoo ecology” and so on. More generally, according to the old ENCARTA dictionary (color added):

Voodoo n

  1. A religion practiced throughout Caribbean countries, especially Haiti, that is a combination of Roman Catholic rituals and animistic beliefs of Dahomean enslaved laborers, involving magic communication with ancestors.
  2. Somebody who practices voodoo.
  3. A charm, spell, or fetish regarded by those who practice voodoo as having magical powers.
  4. A belief, theory, or method that lacks sufficient evidence or proof.

The usage of the term “voodoo theory” on this blog and in the BOOK is in line with the last meaning listed above. So roughly, in this discussion a voodoo theory is a theory that lacks sufficient evidence or proof, and/or is based on utterly unrealistic and/or contradictory assumptions, spurious correlations, and so on.

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