Debate over pseudoscience in China

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

-- (Credit: Illustration:Shyamal)China's science community is split over 'pseudoscience'. The term for unscientific theories claiming to be scientific has been fodder for intense public debate in the country since November 2006. The debate is on whether to remove the term from China's science popularisation law of 2003. Many argue that the term is being used as a weapon to attack innovation. But others differ. No matter how innovative a theory is it must abide by the proven findings of accepted scientific disciplines, they argue. The latter group even challenges the authenticity of traditional Chinese medicines. The row took such a turn that in one televised debate participants even got into a physical fight.

It was an open letter by Song Zhenghai of the Institute for the History of Natural Science of Chinese Academy of Sciences that triggered the furore. He sought removal of the term from the 2003 law, which states that science communicators are responsible for exposing pseudoscience. The letter got famous when Fang Shimin, a science columnist famous for his exposure of scientific misconduct, lost a libel lawsuit against Liu Zihua, an ex-government consultant. Fang had termed a philosophical theory by Lui pseudoscience. However, the Chinese government has no plans now to make any legal revision to the science popularisation law.

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