My topic today is scientific heresy. When are scientific heretics right and when are they mad? How do you tell the difference between science and pseudoscience?
Let us run through some issues, starting with the easy ones.
Astronomy is a science; astrology is a pseudoscience.
Evolution is science; creationism is pseudoscience.
Molecular biology is science; homeopathy is pseudoscience.
Vaccination is science; the MMR scare is pseudoscience.
Oxygen is science; phlogiston was pseudoscience.
Chemistry is science; alchemy was pseudoscience.
Are you with me so far?
A few more examples. That the earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare is pseudoscience. So are the beliefs that Elvis is still alive, Diana was killed by MI5, JFK was killed by the CIA, 911 was an inside job. So are ghosts, UFOs, telepathy, the Loch Ness monster and pretty well everything to do with the paranormal. Sorry to say that on Halloween, but that’s my opinion.
Three more controversial ones. In my view, most of what Freud said was pseudoscience.
So is quite a lot, though not all, of the argument for organic farming.
This is a lightly edited version of the Angus Millar lecture given by Matt Ridley at the RSA in Edinburgh. You can access the original from Bishop Hill or download the speech as a pdf by clicking here.
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