Dealing with Advocates of Pseudoscience

By Michael Edmonds 22/10/2011


One of the frustrating things about dealing with advocates of pseudoscience is the way they misuse scientific language. It reminds me a little of the following Catherine Tate skit.

(Note – if the link does not work straight away click on it again to open the clip in Youtube)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma8Vwkpx5y8&feature=related

I have no problem talking about science with someone who has little knowledge of science and is willing to listen to what I have to say with an open mind. In such exchanges I also learn a lot – it is one of the reasons I enjoy teaching foundation level chemistry. I also have no problems discussing science with someone who has a different point of view but who understands science – a reasoned, thoughtful exchange can be very satisfying even when I have to admit my initial position was wrong.

The problem with most advocates of pseudoscience is that they don’t understand science – they may attempt to use scientific terms to show they have the correct “scientific accent” but the structure and content of their arguments soon reveals they do not understand science and are not willing to understand what science is. It is this willful ignorance that is frustrating. It reminds me of the behaviour of a stereotypical English/American tourist in Europe – assuming that all one needs to do to communicate with “foreigners” is speak loudly and with an accent.