Why Do Irrational Beliefs Mimic Science? The Cultural Evolution of Pseudoscience

Stefaan Blancke*, Maarten Boudry, Massimo Pigliucci

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Why do irrational beliefs adopt the trappings of science, to become what is known as "pseudoscience"? Here, we develop and extend an epidemiological framework to map the factors that explain the form and the popularity of irrational beliefs in scientific garb. These factors include the exploitation of epistemic vigilance, the misunderstanding of the authority of science, the use of the honorific title of "science" as an explicit argument for belief, and the phenomenon of epistemic negligence. We conclude by integrating the various factors in an epidemiological framework and thus provide a comprehensive cultural evolutionary account of science mimicry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-97
Number of pages20
JournalTheoria: A Swedish Journal of Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • naturalized epistemology
  • philosophy of science
  • pseudoscience
  • epidemiology of representations
  • cultural attraction theory
  • philosophy and history of biology
  • cultural evolution
  • evolutionary psychology
  • cognitive science of science


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