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Pseudoscience: A Very Short Introduction
Pseudoscience: A Very Short Introduction
  • Offers both a philosophical and historical analysis of the phenomenon of pseudoscience
  • Provides a survey of what has been labeled pseudoscience over the centuries
  • Addresses contemporary issues in fringe science such as the anti-vaccination movement and climate change denial
  • Examines astrology, phrenology, parapsychology (ESP), creationism, Lysenkoism, scientific racism, and alchemy, among others

Everyone has heard of the term "pseudoscience," typically used to describe something that looks like science, but is somehow false, misleading, or unproven. Many would be able to agree on a list of things that fall under its umbrella - astrology, phrenology, UFOlogy, creationism, and eugenics might come to mind. But defining what makes these fields “pseudo” is a far more complex issue. It has proved impossible to come up with a simple criterion that enables us to differentiate pseudoscience from genuine science. Given the virulence of contemporary disputes over the denial of climate change and anti-vaccination movements - both of which display allegations of “pseudoscience” on all sides - there is a clear need to better understand issues of scientific demarcation.
Pseudoscience: A Very Short Introduction explores the philosophical and historical attempts to address this problem of demarcation. This book argues that by understanding doctrines that are often seen as antithetical to science, we can learn a great deal about how science operated in the past and does today. This exploration raises several questions: How does a doctrine become demonized as pseudoscientific? Who has the authority to make these pronouncements? How is the status of science shaped by political or cultural contexts? How does pseudoscience differ from scientific fraud?
Michael D. Gordin both answers these questions and guides readers along a bewildering array of marginalized doctrines, looking at parapsychology (ESP), Lysenkoism, scientific racism, and alchemy, among others, to better understand the struggle to define what science is and is not, and how the controversies have shifted over the centuries. Pseudoscience: A Very Short Introduction provides a historical tour through many of these fringe fields in order to provide tools to think deeply about scientific controversies both in the past and in our present.


Chapter 1: The demarcation problem
Chapter 2: Vestigial sciences
Chapter 3: Hyperpoliticized sciences
Chapter 4: Fighting "establishment" science
Chapter 5: Mind over matter
Chapter 6: Controversy is inevitable
Chapter 7: The russian questions
Further Reading

About the author: 

Michael D. Gordin is Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History and the director of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts at Princeton University. He specializes in the history of modern science in Russia, Europe, and North America, in particular on issues related to the history of fringe science, the early years of the nuclear arms race, Russian and Soviet science, language and science, and Albert Einstein. He is the author of The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe, Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done Before and After Global English, and Red Cloud at Dawn: Truman, Stalin, and the End of the Atomic Monopoly.

"The book excels as an introduction to the topic....It has the potential to appeal to a wider audience... and help readers within and beyond academia to conceptualize and engage with pseudoscience in its full complexity-to think about it beyond the abstract, the moralistic, and the anecdotal. That indeed would be an exceptional achievement." -- Vedran Duančić, Isis

Product details

ISBN : 9780190944421

Michael D. Gordin
160 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Apr 2023
Very Short Introductions
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Pseudoscience: A Very Short Introduction

Pseudoscience: A Very Short Introduction

Pseudoscience: A Very Short Introduction