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Welcome to Science Fictions!
Good writing about bad science
Hello and welcome to Science Fictions - Stuart Ritchie’s Substack.
It’s named after my pop-science book, which was about where science goes wrong: fraud, bias, negligence, hype, and the perverse incentives in the academic system that cause them. That’s what this Substack will be about too - broadly, anyway. The tagline is “good writing about bad science”, and that’s what I aim to provide.
If you haven’t read the book, you might remember me from such articles as “Don’t Trust the Psychologists on Coronavirus” in UnHerd from March 2020, where I took my fellow psychologists to task for their comically incorrect predictions about the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic. Maybe you read my article in The Atlantic in July 2021 which asked why gamers seem to care more about fraud than scientists do. Or maybe you read my September 2021 Guardian book review of Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s book “The Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century”, which was, er, not particularly positive. You might’ve also seen my science writing in the New Statesman, the Spectator, the Times, and other places besides.
Over the next year, this Substack will become a one-stop shop to find almost all of the stuff I write about science. I plan to use the extra space I’m afforded here to produce some longer, really in-depth pieces - for example, book reviews where I track down the references in a popular science book one by one, and see if they really support the claims made by the author. But it won’t always be longform - I’ll also post briefer commentaries, post-publication peer-reviews, and various other kinds of content too.
I’m also going to launch an accompanying podcast where I read each article aloud, in case you’d prefer to go for a walk or do the dishes or whatever while listening.
Eventually, I’ll be adding exclusive paid-subscriber-only content, including podcasts with special guests, for those who choose to pay monthly or annually to support my writing.
I’m always open to suggestions for things to write about. If you have an idea, feel free to get in touch!
I have lots of interesting plans for the first few weeks. The inaugural post, which I’ll be posting tomorrow, is a verrrrry looooong (but hopefully useful) deep-dive into psychedelics for mental illness. After that, I’ll be posting a defence of behavioural genetics against a wildly misguided recent article by prominent scientists in the New York Review of Books. After that, I’m planning to talk about the effect of lead poisoning on IQ, dig into studies of whether teachers actually make a difference to how kids learn, have plenty of fun at the expense of low-quality social psychology studies, and look in detail at some historical cases of scientific fraud.
If any of that sounds the least bit intriguing, I do hope you’ll subscribe. See you around!
Image: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Alchemist (after 1558; Public Domain)