Among the many social functions that public science communication can fulfill, one of the least appreciated –at least in Latin America and Spanish‐speaking countries‐ is that of battling the public disinformation caused by pseudosciences, quackery and charlatanry. This is probably due to the perception, often confirmed by experience, that when a science communicator adopts the role of "professional skeptic", he/she risks being rejected or ignored by a public that does not like to see its beliefs disqualified as pseudosciences. Even so, battling these pseudosciences is extremely important for public welfare, for many reasons.

Apart from being an abuse on public confidence, presenting pseudoscience as science confuses and misinforms the audience. Moreover, pseudoscience and charlatanry often are actual swindles, depriving people of their money by offering miracle cures, methods for self‐improvement o fraudulent technologies, all presented as "scientific" or "scientifically proven".

The extreme case occurs when health‐related pseudoscientific doctrines diametrally oppose accepted scientific knowledge and thus directly imperil the health of people exposed to them. One concrete example is "AIDS negationism", which claims that AIDS is not caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (VIH) ‐and therefore is not a contagious disease‐, but is instead caused by drug usage or malnutrition. In this work it is argued that the spread and public acceptance of apparently innocuous ideas such as astrology, belief in alien visits to Earth (UFOs), self‐improvement methods supposedly based on quantum physics, “alternative therapies” that are really pseudoscientific charlatanry, and many other false sciences, have the social impact of opening a “credulity space” in which really dangerous ideas such as AIDS negationism can thrive and find a receptive public. The conclusion is proposed that a socially important –and urgent‐ part of the task of communicating science to the public is to battle such pseudoscientific ideas in a broad, decisive, sustained an effective manner.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Pseudoscience vs. social welfare
Public communication of science as a vaccine

Martin Olivera   Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico

Among the many social functions that public science communication can fulfill, one of the least appreciated –at least in Latin America and Spanish‐speaking countries‐ is that of battling the public disinformation caused by pseudosciences, quackery and charlatanry. This is probably due to the perception, often confirmed by experience, that when a science communicator adopts the role of "professional skeptic", he/she risks being rejected or ignored by a public that does not like to see its beliefs disqualified as pseudosciences. Even so, battling these pseudosciences is extremely important for public welfare, for many reasons.

Apart from being an abuse on public confidence, presenting pseudoscience as science confuses and misinforms the audience. Moreover, pseudoscience and charlatanry often are actual swindles, depriving people of their money by offering miracle cures, methods for self‐improvement o fraudulent technologies, all presented as "scientific" or "scientifically proven".

The extreme case occurs when health‐related pseudoscientific doctrines diametrally oppose accepted scientific knowledge and thus directly imperil the health of people exposed to them. One concrete example is "AIDS negationism", which claims that AIDS is not caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (VIH) ‐and therefore is not a contagious disease‐, but is instead caused by drug usage or malnutrition. In this work it is argued that the spread and public acceptance of apparently innocuous ideas such as astrology, belief in alien visits to Earth (UFOs), self‐improvement methods supposedly based on quantum physics, “alternative therapies” that are really pseudoscientific charlatanry, and many other false sciences, have the social impact of opening a “credulity space” in which really dangerous ideas such as AIDS negationism can thrive and find a receptive public. The conclusion is proposed that a socially important –and urgent‐ part of the task of communicating science to the public is to battle such pseudoscientific ideas in a broad, decisive, sustained an effective manner.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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