Nonscience Returns by Brian J. Ford
The original Nonscience dates from 1971, and it caused a sensation. It was translated, featured on television, and widely reviewed. To celebrate its fiftieth birthday it is republished, with updates to show how its predictions came true.
This extraordinary book reveals a world dominated by Experts. For these all-powerful people, public image and media exposure are all that matters. Scientists, eager to discover the truth, have been superseded by Experts who use confusing language to dominate us and lay claim to colossal grants. Integrity and objectivity are gone; opportunism and duplicity reign.
With the internet, there’s no need for schools–they’ve become a state-funded baby-sitting service for working parents. Why do youngsters go to university? Not to broaden their minds, but to stay up all night, get drunk, and get laid. Going to uni is the most painless way of leaving home, and teenagers then borrow huge sums of money to fund the university. A university chief can earn five times as much as the Prime Minister.
Experts rule the banks and, when the system collapsed, government bailed them out so they could pay themselves huge bonuses, as before. The cost was £850 for every person in the country. Professor Ford’s idea was to hand it to the public, who’d have put it in the bank (so they would have had their bail-out). It would have been a tremendous boost to the economy.
Experts study weird things, like a bird called Bugeranus, a fungus named Spongiforma squarepantsii, a beetle called Agra cadabra and Pieza rhea, a fly. They are all real! There are articles like ‘Fifty Ways to Love Your Lever’ and ‘Fantastic Yeasts and where to find Them’, and papers with multiple authors (in 2015 Nature published one with 5,154 authors). Encyclopaedias copy facts from each other and are dotted with mistakes. You will find biographies of Dag Henrik Esrum-Hellerup, and Lillian Virginia Mountweazel–invented to fill the pages. Neither was real.
Plagiarism is rife. Reputable organisations like the Royal Society and Cambridge University are now stealing published ideas and claiming them as their own. In some countries, one-third of research has been copied from somebody else. We are surrounded by fake news. The Amazon is not the ‘lungs of the world’, it contributes no oxygen to the atmosphere. Our hysteria about plastic is similarly misplaced. Experts prey on the public who are ignorant of what’s going on. The BBC transmits ridiculous programmes about science, because it is acceptable to boast that you ‘can’t understand maths’, or ‘don’t know physics’, though nobody would admit ‘I don’t know about Shakespeare’ or ‘I’m ignorant of music’. So, when computerised planes crash or ships ram the dockside because they are controlled by computers, it is the crew who get blamed. The real culprits are the youngsters who wrote the computer code (but we hear nothing about them).
Experts say they use long words to aid communication, but Ford reveals that the terms are there to keep outsiders at bay. Experts take decisions that kill people, yet are immune to blame—they say ‘lessons have been learned’ and they’re off the hook. If the media ask questions they reply ‘It would be wrong to discuss individual cases’ and the questioning stops. Instantly.
British people say they don’t want American chicken, and wouldn’t eat chlorine-washed food. Yet they do, every day. They approve of quiche, while avoiding a fried breakfast–even though the ingredients are similar, and the quiche is more unhealthy. People follow those bake-off programmes, though the fatty food they promote kills people. Ford says these shows should have a health warning and is surprised we don’t have the ‘Great Tobacco Smoking Challenge’ or the ‘Blindfold Railway-Crossing Elimination Game’.
This book should be read by everybody with a wish to understand the modern world. Huge enterprises (like the Human Genome Project and the Large Hadron Collider) have conned us out of billions of pounds, while smaller teams had better results at a fraction of the cost. It is time to call a halt to this global confidence trick—and Nonscience Returns is the book that will guide us.
Brian J Ford has frittered away his time becoming our leading multidisciplinary scientist. He has investigated microbe intelligence, the evolution of dinosaurs, spontaneous human combustion, the way blood coagulates, microscope development and scores of other topics. He is a contributor to encyclopaedias, including the McGraw Hill Scientific Encyclopedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica; science editor for Guinness World Records (and wrote their New Quiz Book); presented his own BBC shows Science Now and Where Are You Taking Us?, hosted Food for Thought on Channel Four and even had his own television game-show; has lectured internationally, from the Royal Society in England to the National Science Centre in Singapore; appearing on Today and Any Questions? while writing reports on the EU’s nuclear research, conservation, and Lithuanian politics. He appeared on the satirical programme Week In, Week Out, has done stand-up comedy, and has written for New Scientist and Scientific American. Many of the leading cruise lines have him as their celebrity speaker, and he has visited most countries in the world. Brian J Ford has connections with universities including Cardiff, Cambridge, Leicester, Kent and the Open University, and he has presented his popular An Evening With Brian in Chicago for over 30 years. His books (approaching 40 of them) have been published in about 150 editions around the world. Curtis Press approached him about a new book, but all he’d agree to was a reprint of one he’d written earlier. Typical.
Aur Esenbel, 2020, review and interview on Nonscience Returns, The Intricacies and Fantastic Habitual Mnemonic Confabulations of Experts, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Nonscience Returns but alas my brain just had a bout of sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia’ Daily Squib, 1 October.
Peter Hollands, 2020, review of Nonscience Returns, ‘this book is witty and a great read [and] carries an important message’, [on] LinkedIn, 1 October.
Timothy Arden, 2020, report and interview on Nonscience Returns, ‘just as insightful and bitingly funny as that of its predecessor’, The London Economic, 1 October.
PeakReview, 2020, review of Nonscience Returns: ‘This book should be read by everybody’ Amazon Books site, 1 October.
Peter Hollands, 2020, review of Nonscience Returns: ‘This is by far the most entertaining, incisive and satirical book I have ever read about science’ Amazon Books site, 4 October.
Ofah, 2020, review of Nonscience Returns: ‘This is a fascinating, amusing, and brilliant book Amazon Books site, 5 October.
Rijkert Knoppers, 2020, Wetenschappelijk jargon doorgeprikt, (review of Nonscience rweturns) in Dutch, De Leeslub van Alles (‘Readng Club for Everythng’), 5 October.
BJF, 2020, Nonscience Returns – you can get away with anything on TV, Laboratory News, (see also: screen grab). online, 2 November.