Science & Education

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 179–195

Pseudohistory and Pseudoscience

  • Douglas Allchin

DOI: 10.1023/B:SCED.0000025563.35883.e9

Cite this article as:
Allchin, D. Science & Education (2004) 13: 179. doi:10.1023/B:SCED.0000025563.35883.e9


The dangers of pseudoscience – parapsychology, astrology,creationism, etc. – are widely criticized. Lessons in the history of science are oftenviewed as an educational remedy by conveying the nature of science. But such histories canbe flawed. In particular, many stories romanticize scientists, inflate the drama of their discoveries,and oversimplify the process of science. They are, literally and rhetorically, myths.While based on real historical events, they distort the basis of scientific authority and fosterunwarranted stereotypes. Such stories are pseudohistory. Like pseudoscience, they promotefalse ideas about science – in this case, about how science works. Paradoxically, perhaps,the history of pseudosciences may offer an excellent vehicle for remedying such impressions.

Characteristically, textbooks of science contain just a bit of history, either in an introductory chapteror, more often, in scattered references to the great heroes of an earlier age. From suchreferences both students and professionals come to feel like participants in a long-standinghistorical tradition. Yet the textbook-derived tradition in which scientists come to sensetheir participation is one that, in fact, never existed.

–Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas Allchin
    • 1
  1. 1.Program in the History of Science and TechnologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA (

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