Courses‎ > ‎

History of Pseudoscience in America - HIST3854

El Chupacabra in a hurry
Dr. Brian Regal
History of Science
Department of History
T 117-I

Earth versus the Flying Saucers (1955)

Course Description:
A social and intellectual history of pseudoscience in America from 1800 to the present.  Ideas and claims made that the mainstream dismisses as outside the bounds of scientific inquiry or which do not follow the scientific method.

Course Objectives:
This class will approach the material from a philosophy of science point of view.  Students will gain a basic familiarity with the history of pseudoscience.  They will learn the importance of being able to tell the difference between genuine science and its imitations, and how such beliefs can adversely affect modern society, government, and the national future. They will learn to apply various methodologies of historical research to the study of pseudoscience.  Students will show their expertise through a series of examinations and written research projects on the topic.

Syllabus The Fall 2016 syllabus (NOTE: the syllabus is subject to change over the course of the semester).
Power Point presentation - updated December 13, 2016

NOTE: There will be a mandatory campus class walk, Ghost Tour of Kean University. Date TBA, but likely early November.

Required textbook

Brian Regal. Pseudoscience: a critical encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2009).
ISBN: 978-0-313-35507-3

Required additional reading

Thagard on Astrology

Gieryn on Demarcation


Thomas Kuhn revisited

• Robert Henson, The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change (2014) excerpt

Supplemental Reading and Viewing: strongly suggested but not required
  • Gresham College Lecture: Are Conspiracy Theories a Threat to Democracy?

    Kuhn by Hollinger

    Nostradamus, complete first edition (1555)

    The Ten Commandments of telling Science from Pseudoscience

Robert Bartholomew. Hoaxes, Myths, and Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking(2003).

Christine Garwood. Flat Earth: history of an infamous idea (2008).

Donna Kossy.  Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief (2001).

David Rowe. God's Strange Work: William Miller and the end of the world (2008).

These books are in the Kean Library

On-Line Resources:

Cambridge University Historiography of Science page:

Crank.Net for everything cranky

Forum for some of the latest debates and news from the world of Cryptozoology:

Fortean Times - journal of strange phenomena

Fulnama: Book of Omens medieval Ottoman books on divination, exhibit at the Smithsonian

Louisiana religious school teaches Loch Ness monster as biology which disproves evolution

NCSE National Center for Science Education


Robert Schadewald Collection on Pseudo-Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Skeptic Magazine

Skeptical Inquirer

Strange Enthusiasms

Keely engine hoax


Kean University Department of History Main Page

• Kean University Main Page