> Several times I have found that I need a very simple
> explanation of what makes something scientifically
> sound and what doesn't.
In the final analysis, science is just precise, methodical, HONESTY. It is simply the commitment to see things as they are, not as we wish them to be or as we have been told they are. It is the moral commitment to use every means you know to try to prove yourself wrong, rather than trying to prove yourself right.
Sometimes it is hard to find the exact spot at which a particular pseudoscience fails, but there is always such a spot: at some point, if you dig deep enough, there is _something_ the mystic believes _in spite of_ eir own observations, and not because of them. There is some point at which ey uses ignorance as an excuse to believe rather than as a problem to be solved. There is some point at which you can spot the dishonesty. In most pseudosciences, that dishonesty is the unwillingness to perform tests that will clearly invalidate them (or unwillingness to believe the results of those tests that have been performed).
Take, for example, astrology. It is quite easy to devise a test for it: give an astrologer all the information ey wants about a set of people. Then create a set of Yes/No (or other quantizable) questions for the astrologer to answer about each person. Give those same questions to each person, then compare the results. Astrology will do no better than chance at predicting anything that is properly measured and controlled. Experiements like this have been done hundreds of times by science classes and others, and the results are predictable every time: astrology is proven bunk. The astrologer then, is willingly choosing to believe what has been disproven by the simplest tests. Ey is being willfully dishonest.
-- Lee Daniel Crocker <firstname.lastname@example.org> <http://www.piclab.com/lcrocker.html> "All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past, are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC