Science, pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
What's Here and Not Here, And Why
Things on this site generally fit one of the following criteria:
- They're within my area of technical expertise (earth science, physical sciences, astronomy)
- They pertain to the general nature of science
- They pertain to other areas where I have personal experience (military issues)
- They pertain to topics where blatantly fallacious logic is involved
Although there is plenty of pseudoscience related to medical fads, diets, and the paranormal, I don't deal with them much because they are outside my formal training.
There are certain things I don't put here because this is a site hosted by a public institution
- Partisan political positions. Goofy court decisions based on bad reasoning, dumb remarks by politicians or the press, and politically endorsed pseudoscience movements are fair game. The science or supporting logic are the issue, not the party or candidate.
- Religious proselytizing. If your religion says something that conflicts with objective evidence, your religion is wrong. That's the case whether you're an Indian who wants to dispose of Kennewick Man because you believe your tribe has always lived there, or a Christian who believes in a young earth, or a Mormon who believes the Indians descended from the Israelites, or a Muslim who rejects evolution. Those doctrines are fair game here. But my own private beliefs, or yours, except insofar as they can be analyzed with logic and data (and that is a lot more than some people believe and a lot less than others believe), are not. And if your religion refuses to admit the possibility of correction, it's not just wrong on some specific point, it's wrong - period.
- The existence or nonexistence of God is not a topic for this site. Claims that science can be used to settle the issue one way or the other? Make my day.
- Generally, the less direct contact people in a debate have with the opposition, the more prone they are to demonizing and stereotyping. In several cases I have paired pages dealing with conflicts where both extremes are guilty of very similar factual and logical fallacies.
Essays that fall into the excluded categories are off-site at http://stevedutch.blogspot.com/
Every so often I get e-mails from people complaining I don't treat these topics or their believers with respect.
There is nothing in crank movements worthy of respect.
First of all, cranks don't treat the orthodox with respect. They can accuse science of willfully neglecting or falsifying evidence. They can accuse their own nation of bringing down skyscrapers and causing thousands of deaths, or deliberately breaching levees to flood New Orleans, but aim a little critical language at them, and they howl about being "disrespected." Aww, poo' baby.
They're right. I do disrespect them.
Then there's the sheer waste of it all. Cities are increasingly privatizing their public libraries, but there always seems to be money to support crackpot movements. We can't drum up enthusiasm for space travel but we can hold conventions as Roswell to commemorate UFO's. These people are parasites. They do nothing to advance real learning in our society and drain resources into crank movements that will never benefit anyone except charlatans.
Respect? Take it to someone who cares.
The Anatomy of Science
The Anatomy of pseudoscience and Irrationalism
The Great Plagiarism Witch Hunt
Science and pseudoscience at the Movies
- The Science of James Bond
- Playing in the Water: Jaws, Titanic, Waterworld
- Classics Reclassified: Starship Troopers, Nightfall, Spider Man
- When the Wells Run Dry: Time Machine, War of the Worlds
- Don't Throw Rocks: Asteroid, Deep Impact, Armageddon
- Having a Blast: Dante's Peak, Volcano
- Meet the Neighbors: Contact, Independence Day, Men in Black, Signs
- Star Trek, the Movies
- Fun With DNA: Jurassic Park I-III, Evolution, Reign of Fire, Locusts
- Xena, Warrior Environmentalist: Locusts, Vampire Bats
- Getting Animated: Atlantis, Final Fantasy, Titan A.E., Finding Nemo
- Too Silly for Words: Lost in Space, Anaconda, Escape from L.A.
- The Future That Never Happened: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
- The Day After Tomorrow
- Spielberg: A. I., Minority Report
- Political Thrillers: Sum of All Fears, K-19
- Apocalypse by the Numbers: 12 Monkeys, 28 Days Later
- 2001; Solaris
- Plan Nine From Inner Space: The Core
- Plan Ten From Inner Space: 10.5 and 10.5:Apocalypse
- Three Chick Flicks and Their Unintended Message
- On Second Thoughts, It Was a Dumb Movie
- Three Kings: The Apocalypse Now of the Gulf War (and that's not a Compliment)
- Nazi With A Puppy Dog Films
- Improbable Movie Biology
- Improbable Movie Technology
- Apocalypse Then: The Cold War and the Ultimate Mistake
- Kingdom of Heaven: Bashing a Film for the Wrong Reasons
- Two Serious But Misinterpreted Films: The Constant Gardener and V For Vendetta, with a nod to Children of Men
- I Am Legend
- Indiana Jones and Nuking the Fridge
- When the Moon in the Sky/ Means We're All Gonna Die/ That's an...Impact
Science and pseudoscience in the Media
Catastrophes and Other Marvels
Science and Religion
Practical pseudoscience: Junk Science and Wishful Thinking
Is There Reality? The Ultimate Anti-Intellectualism
Bad Logic, Bad Policy
Global Warming: A Swim in the Skeptic Tank
Irrationalism in the Wake of September 11, 2001
Return to Professor Dutch's Home Page
Created 3 February 1998, Last Update 31 May 2020