Science Wars, Scientism, and Think Tanks: A Précis of Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

Below is the abstract of a recent paper I have published in the Journal of Cognitive Historiography (full paper here). The paper is a conceptual summary of my book, Nonsense on Stilts (second edition), which deals with the nature of science and pseudoscience.

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 pseudo- scientific claims, an effort that may be greatly helped by the adoption of a virtue epistemological approach, analogous to virtue ethics in moral philosophy.

Why Alex Rosenberg – and a number of other philosophers – are wrong just about everything: a commentary on scientistic reductionism

[Alex Rosenberg, thinking]

Here is the abstract of a new paper I published about the general issue of what I call scientistic reductionism in philosophy, focusing on one of its main proponents, Duke University philosopher Alex Rosenberg. You can download the full paper, published in the Journal of Cognitive Historiography, here.

There is a pernicious tendency these days among some philosophers to engage in a “nothing but” attitude about important questions. According to this attitude, consciousness, volition, reason, and morality are “illusions”, “nothing but” the epiphenomena of specific neural processes. Alex Rosenberg is a particularly good (though by no means the only) illustration of this problem, which is why his work is presented and analyzed in some detail in this contribution. The general attitude displayed by Rosenberg et al. falls squarely under the rubric of “scientism”, the notion that science (however vaguely and very broadly defined) is the only reliable source of knowledge and understanding, and that all other disciplines (especially the humanistic ones) ought to bow to its dictates. The results are, predictably, incoherent and pernicious, as it is illustrated here via a number of examples.