Preparation Questions

Before each class I will post here a list of questions from the readings. These are designed to prepare you for each new discussion topic. Please bring to class a short written answer (1-3 sentences) for each question, and be ready to read it in class.

November 18 & 20 (Monday & Wednesday) —

1. Be prepared to do your part of the Preparation Questions for 11:18 and 11:20.

 

November 15 (Friday) —

1. Crystal healing! Every geologist’s favorite alternative therapy. Watch the video and be ready to explain the supernatural powers of crystals.

 

November 13 (Wednesday) —

1. We will continue our exploration of homeopathy. What homeopathic products do you know?

2. Next topic is acupuncture. What is the supposed reason acupuncture works? In other words, what is the mechanism behind the treatment?

 

November 11 (Monday) —

1. Please be ready to describe homeopathy. If you haven’t heard of it before, you’ll be astonished.

 

November 4-8 (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) —

This week is devoted to advising in preparation for next week’s course registration. Make sure you know where you are on our Advising Week schedule. Note that there is a series of Wooster colleague self-service videos. We’ll resume preparation questions on Monday, November 11.

 

November 1 (Friday) —

1. Re-read Chapter 14 in the Novella et al. textbook and be prepared to discuss the Appeal to Nature fallacy.

2.  What does it mean when a food product is labelled “natural” or “organic”?

 

October 30 (Wednesday) —

1. We will have our discussion of Holocaust Denial with reports from our four study groups. Here is the link to the RationalWiki page on Holocaust Denial that we’re using to get started.

 

October 28 (Monday) —

1. Please read through the arguments used by Holocaust deniers as described on the RationalWiki page I gave you in class on Friday. We will have an exercise with these on Monday.

2. Class will start with each of you reporting your date and time of registration!

 

October 25 (Friday) —

1. We’ll start with Malik’s demonstration of the course registration system. Bring all your registration questions!

2. Holocaust Denial has its own Wikipedia page — and it is long. Choose one argument used to deny that the Holocaust happened and be prepared to present it to the class.

 

October 23 (Wednesday) —

1. Holocaust Denial today. Please re-read chapter 23 in your Novella et al. textbook and follow the links on our weekly home page entry. Our first project will be a review of World War II history in which I ask you basic historical questions. Be prepared.

2. What do the authors mean when they write that denialism cloaks itself in skeptical language? Please give examples.

 

October 21 (Monday) —

1. Again, please read this Natural News article and be ready to assess its veracity in detail. Write down your observations and be ready to share them in class.

2. Ask questions about your FYS short paper 3 Conspiracies.

 

October 18 (Friday) —

1. Please read this Natural News article and be ready to assess its veracity in detail. Write down your observations and be ready to share them in class.

2. Have at least two topic ideas for your FYS short paper 3 Conspiracies. We will discuss them in class.

 

October 16 (Wednesday) —

1. The 1938 radio drama The War of the Worlds created a brief panic when some listeners mistook it for a news report of an actual invasion from Mars. Malik cited this as an early example of “fake news”. What kind of fake news is it? Why was it so readily mistaken for an actual event?

 

October 14 (Monday) —

1. Enjoy the break! All Malik and I ask is that you pay attention to where you, your friends, and your family get news. Be prepared to discuss these sources in class on Monday.

 

October 4 (Friday) —

1. Now that we’ve watched that short creationist video, return to your textbook (p. 280-282) and prepare a critique of “irreducible complexity”.

2. Again in response to that video, re-read the “false dichotomy” section (p. 282-283) and apply it to the video’s contents. (You actually came up with these observations yourselves on Wednesday, so this is a review and summary.)

 

October 2 (Wednesday) —

1. We’ll run this one again: What is the core belief of Intelligent Design?

2. Talk to your fellow students about evolution and creationism to get an idea what they think about these issues.

 

September 30 (Monday) —

1. What is the core belief of Intelligent Design?

2. Why is the Theory of Evolution so unpopular for so many communities?

 

September 20 (Friday) —

1. Psychic (and faith) healing! It’s a huge topic, of course. We will cover it under the broad concept of energy medicine. Strangely enough, such techniques can be effective under limited conditions.  Under what circumstances can such “healings” work? When do they never work?

 

September 18 (Wednesday) —

1. Psychic predictions! Please find a set of psychic predictions for 2019 (not one I’ve linked you to before). Be prepared to describe them to the class. How has the psychic done so far?

2. Write down your own psychic predictions for events in the next month. Save these predictions in your notes. In mid-October we’ll see how accurate you were! We’ll share some of these in class on Wednesday.

 

September 16 (Monday) —

1. Please write your own cold reading, pretending you’re a psychic trying to impress your new client. This should be a short paragraph attempting to convince your target that you’re in touch with their spirit, yet says nothing testable. You’ll be trying out your psychic skills in class!

 

September 13 (Friday) —

Friday the 13th! I’m not afraid. We are going to start with any advising questions you have, and then do some Rapid Research. Please bring to class your laptop, phone or tablet so you can access the internet in class. If we have time, we will return to this question:

1. Conspiracy theories! Let’s start with one you know well: QAnon. How does it fit into the Grand Conspiracy framework described in your reading? Who are the believers? What psychological mechanisms are at play here?

 

September 11 (Wednesday) —

1. Conspiracy theories! Let’s start with one you know well: QAnon. How does it fit into the Grand Conspiracy framework described in your reading? Who are the believers? What psychological mechanisms are at play here?

2. Since it is September 11th, please find one 9/11 conspiracy theory and be prepared to explain it to the class, including observations of believers and similarities with other conspiracy theories.

 

September 6 & 9 (Friday and Monday) —

1. We are watching Behind the Curve in Scovel 105 these two days. Here is the Short Paper #2 assignment due on September 13.

 

September 4 (Wednesday) —

1. Here is one of many devices you can buy to “structure” your water —

Your job is to first investigate what the claims are about “structured water” (note the many equivalent terms), what sort of industry has developed around these claims, and then what science can tell us. Imagine if one of your friends is about to buy such a device and asks your opinion.

2. Be prepared to discuss how pseudoscience can be distinguished from science. You have a “rough guide” on this.

 

September 2 (Monday) —

1. We will start with those argument examples I distributed in class on Friday. Read through them all, and in class we’ll divide you into five groups to formally assess them.

 

August 30 (Friday) —

One of our first topics will be your responses to that QAnon video. To prepare, you will want to read at least a basic description of the QAnon phenomenon. This is your chance to ask questions about the Short Paper #1 assignment. Then we have the Prep question from our regular material —

1. What is the appeal to antiquity as a subset of the appeal to authority logical fallacy?

2. How about the appeal to nature? Have examples of both of these fallacies — and think of what makes them problematic.

3. Our textbook has a good chapter on anomaly hunting. How is this phenomenon part of the JFK assassination, Moon Landing, and Flat Earth conspiracies?

 

August 28 (Wednesday) —

You did very well with logical fallacies on Monday. You’ll be using those definitions often in this course! We’ll start the days with headlines and the Woo 101 report, and then dive into the deep end with a popular QAnon video. To prepare, you will want to read at least a basic description of the QAnon phenomenon. If we have time, here are the Prep question from our regular material —

1. What is the appeal to antiquity as a subset of the appeal to authority logical fallacy?

2. How about the appeal to nature? Have examples of both of these fallacies — and think of what makes them problematic.

 

August 26 (Monday) —

1. Be prepared to introduce and explain your favorite logical fallacy. Better have some back-up fallacies as well in case someone presents yours before you!

 

August 23 (Friday) —

We’ll start the day with our official class photo, and then hand out the Time Capsule Assignment to complete over the weekend. Then the course really begins with these preparation questions from the reading —

1. What is scientific skepticism? How is skeptic a problematic label these days?

2. Be prepared with examples for why we need neuoropsychological humility.

3. Define pareidolia and be ready, of course, with examples. Where have you most recently experienced the phenomenon?

 

August 21 (Wednesday) —

Our first day! No formal preparation questions. Be prepared to introduce yourselves. We will then go over the syllabus and website for the course. Finally we’ll have a discussion of our course objectives. Be ready to explain just why we need to better understand conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.

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