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Written by Sheldon W. Helms
The following is a contribution to the JREF’s ongoing blog series on skepticism and education. If you are an educator and would like to contribute to this series, please contact Bob Blaskiewicz.
“I’m an insulin-dependent diabetic. Twice a day I take synthetically manufactured insulin that still contains some animal products — and I have no qualms about it… I’m not going to take the chance of killing myself by not taking insulin. I don’t see myself as a hypocrite. I need my life to fight for the rights of animals.” --PETA Senior Vice President MaryBeth Sweetland on her use of insulin, which was tested on animals
Many years ago, while teaching my first college level course in Human Sexuality, I was having a bit of difficulty dealing with two students who seemed to always be at each other’s throats. Each time a controversial topic (e.g., abortion, homosexuality, pornography) was covered, their open disagreements seemed to escalate into full blown arguments. After a few weeks of this I’d had enough, and I executed a plan designed to teach them (and the rest of the class) to expand their horizons and to find common ground. I asked all of the students to write a short paragraph expressing their positions on a list of ten sex-related topics, and to turn it in after they had signed it. They were then instructed to write a research paper in which they attempted to support the opposite of their own opinion on one of the topics in the list. This is an old trick, and I expected a bit of resistance and protest, but I had faith that most would follow through and learn from the experience.
A strange thing happened after the papers were submitted, however. Inexplicably, a few of the students thanked me for the assignment, and said that they had changed their minds about the topic they chose for their papers. I asked if they had learned something new about the topic, or whether they had been “on the fence” in the first place. Many said that they really hadn’t learned much and that they already knew their opponents’ positions, but they just felt differently after writing the paper. Although this reaction was shown by a relatively small percentage of students, and there are many possible explanations for their reports of attitude, I couldn’t help wondering if I might have inadvertently “brainwashed” my students! A better explanation, however, can be found in the literature on cognitive dissonance.
Coined in the late 1950s by psychologist Leon Festinger in his very popular book, When Prophecy Fails,...
More: http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swi ... eable.html
Only if our believers will do the same from the opposite side.
I'll take 'paranormal phenomena' as that's my special interest.
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