BHA: Science and Pseudo Science

Science and Pseudo Science

Centre for Inquiry UK and Conway Hall present a look at how *not* to do science

What distinguishes real science from pseudo-science, flim-flam and bullshit? Is parapsychology a science? Is Young Earth Creationism science? Is pseudo-science on the rise in British schools? Join speakers Chris French, Andy Lewis, James Ladyman and Stephen Law for the answers.


11.00 am Parapsychology and Science with Prof. Chris French (Goldsmiths Dept. of Anomolistic Psychology).

12.00 noon Pseudo-Science and Bullshit with Prof. James Ladyman (University of Bristol).

Bullshitting, according to Harry Frankfurt, is very different from lying. Pseudoscience is similarly different from science fraud. The pseudoscientist, like the bullshitter, is less in touch with the truth and less concerned with it than either the fraudster or the liar.

1.30pm But It Fits! With Dr. Stephen Law (Heythrop College University of London)

How to make a ludicrous belief system look not unreasonable.

“But It Fits!” is one of the most popular strategies for immunizing beliefs against refutation” Stephen Law writes. “In fact, “But it fits!” does double duty. Not only is it a great immunizing strategy, it can also be used to create the illusion that a ridiculous belief system is not, after all, ridiculous, but at least as well confirmed as its rivals. I’ll explain how “But It Fits!” works by means of a particularly impressive example: Young Earth Creationism”.

2.30pm Educational Imposters: The Rise of Pseudoscience in UK Free Schools with Andy Lewis (Quackometer).

"Michael Gove has stated that Free Schools will not be allowed to teach pseudoscience. But can we trust some of the cult-like organisations running these schools to teach good science is and to refrain from letting their own alternative reality influence classrooms? Maharishi and Steiner schools both have occult and pseudoscientific beliefs at their core and so we should ask "What are they teaching children?"

3.30 END

About the speakers:

Chris French is a Professor of Psychology and Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has published over 100 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. In addition to academic activities, he frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims. He is a columnist for The Skeptic magazine (UK version) and served as editor for over a decade. He also writes for the Guardian’s online science pages. Humanists would find much of interest in his recent publication, with W M, Grossman, Why Statues Weep: The Best of The Skeptic (The Philosophy Press). Buy it at through this link and a small commission will go to the BHA.

Stephen Law worked as a postman before first entering university as a mature student at the age of 24. He has a B.Phil and D.Phil in philosophy from the University of Oxford and was a stipendiary Junior Research Fellow in philosophy at Queen’s College, Oxford, for three years. He is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London, Provost of Centre for Inquiry UK and a member of the Humanist Philosophers Group.

James Ladyman is a philosopher of science at the University of Bristol. He won the Philip Leverhulme prize for Philosophy and Ethics in 2005 and the Choice (American Library Association) Outstanding Academic Text Award for Understanding Philosophy of Science. He is the co-editor (with Professor Alexander Bird) of The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, for which he was previously a deputy editor and assistant editor, (2004-2011). As well as that, he was also the Honorary Secretary of The British Society for the Philosophy of Science (2003-2007). He is the author of Understanding Philosophy of Science (Routledge 2002) and (with Don Ross) Every Thing Must Go (Oxford University Press 2007).

Andy Lewis runs the Quakometer, an online site dedicated to exposing superstition and pseudo scientific health beliefs.

Details can be found at


Notes to editors
Time and date: Saturday 30 November 2013, 10.30 AM registration 11.00 AM   through   3:30 PM

Venue:   Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL
Tickets:  General £10.00
                 Members and Students £5.00
                 Friends of CFI Free
                 Tickets can be bought here –

For further comment or press passes contact Sara Passmore on 020 7079 3586 or by email at

About the British Humanist Association

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.