Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 43–52 | Cite as

Who’s a Quack?

  • Neil Pickering


Are there any characteristics by which we can reliably identify and distinguish quackery from genuine medicine? A commonly offered criterion for the distinction between medicine and quackery is science: genuine medicine is scientific; quackery is non-scientific. But it proves to be the case that at the boundary of science and non-science, there is an entanglement of considerations. Two cases are considered: that of homoeopathy and that of the Quantum Booster. In the first case, the degree to which reported phenomena that question established theory should be doubted arises; in the second case, the status of pleomorphism as a scientifically plausible doctrine is discussed. The application of the criterion of being scientific to these cases reveals something of the nature and density of the entanglement.


Quackery Homoeopathy Science Complementary therapies Knowledge History of medicine 



I would like to acknowledge the advice of Professor Grant Gillett on an earlier draft of this paper. A rather different version of the paper was given to the Otago Bioethics Centre’s postgraduate forum.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bioethics CentreUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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