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Pseudo, Voodoo & Junk Sciences (Honors)

12:30 Seminar

This course will explore science, primarily from a psychological and consumerism/capitalism perspective, as it is understood, misunderstood, and misrepresented in the media (TV, movies, magazines, newspapers, internet, books, etc). We will begin with a general introduction to science, the scientific method, and the difference between science and pseudo-, voodoo, and junk sciences. The remainder of the course will focus on critically examining specific topics in psychology and science that illustrate pseudoscientific claims and methods of inquiry (e.g., ESP, neurolinguistic programming, industry-biased research). Without the ability to critically evaluate “scientific claims,” we fall prey to anyone wishing to sell us goods or services, regardless of their efficacy, effectiveness, or even harmful qualities. We will watch videos and films, review newspaper, magazines (e.g., The Skeptical Inquirer), and journal articles, and discuss book readings (e.g., Why People Believe Weird Things) in order to increase students’ abilities to think critically about science. We extend students’ learning of Chapter 1 (The Ends of Education) and Chapters III (Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens and Members) from the Pacific Seminar I course. The underlying assumption of this course is that a good society is an educated society and one that does not become easy prey to pseudoscientific claims.