bad science... got the science bug?
Ever wondered "where’s the science in that?" when you’ve been reading a magazine article, or advert, and you’ve wanted to share this with your students?
How about designing an activity like the ones you’ve seen on this website? Feel free to send comments on the activities you’ve already seen on this site (or even tried out with your class!)
Feedback: Each page has a 'discussion' section where you can add comments. Adding ~~~~ to your comment will record your username and the date and time.
New activities: To create a new page you can add a link to any existing page. Edit the existing page, add text like this: [[/New Activity]], and save your changes. Now the page has a link to your New Activity. At first it will be a 'red link' which means that the link is to a non-existent page. Click on the red link and get writing!
what’s your favourite piece of pseudoscience?
Those fans of the Planet Science weekly newsletter will know Ian Francis has asked many lovely science people what their favourite piece of pseudoscience is. We’ve even asked for a few detailed responses:
"Non-scientific thinking is normal thinking. Scientific thinking is an abnormal way of thinking and quite difficult to learn. All it really means is a group of methods for distinguishing belief from evidence-based fact. What irritates me about pseudoscience is that this is non-scientific thinking which is pretending to be scientific - in effect trying to borrow scientific credibility to dress up whatever the subject is, often for dubious purposes. What worries me is that so many people will buy the result, which is often fairly transparent nonsense. What this demonstrates is widespread lack of understanding of the difference between science and non-science. Both are fine, but it's important that people know which is which, even if they're not so good at scientific thinking themselves. This should be a key area for public education programmes on science.”
Professor John A Lee Consultant Pathologist, Rotherham General Hospital
Best known as: the pathologist on Gunther von Hagens’ recent Autopsy shows on Channel 4
“As for pseudoscience, at one level it makes me laugh, but at another, it is profoundly depressing and sometimes downright dangerous. It also has an extraordinary grip on people. For instance, take the idea that you can overload your immune system. Two minutes thought should tell people that it can’t be true. After all, walk down Oxford Street or travel hugger mugger with the world on the Piccadilly line and you are exposed to more microbes than you could shake a stick at, yet we remain largely healthy despite this constant assault. Our bodies aren’t handing out numbered tickets insisting on one germ at a time – they just have to deal with whatever we’re exposed to - all at once and this has always been the case. But pseudoscience has caused and resulted in such persistent belief that parents have taken flight from the perceived ‘dangers’ of multiple vaccinations such as MMR, and in doing so have exposed their children and those of other people to a very real danger. It’s really alarming.”
Vivienne Parry Freelance writer and broadcaster
Best known as: presenter on Tomorrow’s World
“I don’t have a favourite piece of pseudo science because that would imply I liked pseudoscience. I hate it all with a vengeance.”
Alom Shaha NESTA awardee and science filmmaker extraordinaire
“Products which I hate: anything which is contrary to the 1st or 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as applied to people i.e. drinks supplements etc. which their proponents say will make you faster, stronger, slimmer or more muscle-y in a few weeks. And Jane Clark who says "Pomegranate juice could prevent a heart attack - FACT" and "Beetroot can pep up your sex life - FACT". No human trials, it’s all been done in vitro!”
Professor Michael J Rennie Professor of Clinical Physiology, University of Nottingham
“Funnily enough, I don't hate it because it's not science - there are many 'not science' things that rather please me. No, I'm frustrated by pseudoscience because it's fundamentally irrational to believe in it. Other fields of endeavour appeal to the emotions, or a sense of aesthetics - but pseudoscience strikes me as fundamentally value- free. I find it baffling and even dangerous that so many people believe in it, and attempt to justify it. That said, I did used to wear a copper bracelet, and thought at the time that it did some good. However, that's a demonstration either of the placebo effect, or that anecdotal evidence is unscientific in its own right.”
Jonathan Sanderson Science TV Producer
"Pseudoscience like homeopathy and intelligent design would be laughable if it was kept out of schools and hospitals. But the existence of homeopathic hospitals and city academies teaching creationism suggests that some politicians (and members of the royal family) could do with retaking their chemistry and biology O-levels." Dr Ian Brown Department of Computer Science, University College London
Best known as: not the lead singer of the Stone Roses
And watch this space….we’ll be adding to this section….why not send us yours?
Click here to send to your thoughts to the Bad Science Team
acknowledgements Of course we can’t come to the last page and not say a huge THANK YOU to those who took part in the Bad Science Project, and we would like to mention your names, so don’t blush now, will you?
Special thanks to Ben Goldacre; also to Anne McNaught, Phil Jones, Stephen Armstrong, Julie Smith, Ian Hemming, Susan Ho and Paul Tyreman.