List of alternative, speculative and disputed theories

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This list of alternative, speculative and disputed theories includes examples of fields of endeavor that many in the mainstream scientific community consider to be fringe or pseudoscientific. Included examples range from theories considered crackpot by all but their handful of followers and ending in respectable theories that are simply the minority view. Many of these practices are often quite popular, in part because they sometimes appear to work.

Opinion on the validity of these practices is extremely diverse. Many may qualify as protosciences. The term "theory" is used in its informal, nonscientific form (such as a guess or hypothesis, not a scientific theory). In addition to a postulated theory, inclusion in the list is possible because that theory is:

  1. Asserting claims without supporting experimental evidence;
  2. Asserting claims which contradict experimentally established results;
  3. Failing to provide an experimental possibility of reproducible results; or
  4. Violating Occam's Razor (the principle of choosing the simplest explanation when multiple viable explanations are possible).
  5. Adhered to by a limited group.

Many of these theories are considered pathological science: a psychological process in which believers in a theory, who may have originally conformed to the scientific method, unconsciously veer from that method and begin a pathological process of wishful data interpretation. The term ironic science was used by John Horgan in his book The End of Science to describe a "speculative, non-empirical mode" that mainstream science sometimes enters.

Note that historically, some currently respected theories would have appeared on this list, e.g. plate tectonics or the idea that stones could fall from the sky (meteorites). Equally, a number of these concepts have in the past been regarded as mainstream theories (like luminiferous aether) or as strong hypotheses deserving of further study (like polywater). In many of these cases experimental study has demonstrated the strength or weakness of the hypothesis.




See also Medicine below.
  • Creationism is the religious belief that the origin of everything in the universe is the result of a first cause, which was creation brought about by a creator God. 'Creationism' generally refers to the version of this concept of cosmology that is opposed to the scientific theory of evolution. See creation science.
  • Intelligent Design scenarios hold that life and living things show signs of having been designed. ID's primary argument is that life is too complex to have simply "happened". Intelligent Design is generally considered to be a form of Creationism, though many who advocate ID suggest it may be the other way around.
  • Irreducible complexity is a concept which considers that the generally accepted scientific theory that life evolved through biological evolution by natural selection alone is incomplete or flawed, and that some additional mechanism is required to explain the origins of life.
  • Superficial anatomy researches forms and proportions of the human body and the surface landmarks which correspond to deeper structures hidden from view.
  • Biophotons, a postulated communication mechanism of cells by the means of light, sometimes claimed to be the scientific substrate of Qi.
  • Vitalism, theories claiming that understanding of the living matter should be radically different from that of non-living matter, e.g. biodynamic agriculture.
  • Odic force a theory that all life is permeated and bound together by a vital property.
  • Morphogenetic fields supposedly cause living things to grow or behave in patterns laid down by similar previous living things.
  • Biological transmutation, see Corentin Louis Kervran, the hypothesis that organisms can convert chemical elements, e.g. copper to iron.


  • Astrology refers to any of several systems of understanding, interpreting and organizing knowledge about reality and human existence, based on the relative positions and movement of various real and construed celestial bodies.
  • Cartomancy is a form of fortune telling -- divination -- using a deck of cards.
  • Channeling supposed special ability of a person to receive information from an unknown sources.
  • Chiromancy evaluates a person's character or future life by "reading" the palm of that person's hand.
  • Dowsing divination method which dowsers say empowers them to find water, metals and hidden objects by carrying some form of stick and watching its motion.
  • Fortune telling is the practice of predicting the future, usually of an individual, through mystical or supernatural means.
  • Geomancy is a method of divination based on the interpretation of markings on the ground or the pattern of scattered dirt or pebbles. It also refers to a set of practices and theories based on the identification or manipulation of energies tied to the earth, including dowsing, feng shui, and ley lines / dragon lines.
  • Numerology is an arcane study of the purported mystical relationship between numbers and the character or action of physical objects and living things.
  • Pyramid power theory states that pyramids have healing power and spiritual energy.
  • Remote viewing is a form of clairvoyance by which a viewer is said to be able to perceive objects or events separated from the viewer in space or time
  • Scrying is the name given to the ancient technique of gazing into an object for the purpose of clairvoyance.


  • The Catastrophism theory is that Earth has been affected by sudden, short-lived, violent events that were sometimes worldwide in scope. Immanuel Velikovsky's theories fall under this category. (An exception, one specific type of catastrophism that is no longer significantly disputed, is the theory that the Earth has occasionally experienced collisions from astronomical objects such as asteroids and comets large enough to temporarily affect global climate and cause extinction events.)
  • The Hollow Earth theory claims that the Earth is hollow, and its inside is possibly populated by a race of superbeings, humans or aliens, and possibly dinosaurs.
  • Ley lines are alignments of a number of places of geographical interest, such as ancient megaliths.
  • The Flat Earth theory is the idea that Earth is flat, as opposed to the view of modern science that Earth is very nearly spherical.


  • Acupuncture, in the traditional sense, is the practice of inserting very thin needles in particular points on the body to redirect qi thereby improving health and well-being. This is one component of traditional Chinese medicine.
  • Applied kinesiology is a method of diagnosing malfunctioning organs and what the effect of substances on the body is or would be by testing whether certain muscles are weakened or not.
  • The Bates method of vision improvement, based on a theory of how the eye accommodates which is not accepted by mainstream ophthalmology or biology.
  • Biorhythm theory researches patterns of alterations in physiology, emotions, and intellect.
  • Some Chiropractic theories that ascribe ailments unrelated to the spine to spinal maladjustments.
  • Crystal power theory states that crystals have alleged healing and mystical paranormal powers.
  • The Duesberg hypothesis claims that recreational and pharmaceutical drug use, rather than HIV, is the primary cause of AIDS. See also AIDS reappraisal.
  • Food faddism refer to the tendency for idiosyncratic diets and eating patterns.
  • Homeopathy is a system of alternative medicine involving the use of highly diluted substances with similar (i. e. homeo-) characteristics to the condition being treated. In many cases not a single molecule of the substance remains in the diluted solution.
  • Iridology theory that diagnoses the health of a person by examining the pattern of the Iris of the eye.
  • Magnet therapy is an alternative medicine based on the concept that certain medical disorders can be effectively treated by exposure to magnetic fields.
  • Psychic surgery is a type of apparent surgery performed by the healer with bare hands or unorthodox instruments.
  • Trepanation is the act of drilling a hole in one's head to release built-up pressure and move the person to a higher plane of consciousness.


  • Aetherometry, too many claims to list here, please have a look.
  • Autodynamics (AD)' is a theory proposed as a replacement for special relativity, which is claimed to have been based on erroneous assumptions.
  • Cold fusion (or cold nuclear fusion (CNF)) is the claim that nuclear fusion can occur at room temperature, thus providing a possible source of cheap energy; one particular claim being that hydrogen can undergo nuclear fusion in palladium.
  • Creationist cosmologies offer by Young Earth Creationists as alternative ideas about cosmology to allow for a universe that is only thousands of years old.
  • Nikola Tesla's Dynamic theory of gravity that was never published.
  • Expansion theory attempts to replace most fundamental physical theories with explanations based on universal material expansion.
  • Heim Theory (see also Burkhard Heim), a Theory of everything with small, mostly german and austrian following.
  • Hidden variable theory is urged by a minority of physicists who argue that the statistical nature of quantum mechanics implies that it is really applicable only to ensembles of particles.
  • Hydrino theory proposes the hydrino, or miniature hydrogen atom with the electron pushed closer than usual to the nucleus.
  • Kirlian photography is high-voltage contact print photography. Its existence is not disputed, however the paranormal interpretations of some images thus produced are.
  • Luminiferous aether was the classical medium for the propagation of light, but after the early 20th century was seen as discredited by the mainstream physics community.
  • Mirror matter is a candidate for dark matter, proposed in 1956 but now largely passed over in favor of axions or other particles.
  • Modern geocentrism, citing uniform gamma ray bursts distribution as evidence that we are at the center of the universe, and other ideas of this liking.
  • Modified Newtonian Dynamics, or MOND, Mordehai Milgrom's theory that modifies Newtonian dynamics for small accelerations as an alternative to dark matter.
  • Wilhelm Reich's Orgone energy is an unproven form of energy.
  • Perpetual motion machines are a class of hypothetical machines which can create more energy than the amount which is put into it, violating the conservation of energy. These should not be confused with energy processes which use various forms of latent energy (such as nuclear fission) and may to an untrained eye appear to be energy from "nowhere."
  • Plasma cosmology is a sub-set of plasma physics which attempts to explain large scale structure in the universe.
  • Polywater is a supposed polymerized form of water.
  • Reciprocal System of Theory purports to be a new system of theory based on motion as opposed to matter. See: RST Wiki (
  • The Steady state theory holds that the universe has always existed, and will always exist, in the same macroscopic state.
  • Synchronicity refers to the alignment of forces in the universe to create an event or circumstance.
  • Time Cube, the idea that we live 4 actual days for every 1 perceived day, a fact not apparent to us because of a vast academic conspiracy.
  • Variable speed of light hypothesis, posited notably by the physicists Joao Magueijo and John Moffat, which holds that at certain points in the past light may have travelled much faster than it currently does, which is used for a variety of cosmological models. It is not widely accepted by the mainstream physics community, and contradicts Special Relativity.


  • Brainwashing or mind control theory says a person can have his belief system and basic values changed involuntarily by the use of sophisticated manipulation techniques.
  • Characterology method of character reading developed in the 1920's.
  • Engrams, a phenomenon claimed by Dianetics (see Scientology), are neurons patterns connected through activation at the same time.
  • Enneagram is a classification of personality characteristics claimed to give insight into intra- and interpersonal relationships.
  • Graphology is the study of handwriting and its connection to behavior, personal information and other human traits.
  • Parapsychology is the branch of science concerned with the study of mental phenomena, whether actual or purported, that are not currently explainable within the framework of mainstream, conventional science.
  • Pathognomy is the study of passions and emotions.
  • Phrenology claims to be able to determine personality traits and criminality on the basis of the shape of the head.
  • Photoreading is "mentally photographing" printed pages.
  • Physiognomy is based upon the belief that the study and judgement of a person's outer appearance, primarily the face, reflects the contents of their personality.
  • Polygraphy is the psychophysiological detection of deception using "lie detector" machines that monitor several physiological variables.
  • Recovered memory is the act of discovering repressed memories and therapy to achieve such ends.


  • Democide Theory that Totalitarian Governments cause more deaths than wars do.
  • Eugenics is a theory that argues that, without proper intervention, genetically "less fit" members of society will "out breed" the "more fit" members of society, with fitness expressed variously in terms of latent intelligence, race, or moral qualities. Eugenics has also included a number of social techniques for the "genetic improvement" of the human species, ranging from the mild to the genocidal.
  • Memetics is what proponents argue a scientific approach to evolutionary models of information transfer based on the concept of the meme.
  • Social Darwinism is a set of theories which proponents argue govern the natural sociological relations of humanity; these theories are putatively an application of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection to society as a whole.


  • Cryptozoology is the study of rumored or mythological animals that are presumed by many to exist, but for which proof does not yet exist.
  • Pseudoarchaeology refers to the ideologically-driven, usually sensational interpretation of the past outside of a critical, scientific framework. Pseudoarchaeology also includes forms of protosciences.
  • Ufology is the term describing the study of the UFO (unidentified flying object) phenomena, including claims that some UFOs are extraterrestrial vehicles manned by aliens.
  • Vril - A worldview involving Nazi mysticism, and an interpretation of Ufology relating to a Hollow earth and subterranean Nazi-friendly super beings, rather than "space" aliens.


  • Facilitated communication is alternative means of expression for people who cannot speak, or whose speech is highly limited (e.g. echoed, limited to one or a few word utterances), and who cannot point reliably.
  • Gene Ray's Time Cube, which states that there are 4 simultaneous days in a single rotation of Earth, and that Time is Cubic, not linear. Some people doubt whether this concept qualifies as a theory as they consider it to lack testable constructs.
  • Bible codes research states that the future can be predicted by examining statistics of the Biblical text in various skips.
  • Laws of Form, to the extent that it is claimed to be anything more than an unorthodox presentation of propositional logic
  • Materialization creation of matter from nowhere and out of nothing by somebody's will power or concentration.
  • New Chronology consists of various competing theories which claim that currently accepted chronology presents a history that lasts either much longer or much shorter than it should (e.g., that Jesus was born around 1000 years ago or that he was the pharaoh Akhenaten).
  • Welteislehre is the theory developed by Hanns Hörbiger in the early 20th century. It states that the universe is based on a constant struggle between ice and fire.
  • The confidentiality integrity availability information security paradigm is not falsifiable.

See also

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