Item Details

Science Wars, Scientism, and Think Tanks: A Précis of Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (2nd edition) (Pigliucci 2018)

Issue: Vol 5 No. 1-2 (2018)

Journal: Journal of Cognitive Historiography

Subject Areas: Ancient History Cognitive Studies Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jch.39456


The present contribution offers a précis of the second edition of Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (Pigliucci 2018). The aim of the book is to explore the complex landscape populated by science, pseudoscience, and everything in between, what in philosophy is known as the “demarcation problem.” However, the author maintains that little progress can be done in public understanding and appreciation of science unless we also explore the historical, sociological and psychological motivations that lead people to believe in “nonsense on stilts.” Further, it is incumbent on scientists and science educators to act “virtuously” whenever dealing with pseudoscientific claims, an effort that may be greatly helped by the adoption of a virtue epistemological approach, analogous to virtue ethics in moral philosophy.

Author: Massimo Pigliucci

View Original Web Page

References :

Abelson, D. 2004. “The Business of Ideas: The Think Tank Industry in the USA.” in: Think Tank Traditions: Policy Research and the Politics of Ideas, ed. D. Stone and A. Denham, 215-231. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Boudry, M., and Pigliucci, M. 2018. Science Unlimited? The Challenges of Scientism. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Goldman, A. I. 2006. “Experts: Which Ones Should You Trust?” In: The Philosophy of Expertise, ed. by E. Selinger and R.P. Crease, 14-38. New York: Columbia University Press.

Haack, S. 2012. Six signs of scientism. Logos & Episteme 3:75-95.

Hofstadter, R. 1963. Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Kidd, I. J. 2016. “Why Did Feyerabend Defend Astrology? Integrity, Virtue, and the Authority of Science.” Social Epistemology 30(4):464-482.

Laudan, L. 1983. “The Demise of the Demarcation Problem.” In Physics, Philosophy, and Psychoanalysis, ed. R.S. Cohan and L. Laudan, 111-127. Dordrecht: Springer.

Longino, H. E. 1990. Science as Social Knowledge: Values and Objectivity in Scientific Inquiry. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Pigliucci, M. 2016. “Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd.” Social Epistemology 5(5):1-6.

Pigliucci, M. 2017. “An Embarrassing Moment for the Skeptical Movement.” Footnotes to Plato, 24 May. (last accessed 20 June 2019).

Pigliucci, M. 2018a. Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. Second Edition. University of Chicago Press.

Pigliucci, M. 2018. “They’ve Done It Again: Another Embarrassing Moment for the Skeptic Movement.” Footnotes to Plato, 23 December. (last accessed 20 June 2019).

Pigliucci, M., and Boudry, M. 2013. Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University of Chicago Press.

Popper, K. 1962. Conjectures and Refutations. The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. New York: Basic Books.

Reeve, C. D. C. (ed.) 2018. Aristotle, Rhetoric. Translated, With Introduction and Notes by C. D. C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Russell, D.C. (ed.) 2013. The Cambridge Companion to Virtue Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sheaffer, R. 2004. “The Campeche, Mexico, ‘Infrared UFO’ Video.” Skeptical Inquirer 28(2): 36-40. (last accessed 20 June 2019).

Sprague, R. K. (1992). Plato, Laches and Charmides. Translated with an Introduction and Notes by R. K. Sprague. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Turri, J., M. Alfano, and J. Greco. 2017. “Virtue Epistemology.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), ed. E. N. Zalta.

Wittgenstein, L. 1953. Philosophical Investigations. Philosophische Untersuchungen. Oxford: Macmillan.