Pseudoscience: From Quirks to Quacks


McGill "Mini-Science" series offers 90-minute lectures to better understand pseudoscience

WHO: Leading scientists explaining and dispelling scientific misconceptions common in public debate and the media

WHAT: Seven 90-minute lectures covering

  1. Paranormal/psychics April 7)
  2. Climate change (April 14)
  3. Hypnosis (April 21)
  4. Dangers of vaccines (April 28)
  5. Creationism (May 5)
  6. Homeopathy (May 12)
  7. Dangers of cellphone use (May 19)

WHEN: Every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., starting on April 7, 2010.

WHERE: Redpath Museum, McGill University, 859 Sherbrooke St. W.


COST: FREE for media - please register with William Raillant-Clark
514-398-2189 or william.raillant-clark [at]

The  Pseudoscience mini lecture series offers an excellent opportunity to gain a better understanding of the scientific reality behind a number of key and popular issues and discussions in today's society.

Leading scientists will be offering short, accessible, and perhaps even controversial (from a political perspective) seminars in everyday language. The lectures will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

The topics cover hot-button issues that interest the general public. Outlined in further detail below, the seminars themselves could be an interesting topic for coverage. Alternatively, media professionals are also encouraged to consider the series as a way of gaining a greater understanding of these subjects.

The lectures will be given in English, but the discussion sessions will be bilingual.

Please contact William Raillant-Clark at McGill's Media Relations Office for further details: 514-398-2189 or william.raillant-clark [at]

April 7 - Science and the paranormal
Expert: Joe Schwarcz, Director, Office for Science and Society
History is peppered with accounts of psychics predicting the future, mediums conversing with the dead, and aliens abducting earthlings. Today, "psychic surgeons" claim to remove tumours without making incisions and "paranormalists" bend spoons with the power of their minds. What does science say about these claims?

April 14 - What is the role of climate scientists in the climate change debate?
Expert: Bruno Tremblay, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Why is climate change in doubt, even denied by some? While the scientific understanding of climate change is firm, public opinion concerning the impact of human activities on the observed changes is much less certain. This lecture focuses on the necessity of curbing the damage of climate change, as opposed to simply exposing the facts and letting people form their own conclusions.

April 21 - The science and fad of hypnosis and other psychological phenomena
Expert: Amir Raz, Psychiatry
Shattering widespread misconceptions about human behaviour is difficult, but science must begin with myths and with their criticism. Dr. Raz, a renowned neuroscientist, will use hypnosis as a lens into some of these myths, while touching on other great fables.

April 28 - Vaccines: panaceas or poisons?
Expert: Brian Ward, Microbiology (Montreal General Hospital)
Vaccines are among the crowning achievements of medical science yet many are convinced that vaccination can cause autism and autoimmune diseases - even death. The most virulent opponents believe that vaccines are the sharp end of a global conspiracy. How did we get to this polarized state?

May 5 - Creationism, evolution, and God
Expert: Brian Alters, Tomlinson Chair in Science Education
Shockingly, half of the continent thinks biological evolution is false. Evolution deniers rarely base their rejection solely on religious rationales but almost always point to forms of pseudoscience that bolster their anti-evolution sentiments and arguments. We will explore the storm.

May 12 - Homeopathy: dilution or delusion?
Expert: Ariel Fenster, Office for Science and Society
The basis of homeopathy is that substances, diluted to such an extent that there is essentially nothing left in solution, can be used to treat a variety of medical problems. This lecture critically examines the principles, the history, and the reasons for the enduring popularity of homeopathy.

May 19 - Are cell phones and WiFi harmful to your health?
Expert: Lorne M. Trottier, co-founder of Matrox, CM (2006)
There is growing public alarm about the possible harmful health effects caused by cell phones, microwaves, WiFi, etc. This concern has been fed by a wide array of misleading information on the Internet as well as various reports in the media. What does the real scientific evidence show?

Contact Information

William Raillant-Clark
Media Relations Office
william.raillant-clark [at]
Office Phone: