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Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

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Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby really? » 20 Sep 2012, 04:53

Written by Brian Regal
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 09:00

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 rjblaskiewicz@gmail.com


Having spent the previous three years at Kean University assembling a core curriculum in the history of science, technology, and medicine I thought a philosophy of science course would round out the program nicely. I did some assessment in the form of asking faculty, students, and colleagues from other institutions what they thought of this idea. The response was a collective pointing of fingers into mouths with the accompanying “aaahhkkk” of distaste and boredom. Rethinking my position, I proposed a course on the history of pseudoscience instead. The gagging stopped, replaced by smiles and nods of affirmation and many suggestions on case studies, text books and papers to read. I went right to work.

A course on the history of pseudoscience solves several pedagogical problems. A course involving ghosts, UFOs, spirit mediums, and monster hunters draws in students who otherwise would never go anywhere near a philosophy of science class. It teaches them how to tell the difference between what science is and what it is not, it teaches them to think skeptically and critically, and it does this within an historical context. It also allows me to spend time in the classroom on my specific research. I work on the fringe aspects of scientific thought focusing on the relationship between amateur practitioners and professional scientists, particularly surrounding questions of biological evolution and its impact upon culture, religion and politics. Drawn in by ghosts and monsters, students learn the tenants of the philosophy of science almost without realizing it. They learn how fascinating and useful philosophical, skeptical, and critical thought can be to the everyday experience.

My course proposal was sent to the university curriculum committee and once accepted and
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swi ... ience.html
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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby SydneyPSIder » 20 Sep 2012, 15:31

What, they're going to teach the history of pseudoscience such as Randi's and Mythbusters pathetic attempts at double-blind and triple-blind trials that don't involve any blinding at all? Amazing.
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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby really? » 20 Sep 2012, 21:37

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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby Arouet » 20 Sep 2012, 22:02

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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby NinjaPuppy » 20 Sep 2012, 23:01

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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby NinjaPuppy » 20 Sep 2012, 23:10

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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby Arouet » 20 Sep 2012, 23:19

Ummm, Ninja, you may want to delete that post. The proponent police do not tend to take kindly to positive comments being made about Randi. You may be excommunicated! :shock:
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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby NinjaPuppy » 20 Sep 2012, 23:21

Oh, and sorry if I'm being a wet blanket on the "science" of MythBusters as that is not my intention. Building duct tape canoes and bubble wrap protection devices don't sound very scientific. The show seems to take on exactly what the title implies: Myths. I see a pattern for Hollywood vs. reality in their show titles.
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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby NinjaPuppy » 20 Sep 2012, 23:24

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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby NinjaPuppy » 20 Sep 2012, 23:28

Aside from the fact that if he decides to cancel my subscription, this place will be taken over by spammers and atheist haters with too much time on their hands. Not to mention the shoe salesmen, jewelry hawkers and t-shirt bots.
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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby SydneyPSIder » 20 Sep 2012, 23:39

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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby SydneyPSIder » 20 Sep 2012, 23:45

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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby Arouet » 21 Sep 2012, 00:01

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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby SydneyPSIder » 21 Sep 2012, 00:05

Arouet, if you re-read your supplied dictionary definition of a 'scientist' and your own definition, you will see they are circular definitions. You haven't actually said or explicated anything, or you would now have to supply a reasonable description of what is meant by 'science'. No criticism, just sayin'... Although if it was handed in as an answer to a 'philosophy of science' course, even in the first week, let's say I would not give it high marks...
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Re: Teaching the History of Pseudoscience

Postby NinjaPuppy » 21 Sep 2012, 00:10

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