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Is Cosmetic Science Really "Bad"? Part II: Detecting Baloney Science
By: Johann W. Wiechers, PhD, JW Solutions
Posted: August 25, 2009
Reactions from the first discussion in this series regarding whether cosmetic science is really bad indicate that this subject must be a tender point for many in the cosmetics industry. The first column, however, only discussed this author's personal frustrations (and apparently those of other industry professionals, too, based on some reactions) of cosmetic scientists being negatively portrayed. In the end, the question whether or not cosmetic science is really bad was never answered.
As readers may recall, in the first column of this series, the popular science writer Ben Goldacre dedicated an entire chapter in his book Bad Science to cosmetics, suggesting that cosmetic formulators and the industry as a whole are spreading lies because products do not deliver on their label claims. Although he has a valid point since such products do indeed exist, Goldacre goes so far as to claim that cosmetic science is "bad science.” It may make one wonder: How close is Goldacre to the truth if even this author admits he has a valid point? To examine this, it is important to know what "good science" is and how to differentiate it from bad science.
Enter Michael Shermer, the monthly columnist of Scientific American and founder of the Skeptics Society in the United States. Shermer has identified ten characteristics that can be used to differentiate between real science, borderline science and nonsense in his “Baloney Detection Kit.” The next three columns, starting with this one, will apply this kit to cosmetic science.
In his book, The Borderlands of Science–Where Sense Meets Nonsense, Shermer differentiates between real science, borderline science and just plain nonsense. Interestingly, while one would think the boundaries between the types of science are well-defined, they in fact are not. For example, humans initially thought the world was flat and the center of the universe. When Copernicus discovered this could not be the case, he got into great trouble with the church for telling such nonsense. But gradually, his concept moved from nonsense, to borderline science, to real science.
Public opinion and religion often influence the perception of what good science is, and for a scientist like Shermer, this is unacceptable; this led him to identify ten characteristics that will now be applied to cosmetic science. Cosmetic science can therefore be identified as one of the following: real science like chemistry or physics; borderline science like the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI); or pseudo-science, i.e., not science at all--like ufology or the science of investigating unidentified flying objects.
Cosmetic Science Exposed, Wiechers' Style
Memories of a Cosmetically Disturbed Mind is a timely manifesto of what our industry is meant to represent. Whether you agree or disagree with Johann Wiechers' views on the state of the global cosmetic industry, this book will blow your scientific mind! Johann is no longer here with us, but he left us much to think about.Order Today at Alluredbooks-Cosmetic Science