Difference between pseudoscience and antiscience?

Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs or practices that are claimed to be both scientific or factual but are incompatible with the scientific method. Pseudoscience takes the position that official science, namely the scientific community, does not accept the “knowledge” of pseudoscience simply because it is not ready for it and due to the fact that science is seen to beclose to the governing structures and that almost every scientific innovation and epochal change has often at first been ridiculed.

Yes, the theory of evolution was at first ridiculed as has been the case for numerous other generally accepted scientific theories. However, reasoning by analogy is perhaps not the best way to reach aconclusion, but it remains one of the easiest and fastest. Proponents of pseudo-scientific theses often quote the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who said that the truth always goes through three stages; at first it is ridiculed, then it is aggressively opposed and finally accepted. However, if examined, the proposition that “water remembers” will never pass the third stage. This proposition is worthy of ridicule and should be aggressively opposed and dismissed. Its non-acceptance in official science is simply not a matter of conspiracy.

Apart from pseudoscience, there is another phenomena called antiscience. Unlike pseudoscience, which often presents itself as science and even uses scientific terms, partially invented and meaningless phrases and imitates the scientific method, anti-science is a position that rejects science and scientific method completely. People who take this position do not accept that science and the scientific method can generate universal knowledge and claim that cognition cannot be achieved through science. They very often ridicule science and the community of people who accept logic and the scientific method as a form of objective cognition, calling science “scientism”, and scientists and those who accept scientific cognition “scientists”.

This pejorative name is an attempt to present science as a dogma, and anti-science insists on just that – that science is nothing but another dogma. Another pejorative term, reductionism, is a slightly more subtle attack on science and scientists, but it comes down to the same thing. Antiscience shows ignorance of the concept of science and scientific revolutions and deliberately ignores the existence of these phenomena in human society and distortsepistemological principles, like the philosopher Paul Feyerabend did.

There is another term in the English-speaking world for anti-science: science denialism. This could described as “refusal to accept that science is an objective system of cognition”. However, proponents of anti-science, and especially conspiracy theorists, do not accept the evidence – evidence is just a part of the conspiracy for them. That is why it can be difficult to enter into a logical discussion with them.

Viewed from the sociological and historical aspect of science, one can see how the anti-scientific movement arose as a response to scientific materialism or the the immanent need to always see “something more”, to put spirit and emotion above the material. This romantic anti-science rejects numbers and measurements as cognition or, perhaps more precisely, rejects the main implication of science – that it is really only what is measurable. Numbers, in science as an example, are an indicator of something – they are not someone’s opinion, emotion or desire, but specific numbers. This number or numerical value can be a statistical quantity, such as a p-value, a variance, a chi-square test result, or a measurement. However, there is also scientific positivism (i.e., logical positivism) that accepts that there may be phenomena that are not measurable but that there must be an appropriate scientific method to investigate these phenomena.

One might ask if there´s a particular political leaning or option that shows a strong propensity for anti-science? Although it could be concluded at first that these are right-wing and conservative politics, it should be noted that even liberal and left-wing options are prone to anti-scientific views. Therefore, it is necessary to single out some of the most important anti-scientific positions and study the relationship between the left/right, liberal/conservative views.

Perhaps the most obvious anti-scientific position today is the rejection of the repeatedly proven, verified, verifiable fact that the Earth is round (ok, it is not perfectly round, it is more like an egg). This anti-scientific belief is commonly known by its pejorative term “flat-earthers.” However, its seems to have no political significance. It unites ultra-conservative groups, usually close to the religious dogmatism of certain sects and those who believe in conspiracy theories regardless of left/right political leanings. The group itself, which refuses to recognize science as a possibility of cognition, at the same time is prone to conspiracy theories, but more about that later. Even in secular societies, these anti-science beliefs manage to somehow vocalize and, thanks to social media groups, have quite a bat to swing.

So, ignoring the “flat earth theory”, which seems to be an indestructible hardline current but one thatfortunately has no influence in a secular society, four basic anti-scientific views should be singled out here. We can call them the “Four Riders of the Anti-Scientific Apocalypse.”

  1. anti-evolutionists;
  2. anti-vaxxers;
  3. anti-GMO activists;
  4. Climate change denialists;

Durer’s Riders of the Apocalypse

Yet another stream of prominent anti-scientific view is the opposition to nuclear energy, primarily fusion reactors. Attitudes for and against nuclear energy are especially important in countries that have nuclear power plants. However, from a Balkan perspective, the only nuclear power plant in our immediate region is Krško, we will ignore this issue for a moment.

Anti-scientific views coming from the right and ultra-conservatives are often tied to conspiracy theories, although not exclusively for that reason, and it is not uncommon for liberals to advocate government conspiracy theories, especially when it comes to anarchist-nihilistic circles and anarcho-capitalists. However, the anti-scientific attitudes that can be most strongly associated with the actions of the right and ultra-conservatives are anti-evolutionary attitudes, with attempts to deny the knowledge of modern and official cosmology (say, redshift) and attempts to introduce alternative explanations of Man, Earth, solar system and cosmos. They often try to “push” alternative teachings by invoking religious freedoms, which science rejects in official teaching curricula. Very often these attitudes, especially creationism, arrived in Europe from the United States (1). The following are some examples of such;The Balkan region recently witnessed one such effort of creationists, under the well-known guise of “teach the controversy”,when there was a petition in Serbia for the introduction of creationist learning in schools and universities (2). There was also the subcultural group of Harun Yahya (real name Adnan Oktar), an Islamic creationist who, in addition to writing books on intelligent design and creationism, gathers an almost sectarian harem – a cult of belly-dancing beauties.However, research shows that accepting evolution is actually related to understanding evolutionthose who understand evolution will accept it sooner (3).

However, in quietly desecularized societies such as ours (Bosnia), evolution is only slowly being passed on in teaching and it remains unclear to children. In fact, it could quite possible happen in the future, they might reject the theory of evolution.

We can also link “climate-change denialism” to this current of thinking. Often the conservative right wants to show how all agreements at the level of government (such as the Paris Agreement) are in fact conspiracies of left-wing governments and supra-national structures (UN, World Health Organization). One example of a medium that flaunts these theories openly is PragerU. PragerU is a channel with 5-minute video lessons on specific topics. It all sounds educational and interesting, but one should know that the founder is Dennis Prager, an ultraconservative, who uses PragerU to disseminate very questionable content. The main donors to PragerU (which is not a legitimate university, or any form of academic institution but in name) are the Wilks brothers, fracking billionaires.

It is somewhat amusing and perhaps strange that on PragerU, both ultra-conservatives-right-wingers and ultra-leftists will unite when it comes to the issues of GMOs. In one of its videos PragerU called on Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, to blacken genetically modified organisms and the technology behind them. In the video, GMOs are actually portrayed as a conspiracy by governments and supra-national organizations that are hiding something from us, and the science behind this technology is portrayed as being practically evil.

Golden rice is one of the GMO products that could change the world – it is rice that has been modified to contain vitamin A which in turn could prevent blindness in millions of children in poor areas, especially in Asia and Africa. The issue? Activists fighting GMOs simply don’t like it! They think that it is better for these children to eat fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A and carotene, completely omitting the fact that people in these poor areas cannot afford fruits and vegetables. These are people who practically eat only rice because they can’t afford carrots, papayas, tomatoes, and especially cannot afford expensive vitamin supplements. Also, opponents omit to mention that rice has a very long shelf life while fruits rich in vitamin A rot easily. What did the opponents of golden rice do? They met in two luxury hotels in Manila to discuss how to stop the golden rice and “fight” for the rights of farmers and ecology.

The issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is where the ultra left and ultra right unite: the right has anti-scientific views on this technology because it considers it a “government conspiracy” and “interference in God”, while the radical left labels GMO technology as a “corporate conspiracy” and presents it as a “non-green” farming option. In doing so, it promotes the “organic” option as “greener” and “non-corporate” although behind organic production there are many myths and a strong lobby. The radical left seeks to portray GMO technology as evil, harmful and dangerous to humanity. They also highlight their opposition to the free market and corporations, and satanizes biotech companies such as Monsanto and Bayer. However, the limitations of the radical options can be seen in their deliberate or even involuntary hypocrisythis same Greenpeace, which is fighting for the environment, attacked an Apple store by releasing balloons – otherwise a “very” environmentally friendly and biodegradable product.

Members of the left radical movements in their propaganda attempt to frighten people by saying that a patent on GMO seeds will deprive them of the right to freely choose seed material, the right to keep their own seeds and destroy indigenous varieties. Members of the radical anti-scientific right frighten people by saying that GMOs and GMO products will cause them cancer and sterility, saying that GMOs are a means by which the “world government” and the “new world order” try to control the population. The different propaganda of these two extremes of the political spectrum unites in one: the war against science. Examples of such propaganda can be found on one of the most anti-scientific portals on the Internet, the Natural News portal run by Mike Adams. Virtually everything you read on this portal is speculation, fake-news, propaganda, historical revisionism and anti-science.

In the Balkan region, we should point out several portals that publish anti-scientific propaganda. These portals are mostly related to the right of the political spectrum, but also some Russophile circles and those that smell of the NDH and fascism. These are portals like the Matrix, the New World Order, the Transformation of Consciousness, Dnevno.hr, to name just the most famous ones. They are also prone to anti-vaccination attitudes.

The third anti-scientific dialogue is religious-dogmatic circles. There they often use of the imperative of religious freedom in a secular society to dispel some anti-scientific views. However, these are not just institutional religions and sects, such as Seventh-day Adventists that promote creationism and intelligent design as part of their agenda, but also non-institutional spiritual movements such as various New Age practices and anthroposophy. They all criticize science as an atheistic, materialistic and reductionist philosophy. And not only do they criticize, but they try to undermine the positive effects of science on society.

Organized religion in combination with the radical right often expresses supremacist attitudes, favoring national, ethnic and traditional, while at the same time attacking what is rational and cosmopolitan. New age and anthroposophy promote alternative medical practices and charlatanry and reject the achievements of modern medicine, considering them harmful. One of the achievements of modern medicine that these movements reject is immunization through the anti-vaccine movement.

There was a well-known attempt to infiltrate creationism into US curricula in 1989 through the textbook Of Pandas and People, which favored the concept of intelligent design. The texbook originated from radical Christian circles. This undermining of secular principles and education in the field of natural sciences, fortunately, passed ingloriously. However, Turkish removal of the theory of evolution from textbooks and marginalizing the number of “Evolution” and “Human Evolution” teaching units by only teaching evolution when students have already practically completed their school year or by tacitly skipping these lessons in our region is sure signs of desecularization. .

In fact, the scientific community itself is not doing enough to fight anti-science. Sometimes it seems that scientists, with rare exceptions such as Brian Cox, Sean Carroll and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, are “under the honor” of popularizing science. The lack of younger people in the field of scientific journalism, the very people who will attract younger generations, is often a product of the attitude of the scientific community itselfthat scientists should be included in public discourse only when they become “seniors”. Such thinking impoverishes society for the professional expertise needed to make informed decisions (4).




  1. Stefaan Blancke, Peter C. Kjærgaard, “Creationism Invades Europe“, Scientific American, October 1, 2016;
  2. Jelena Kalinić, “Defend real science in the Balkans“, Nature, 547, 32 (06 July 2017);
  3. Amanda Montañez, “People Who Understand Evolution Are More Likely to Accept It“, Scientific American, May 2018;
  4. Susana Martinez-Conde, Stephen L. Macknik, Devin Powell, “Scientists Should Speak Out More“, Scientific American, October 1, 2016.

Translated by Jonas Helgason