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Robert Todd Carroll

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Use The Skeptic's Dictionary for a course in
Science and Pseudoscience

71 Pseudoscientific Topics Covered

For critical evaluation of the pseudoscientific topics The Skeptic's Dictionary has 31 topics in Logic and Perception and 37 topics in Science and Philosophy

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Sample lesson: For a topic such as astrology or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator« (MBTI) one might

  • Start the lesson by having each student take the MBTI or by providing his or her birth date. Provide each student with the same MBTI assessment or sun sign personality profile. You can copy an MBTI assessment from the Myers-Briggs entry and a sun sign profile from the cold reading entry. Or you can use these: Tell each student he or she is an ISTJ and that ISTJs are

    Serious, quiet, earn success by concentration and thoroughness. Practical, orderly, matter-of-fact, logical, realistic and dependable. See to it that everything is well organized. Take responsibility. Make up their own minds as to what should be accomplished and work toward it steadily, regardless of protests or distractions.

    Or give each student the following sun sign profile, though label each profile differently, depending on the actual sun sign of the student:

    Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary and reserved. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. You pride yourself on being an independent thinker and do not accept others' opinions without satisfactory proof. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety, and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside.

    Then, have the students evaluate the accuracy of the assessment or profile on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being very accurate and 1 being very inaccurate. Get the class average and discuss the results with the class. Let the students do most of the talking before going over the Forer effect with them.

  • Next have them read the astrology or the Myers-Briggs entry for a definition and some background, and the science and pseudoscience entries for points of general discussion.

  • Finally, have them read the entries on  cold reading, confirmation bias, communal reinforcement, shoehorning, self-deception, and wishful thinking.

Note, this lesson may then segue nicely into a discussion of anecdotal evidence and why scientists design control group studies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ęcopyright 2003
Robert Todd Carroll
Last updated 11/21/10