Be afraid. Be very afraid.

A few weeks back, I was asked by Kelly Oakes, Science Editor for BuzzFeed, to write 100 words or so on what really scared me as a scientist. The ‘brief’ was that it could be serious, funny, silly — whatever I liked. Kelly also asked another eight scientists about their greatest fears. The BuzzFeed article was published yesterday and, my contribution notwithstanding, it’s a great read. I particularly like the closing quote from Hope Jahren: “I fear being misquoted on BuzzFeed, and having to spend the remainder of my career explaining the missing context.”

The hyperlinks in the piece I sent Kelly couldn’t be included so I’m posting the original, URL-enabled version below. While it’s certainly not a particularly restrained piece, when it comes to vitriol-fuelled writing I’m a rank amateur compared to Chad Orzel, whose post on the unholy pairing of Chopra and Michio Kaku is a masterclass in venting one’s spleen: The Physics Of The Imbecile.


Here’s what scares the bejaysus out of me…

Deepak Chopra has 2.5M followers on Twitter.

Chopra.png

Let that sink in for a moment.

2.5M people follow a man whose key talent is the ability to generate vacuous pseudoscientific bollocks-speak at a rate hitherto thought to be beyond human capability. His books sell bucket-loads, he’s in huge demand as an ‘inspirational’ speaker, and even learned academics have urged us to take Chopra seriously.

As a scientist – indeed, as a human – I find this both rather depressing and deeply unnerving. The Chopra story is essentially a 21st Century reboot of the Emperor’s New Clothes — a cautionary tale of the extent to which valueless pseudoscience can sweep the world.

Author: Philip Moriarty

Physicist. Rush fan. Father of three. (Not Rush fans. Yet.) Rants not restricted to the key of E minor...

7 thoughts on “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

    1. Also, what goes through your head when someone posts this in the comments: (from buzzfeed comments)

      sorry but Philip Moriarty you sir are an idiot. Science has already proven the existence of metaphysics with the algea experiment and most of modern day science is just now catching up to things most spiritual tribes knews centuries ago.. this society we live in is more “pseudo” than anything else in this life

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      1. Hi, Nathan. Thanks for your comments, and apologies for the delay in responding.

        Michio Kaku tends to rather “over-mystify” quantum physics to the point where he blurs the boundary between science and science fiction. I can sort of understand why he does this — he wants to grab an audience’s attention with “Wow! Quantum. Just. Wow!” — but the problem is that it can backfire. We need to engage and enthuse an audience, but not to the point where what we’re telling them is pseudoscientific bollocks.

        As for the “You sir, are an idiot” comment, I’d have been rather disappointed if that wilfully provocative BuzzFeed article hadn’t attracted at least one response like that!

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