On the one hand, I don’t reckon that these “warning signs” are really appropriate to use in confronting pseudoscientific claims, since they fail to directly address the claims themselves. As Mr. Park himself points out, whether a claim meets these criteria has nothing to do with its validity. As a result, I’m disturbed that the list was apparently designed to help federal judges evaluate scientific testimony. As I see it, this is encouraging reliance on fallacious arguments, really no different than suggesting that someone is untrustworthy because they “dress funny.”
And yet…I have to admit that I use these sorts of rules myself on occasion to determine whether it’s worth my time to read up on the latest “breakthrough.” I would even propose an additional rule in the same vein:
Is the discoverer making grandiose, all-encompassing claims about the significance of the discovery?
I call this one the Rule of the Final Chapter, since I often observe it at work in various books that purport to document some new “paradigm shift” (a red flag phrase in itself). To get a rough estimate of the kook level of the claim in question, I simply flip to the last chapter and check out how far afield of the original subject matter it is. The authors of these sorts of books generally want to present themselves as having arrived at a reasonable, objective conclusion via the classic scientific method. As a result, the first few chapters of the book are rather staid. However, the certainty that their discovery will surely overthrow the oppressive scientific establishment tends to get the better of them after a while, and the claims become increasingly hyperbolic. By the final chapter, the discovery is unveiled as the herald of a new age, the gateway to a more holistic future where hunger and strife are abolished, etc, etc. The most extreme cases will inevitably get around to mentioning either Psychic Powers, the Aliens, or both.