Date: Tuesday 15 December 2020

Speaker: Dr Jim Baggott

Start Time: 18.15

Finish Time: 19.45

Location: Zoom


Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience or Just Plain Ordinary Bullshit

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 I call ‘snake oil propaganda’ (typically driven by commercial organizations keen to promote anti-scientific ‘alternative’ or traditional medicines for a profit, examples include homoeopathy 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). I propose to briefly cover other examples of anti-scientific arguments, including GMO foods and intelligent design.