Science Wars, Scientism, and Think Tanks

A Précis of Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (2nd edition) (Pigliucci 2018)


  • Massimo Pigliucci City College of New York



Pseudoscience, Demarcation problem, Scientism, Think Tanks, Virtue epistemology


The present contribution offers a précis of the second edition of Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (Pigliucci 2018). The aim of the book is to explore the complex landscape populated by science, pseudoscience, and everything in between, what in philosophy is known as the “demarcation problem.” However, the author maintains that little progress can be done in public understanding and appreciation of science unless we also explore the historical, sociological and psychological motivations that lead people to believe in “nonsense on stilts.” Further, it is incumbent on scientists and science educators to act “virtuously” whenever dealing with pseudoscientific claims, an effort that may be greatly helped by the adoption of a virtue epistemological approach, analogous to virtue ethics in moral philosophy.

Author Biography

Massimo Pigliucci, City College of New York

Prof. Pigliucci has a PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Connecticut and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tennessee. He has done post-doctoral research in evolutionary ecology at Brown University and is currently K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at City College and Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His research interests include the philosophy of biology, the relationship between science and philosophy, and the nature of pseudoscience.

Prof. Pigliucci has been elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science "for fundamental studies of genotype by environmental interactions and for public defense of evolutionary biology from pseudoscientific attack."

In the area of public outreach, Prof. Pigliucci has published in national magazines such as Philosophy Now and The Philosopher's Magazine among others. He is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a Contributing Editor to Skeptical Inquirer. Pigliucci edits the Scientia Salon web magazine, and co-hosts the Rationally Speaking podcast.

Prof. Pigliucci has published over 135 technical papers in science and philosophy. He is also the author or editor of 10 technical and public outreach books, most recently of Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem (University of Chicago Press), co-edited with Maarten Boudry. Other books include Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life (Basic Books) and Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (University of Chicago Press).

More information can be found at


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How to Cite

Pigliucci, M. (2020). Science Wars, Scientism, and Think Tanks: A Précis of Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (2nd edition) (Pigliucci 2018). Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 5(1-2), 189–196.