Dates: Tuesday 26 November

Speaker: Dr Jim Baggott

Start Time: 18.15

Finish Time: 19.45

Location: Drawing Room


Dr Baggott is an award-winning popular science writer and author, with more than 20 years’ experience writing on topics in the physical, chemical and biological sciences. His articles have appeared in online and offline media, and he has made many appearances on radio and television.


This lecture will explore aspects of the philosophy of science, specifically related to the problem of demarcation. Clearly, if we are to distinguish ‘proper science’ from pseudoscience or deliberately misleading anti-scientific propaganda, then we need to be clear about what science is and what ‘being scientific’ means.
The intention is to apply such criteria to the examination of specific types of anti-scientific propaganda, including ‘orchestrated propaganda’ (such as climate change denial orchestrated by big business), ‘unstructured anecdotal propaganda’ (proliferated online in a largely uncoordinated fashion by like-minded individuals who create islands of misinformation, for example the anti-vaxxer movement), what Jim Baggott calls ‘snake oil propaganda’ (typically driven by commercial organisations keen to promote anti-scientific ‘alternative’ or traditional medicines for a profit, examples include homeopathy and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop), and ‘confidence trickery’ (deliberate exploitation of people’s gullibility and vulnerability through direct appeals to their inner Kirk – ‘System 1’ –  bypassing mechanisms that would otherwise allow rational rejection of paranormal claims, such as faith-healing).
Other examples of anti-scientific arguments, including GMO foods and intelligent design, are to be briefly covered.