Voodoo Science:
The Road from Foolishness to Fraud
Cover of the first edition
AuthorsRobert L. Park
CountryUK & USA
SubjectsScience, Pseudoscience
PublisherOxford University Press
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
TextVoodoo Science:
The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud[1] is a book published in 2000 by physics professor Robert L. Park, critical of research that falls short of adhering to the scientific method. Other people have used the term "voodoo science",[2][3] but amongst academics it is most closely associated with Park.[4] Park offers no explanation as to why he appropriated the word voodoo to describe the four categories detailed below.[1] The book is critical of, among other things, homeopathy, cold fusion and the International Space Station.[5]


Park uses the term voodoo science (see the quote section below, Page 10) as covering four categories which evolve from self-delusion to fraud:

Park criticizes junk science as the creature of "scientists, many of whom have impressive credentials, who craft arguments deliberately intended to deceive or confuse."[6]

Examples cited

Park also discusses the Daubert standard for excluding junk science from litigation.


Warning signs

Drawing on examples used in Voodoo Science, Park outlined seven warning signs that a claim may be pseudoscientific in a 2003 article for The Chronicle of Higher Education:[8]

  1. Discoverers make their claims directly to the popular media, rather than to fellow scientists.
  2. Discoverers claim that a conspiracy has tried to suppress the discovery.
  3. The claimed effect appears so weak that observers can hardly distinguish it from noise. No amount of further work increases the signal.
  4. Anecdotal evidence is used to back up the claim.
  5. True believers cite ancient traditions in support of the new claim.
  6. The discoverer or discoverers work in isolation from the mainstream scientific community.
  7. The discovery, if true, would require a change in the understanding of the fundamental laws of nature.


Matt Nisbet in the Skeptical Inquirer noted that the reaction to Voodoo Science has been mostly favorable.[9]

Bob Goldstein in a book review for Nature Cell Biology described Park as an equivalent to Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, scientific writers who have "talent for defending a view of the world that is perfectly rational and free of witchcraft and superstition."[10]

American chemist Nicholas Turro wrote "the book is entertaining and provocative reading... Whether or not you agree with Park's take on voodoo science, a message of the book is that if scientists do not take a more significant role in the way that science is disseminated to the public and especially to politicians, voodoo science will continue to survive."[11]

The mathematician Malcolm Sherman in the American Scientist gave the book a positive review stating "Park does more than analyze and expose various kinds of bad ("voodoo") science. He demonstrates how valid science is distorted or ignored by the media and by those (including scientists) seeking to influence public policy."[12] The physicist Kenneth R. Foster also positively reviewed the book concluding "Park is an articulate and skeptical voice of reason about science."[13]

Reviewing the book for The New York Times, Ed Regis compared it positively to the 1957 book by Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, calling Voodoo Science a "worthy successor" and praising it for explaining why various purportedly scientific claims were in fact impossible.[5] Science writer Kendrick Frazier wrote "Robert Park has brought us a book that has a freshness and originality—and an importance and potential for influence—perhaps not seen since Gardner’s first."[14]

Robin McKie for The Observer described it as "an admirable analysis: wittily written, vivid and put together without a hint of malice."[15]

Rachel Hay in a review wrote that Park had "debunked expertly" pseudoscience topics such as homeopathy, cold fusion and perpetual motion machines but the book is not easily accessible to students.[16] However, S. Elizabeth Bird an anthropology professor recommended it for "students who need to establish a grasp of the scientific method."[17]

Bruce Lewenstein wrote a critical review claiming Park had lumped together pathological science, junk science, pseudoscience and fraud all together as voodoo science but this is problematic as "each category alone is fraught with definitional, historical, and analytical difficulties."[18] Brian Josephson wrote that the book, while giving "the official story regarding a number of 'mistaken beliefs' ", did not provide "the additional information that might lead one to conclude that the official view does not tell the whole story."[19]

See also



  1. ^ a b Park, Robert L (2000), Voodoo Science: The road from foolishness to fraud, Oxford, U.K. & New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-860443-2, retrieved 14 November 2010
  2. ^ Oversight Hearing on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency. United States Congress. 1984. Retrieved 16 October 2011. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  3. ^ William Booth. (1988). Voodoo Science. Science. New Series. Vol. 240, No. 4850. pp. 274-277.
  4. ^ "Voodoo Science". The Skeptic's Dictionary.
  5. ^ a b Ed Regis. (2000)."Theres One Born Every Minute [sic]". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Robert L. Park. (2000). p. 171
  7. ^ Michael Maiello (6 June 2005). "Archived copy". Forbes. Archived from the original on May 3, 2007. Retrieved October 16, 2011.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Forbes.
  8. ^ Robert L. Park. (2003). "Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science". The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  9. ^ Matt Nisbet. (2001). "A Look Back at the Best Skeptic Book of 2000". Csicop.org. Retrieved 2014-07-12.
  10. ^ Bob Goldstein. (2000). The Professional Debunker (review of the book Voodoo Science: the Road from Foolishness to Fraud, by Robert L. Park). Nature Cell Biology. Vol 2. p. 212.
  11. ^ Nicholas Turro. (2002). Book Review: Voodoo Science. The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. Edited by Robert L. Park. Angewandte Chemie. Vol. 41, Issue 14. p. 2436.
  12. ^ Malcolm J. Sherman. (2000). "Exposing Fools Gladly". American Scientist. Vol. 88, No. 5. pp. 461-462.
  13. ^ Kenneth R. Foster. (2000). Unreal Science. Science. New Series, Vol. 288, No. 5471. p. 1595.
  14. ^ Kendrick Frazier. (2000). Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. Physics Today. Vol 53, No. 10. pp. 78-80.
  15. ^ Robin McKie. (2002). "Paperback of the Week". The Observer.
  16. ^ Rachel Hays. (2001). Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert L. Park. The American Biology Teacher. Vol. 63, No. 2. p. 140
  17. ^ S. Elizabeth Bird. (2002). Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert L. Park. Human Biology. Vol. 74, No. 4. pp. 621-623.
  18. ^ Bruce V. Lewenstein. (2004). Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. Isis. Vol. 95, No. 2. p. 341,
  19. ^ Josephson, Brian (December 2000). "Grey areas on the blacklist". Times Higher Education Supplement. Retrieved 18 August 2014.