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Scientists confirm existence of woo-woo. Woo-woo declares results inconclusive

A Victorian trade card for Parker's Ginger Tonic from around 1900.
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A Victorian trade card for Parker's Ginger Tonic from around 1900.

Between all we know to be true and all we know to be false lies a world of woo. “Woo-woo,” to use the full term, refers to ideas considered irrational or based on extremely flimsy evidence or that appeal to mysterious occult forces or powers.

But who decides what’s woo-woo, and what gets accepted into the hallowed halls of scientific truth?

The easy answer is that scientists decide. But the answer becomes harder when we remember that it was scientists who once deemed the world to be flat, light to be transmitted through “aether,” and a mysterious element called “phlogiston” to be responsible for combustion.

On any given day in history, one person’s science is another person’s woo-woo.

This hour, we bring together both skeptics and believers in an attempt to pin down exactly what constitutes “woo-woo.”


  • Stuart Hameroff: Anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Arizona known for theories on quantum consciousness
  • Michael Shermer: Founder of The Skeptics Society and the author of The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies — How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths and The Moral Arc: How Science Makes Us Better People
  • Jess Tomlinson: Creator of Radiant & Rise

The Colin McEnroe Show is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode!

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe, Greg Hill, Jonathan McNicol, and Chion Wolf contributed to this show, which originally aired September 22, 2015.

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Josh was a producer for WNPR's talk shows. He has produced for Where We Live and was a producer for The Colin McEnroe Show until 2020.
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