Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

What Science Isn’t

By Peter Bowditch

Scientific credibility requires more than a white coat, a laboratory and machines that go “ping”.

Peter Bowditch is a former President of Australian Skeptics Inc. (

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Everyone knows what science is, don’t they? I would hope that readers of this magazine might have a clue, but almost every time I pick up a newspaper or watch one of those entertaining current affairs programs on television I see things that have a scientific look about them but behind the instruments, the books, the colleges and the white coats there is nothing. Like a stage set, things look real until you get up close and then you see the plywood flats and the two-dimensional paintings.

Let’s examine some of the topics and places where participants look like they are doing something scientific but really are not.

Astrology and Augury

I know a professional astrologer who is quite savage in his criticism of the people who write those predictions you see in the newspapers and weekly magazines. He says that this is just mindless entertainment and nobody should take it seriously. He has a collection of books, equations, calculators and computer programs that, when seeded with certain information, result in the production of complex charts and tabulations predicting the future. He is quite expert at this, and the method has high reliability – if the same values are submitted multiple times at the start of the process the end results are consistent and vary very little. It has what scientists call reproducibility. But it’s not science.

Similarly, I...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.