Combating Pseudoscience and Peddlers of Snake Oil

Fagjun | Published 2017-07-22 04:04

Photo by Getty Images


If there's anything that actress Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle company Goop contributed to 2017, it's a master course on how to sell pseudoscience and snake oil.


Pseudoscience is like the fake news of the science world. It's a term for beliefs and practices that some consider to be scientific but are actually not scientific. Psuedoscientific claims are not based on hard evidence, do not rely on the scientific method, and are not testable. If pseudoscientific claims do undergo tests, the tests are impossible or difficult to replicate. All these are the opposite of how actual scientific knowledge comes about.


Snake oil, meanwhile, is a term for something that claims to be able to do something that it actually can't. These terms have large implications in different scientific fields, most notably medicine. Goop, as well as its celebrity founder Gwyneth Paltrow, are peddlers both of pseudoscience and snake oil.


Jade Eggs and Space Stickers


Goop gained negative media attention for many things, but the one we'll focus on here is the dubious products with dubious claims. Several experts and scientists have debunked these claims and exposed the products for what they are—expensive snake oil. Most recently, Goop made the news when it promoted the use of expensive body stickers for wellness and to “restore balance” in tired bodies. Goop and the creator of the stickers claimed that the product was made with the same carbon material that NASA uses to line space suits.


NASA wasted no time in debunking these claims, saying that they don't even use carbon material to make their space suits. When asked what studies or evidence would back up the product's claims, the creators could not provide any.


Before this whole sticker brouhaha, Goop also promoted the use of jade eggs—another move that sent scientists and the media spinning. According to Goop, women should push these jade eggs—which look exactly as they sound—up their vaginas to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. Or maybe that's what the eggs are supposed to do—it can be hard sometimes to wade through the haze of pretentious pseudoscientific word salads.



Dr. Jen Gunter, who has been a long time critic of Goop and opponent of pseudoscience, wrote about the jade eggs and the stickers on her blog. The editors at Goop's website took offense and saw fit to defend themselves, the company, and the products they promote.


Don't Choose Pseudoscience

Make your choice, but make it informed.


Of course, Goop has every right to defend itself and give its side of the story. However, it would have been better if they had actually fought evidence with evidence. Instead, Goop published a long post wherein they simply doubled down on their baseless claims. They didn't actually provide any evidence that their products and claims had any basis in science. This, however, is what they should have done.


According to Goop, criticizing them is tantamount to taking away women's right to choose the treatments they want for themselves. Of course, this isn't the case. True science criticizes and questions to get to the truth and get rid of untruths. Pseudoscience and snake oil doesn't hold up to scientific criticism simply because their claims are spurious.


Thus, when it comes to products and techniques that can improve your health and wellness, you most certainly have a choice. Just make sure that the choice you make is informed by science, not by a company's interest to turn a profit.

Hey! Where are you going?? Subscribe!

Get weekly science updates in your inbox!