Produced by the Department of Media Relations & Publications

How to Tell Science from Bunk

September 22, 2010

Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk

Professor Massimo Pigliucci, chair of Lehman's Philosophy Department, will separate fact from fantasy in an entertaining exploration of the nature of science and the borderlands of fringe science, on Wednesday, September 29, at 4 p.m. The campus community is invited to the talk, which will be held in the Leonard Lief Library. Please RSVP by September 28 to

Professor Pigliucci will talk about the differences between science and pseudoscience and explore such controversial questions as "Is it sound to not vaccinate children because of rumors about vaccines causing autism?" "Should people vote for a politician that supports action against global warming?" "What is science, and what is pseudoscience?"

The talk will briefly introduce the topic of his new book, Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (University of Chicago Press). The book's title borrows a famous phrase from philosopher Jeremy Bentham, "the nonsense on stilts." As Professor Pigliucci explains, Bentham used it originally "to refer to a very tall order of nonsense, and which I co-opted to refer to obviously false beliefs, like the idea that AIDS is not caused by the HIV virus."

Professor Pigliucci was originally trained in science and pursued a career in biology for twenty-five years. But he always had an interest in philosophy, especially the philosophy of science, which deals with the logic of science itself and why it works so well.

"When I reached the midpoint of my academic career, I decided that it was time to do something else, so I went back to graduate school, got a Ph.D. in philosophy, and switched fields. That's when CUNY hired me, and I now spend part of my time at Lehman and part at the Graduate Center," he said.

Professor Pigliucci completed postdoctoral research in evolutionary ecology at Brown University and has researched and written extensively on the philosophy of biology—in particular, the structure and foundations of evolutionary theory, the relationship between science and philosophy, and the relationship between science and religion. He received a doctorate in genetics from the University of Ferrara in Italy, a Ph.D. in botany from the University of Connecticut, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Tennessee. He is editor-in-chief of the open access journal Philosophy and Theory in Biology and maintains the "Rationally Speaking" blog.

For more information, call 718-960-8831.