TABLE OF CONTENTS
After taking this course the student should
be able to:
- Identify factors that interfere with and contribute
to critical thinking
- Discuss present attitudes towards science and pseudoscience
in the U.S. and other countries
- Delineate factors that influence the capacity of the
human mind to process information
- Apply scientific tools to examine claims of the paranormal
- Understanding the Capacity of the Human Mind
to Process Information
- Functions of the brain
- Sources and types of cognitive biases
- Frame of Reference
- Problems in Eyewitness Testimony
- Illusions and Hallucinations
- Critical Thinking
- American and world attitudes toward science vs. pseudoscience
- Understanding false positives and false negatives
- How not to evaluate a claim: fallacies and noncritical
- Helpful conventions during debate of paranormal claims
- An Introduction to Science
- Hypothesis testing
- The scientific method
- Tools of the Baloney Detection Kit
- The Committee for the Scientific Investigations of
- Contrast of science with pseudoscience
- Understanding Pseudoscience
- Examples of paranormal claims
- Ways of knowing
- Beliefs that contribute to acceptance of claims of
- Beliefs that contribute to skepticism about claims
of the paranormal
- Obstacles to knowledge
- Activities in thinking
- Steps for Analyzing Claims of the Paranormal
- . Steps for Summarizing Key Arguments in an
- . Synthesizing Critical Analyses in Order to
Form a Judgement
FIRST DAY OF CLASS ACTIVITY
On the first day of class a presentation is
given, along with a survey for students to
fill out, that sets the tone for critical thinking during the rest
of the course. Dr. Baugher encourages that all
classes exploring science and pseudoscience be taught using this
First, students are asked to answer Question
#1 of the survey.
Next, the professor introduces Phil the Psychic.
For the next 30-40 minutes Phil conducts "readings" (actually
cold readings.) Students begin filling out Questions
#2, #3 and #4 of the survey. The professor informs the class
that Phil is a fraud.
The class then explores the "factors that
contribute to a successful cold reading" by discussing the
handout on the topic.
(to accompany first day of class activity)
Comments on Phil's ability: _____________________________________________________________
My general belief in ESP is
- Extremely high
- Very high
- Somewhat high
- Not sure
- Somewhat low
- Very low
- Extremely low
My general belief now in ESP is
- Extremely high
- Very high
- Somewhat high
- Not sure
- Somewhat low
- Very low
- Extremely low
FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE
TO SUCCESSFUL COLD READING
1. Demand Characteristics of the Setting
2. The Barnum Effect
3. The Fallacy of Personal Validation
4. The Greenspoon Effect
5. Short Term Memory
6. The Garbage Pail Phenomenon
7. Actuarial / Statistical Statements
8. The Function of the Brain: To Make Sense Out
9. Questions Disguised as Readings
10. Fish and Feedback
11. Confidence of Reader
14. Naive Observer
REQUIRED READING MATERIAL
The Demon-Haunted World
by Carl Sagan
There will be three additional articles students
will receive during the quarter.
What is Critical Thinking?
- Factors that contribute to successful cold reading
Understanding How the Human Mind Works
- False Negatives and False Positives
- Comparison of a Critical vs. Uncritical Thinker
- Tolerance of Ambiguity
An Introduction to Science
- Two functions of the brain
- Understanding the Role of our Frame of Reference
- Understanding self-biases
- Four Sources of Thinking Errors
- People Prone to Thinking Errors
- Cognitive Biases That Can Influence Critical Thinking
- The Availability Hypothesis and the Power of Vivid
- Gambler's Fallacy
- Selective Perception and the quick death of non-events
- Eyewitness Testimony
- Like Goes with Like
- The Role of Illusions and Magic
- Understanding Hallucinations
- Process vs. Product of Science
- Hypothesis Testing
- Science Journals
- The File Drawer Problem
- Science in the Media?
- The Importance of Randomized Groups in Hypothesis
- Correlation versus Causation
- Becoming more observant
How to use Reasoning: Sagan's Eight Suggestions
in evaluating a claim (CHAD OF QI)
- Six Ways of Knowing - How Have I Come to Know the
World Around Me?
- Use of one or more of the senses
- Knowledge gained from an authority
- Genetically programmed survival behavior
- Other - Pseudoscience, drugs, etc.
Understanding Noncritical Thinking
- O = Occam's Razor
- F = The Principle of Falsification
- Examples of Beliefs that contribute to Skepticism
about UFOs as Alien Visitors
- Misperception - eyewitness testimony
- Military explanation
- Need for attention
- Example of Beliefs that Contribute to Acceptance
of UFOs as Alien Visitors
- Excitement / positive feelings
- Contempt / distrust of science and scientists
- Group camaraderie
Science vs. Pseudoscience
Activities in Thinking
- What happens when the "magic trick" is
- Common statements
- Conventions and manners during debate
Two Obstacles to Knowledge
Reasons for Oversimplifying an Issue
Steps for Analyzing any Claim of the Paranormal
Conducting Inquiry - How to Find Answers to
Critical Thinking Questions
Steps for Summarizing the Key Arguments in
Putting It All Together
- Two types of inquiry
- Unanswerable questions
- Where to look for answers
- How much research is enough?
- Forming a Judgment
- What is a Judgement?
- Important questions to ask
- Evaluating an argument: Distinctions to make
READING STUDY GUIDE FOR MIDTERM
The Demon-Haunted World
by Carl Sagan
Chapter One: The Most Precious Thing
|How was Mr. Buckley wide read?
4 - 5
|What is Atlantis? How much scientific
support for it exists?
4 - 5
|Why isn't it Mr. Buckley's fault that
he knows so little about science?
|Surveys suggest that some ___% of Americans
are "scientifically illiterate."
|In 1995, Congress dissolved the Office
of Technology Assessment. What was it?
|What are the reasons for the popularity
15 - 17
|List any pseudosciences popular in 4
|According to Sagan, many proponents of
mainstream religions are reluctant to do what?
20 - 21
|Contrast science versus pseudoscience.
Chapter Two: Science and Hope
|The subtitle of this book, A Candle in
the Dark, came from a book about what?
37 - 38
|Briefly explain Sagan's 4 reasons for
a concerted effort to convey science in every way we can to
|If an extraterrestrial being, newly arrived
on earth examined what we are teaching our children on TV,
radio, movies, newspapers, magazines, comics, and books, what
would they conclude?
Chapter Three: The Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars
Reading is optional for this chapter. The
chapter is a discussion of ways that we as humans have deceived
ourselves with our perceptual and cognitive imperfections. Examples
include the man in the moon, canals on Mars, and the Cydonia face
Chapter Ten: The Dragon in My Garage
|171 - 73
||Summarize the dragon story and describe
how a skeptic would approach it.
|174 - 77
||Summarize psychoanalyst Robert Lidner's
experience with Captain Kirk. How does this show the way
a therapist can be influenced by a client?
||Extraterrestrials represent a hypothesis
of last resort. You reach it under what circumstances?
|178 - 79
||What are pulsars?
||What does Sagan say when he is asked,
"Do you believe that there's extra-terrestrial intelligence?"
and "Yes, but what is your gut feeling?"
||Regarding UFOs, what does Sagan say
about the "4400 physical trace cases from 65 countries."
||Why are scars of supposed alien abductees
not proof of their claims?
||Show how critical thinking is important
in purchasing a used car.
|184 - 88
||Regarding alien abductions, what does
Sagan say about: burglar alarms; fetuses; sexually inactive
teenagers; implants; the famous case of Richard Price and
the foreign body in his penis; the 1995 film purported to
be an autopsy of a dead alien.
||What two choices to we have regarding
the answer to purported alien abductions?
Chapter Twelve: The Fine Art of Baloney
||More than ___% of American adults believe
that on some level they have made contact with the dead.
|204 - 5
||Regarding J.Z. Knight, what does she
claim? What are some of the questions that Sagan would like
|209 - 10
||What is the Baloney Detection Kit?
|210 - 11
||The Tools of the Baloney Detection
Kit are summarized. I want you to commit these to memory.
One helpful method is an acronym.
Try this: CHAD OF QI
|Chain of arguments
must link together
be generated and tested and not held tightly
|Debate all sides
|Occam's razor -
given two equal hypotheses, choose the simpler
|Falsifiable - all
good hypotheses have the potential to be disproven
find a way to measure it
must be possible - not just one person
|212 - 16
||Be able to explain any 8 of the following
things not to do when evaluating a claim (called fallacies)
by using your own examples on the midterm exam.
from Adverse Consequences
of Small Numbers
of the Nature of Statistics
Hoc or Propter Hoc
Middle or False Dichotomy
of Correlation and Causation
Evidence or Half-Truths
Chapter Four: Aliens
||Describe the alien abduction scenario.
||In the 1992 poll of 6,000 Americans
(commissioned by those who accept the alien abduction stories)
18% reported sometimes waking up paralyzed, aware of strange
being(s) in the room. 13% reported episodes of missing time.
About 10% reported flying through ______. What did the poll's
sponsors conclude? What [important] question was never put
to the survey participants? If we believed the conclusions
by those who interpreted the poll, what would we have to
conclude about the number of world-wide alien abductions?
||What questions does Sagan ask to challenge
the alien abduction claims?
||Who was Mesmer? What did he do? What
was "animal magnetism?" What did the commission
appointed by the French Academy of Sciences do? How did
Mesmer respond to the findings?
||One of Sagan's important warnings about
the effective use of the scientific method: "The more
we want it to be true, the more ___________."
||Explain the story of Kenneth Arnold
and the origin of the term "flying saucer."
||The original crashed saucer account
turned out to be a hoax. Explain.
||Discuss the story of crop circles and
the role of Doug Bower and Dave Chorley. What happened
when they confessed?
||What does Sagan say about the availability
of the tools of skepticism?
Chapter Five: Spoofing and Secrecy
||According to Sagan, among more than
a million UFO reports since 1947, how many cases can reliably
exclude misapprehension, hoax, or hallucination?
||What is the UFO question that Sagan
is almost never asked?
||What was Project Bluebook and what
was the attitude of the Air Force?
||Why would the military be interested
||How might balloons have contributed
to UFO reports? What important experiment has never been
conducted with high altitude balloons?
||Discuss the Roswell incident and explanations
which discount claims of a UFO crash.
||Discuss the role of the National Security
Agency. What do people typically believe when they see blacked
out sections of reports? What explanation is given? Give
the Elvis example.
||What is the story (and Sagan's explanation)
of the MJ-12 documents?
||Why is a cover-up to keep knowledge
of extraterrestrial life a secret for 45 years a "remarkable
||What does NASA and military funding
have to do with aliens?
||What is the controversy of Aurora and
area 51 in Nevada?
Chapter Six: Hallucinations
||On these pages Sagan lists ads from
a UFO magazine. What is the common thread that binds these
||When Sagan is invited to "ask
them [extraterrestrials] anything." What does he ask?
What answers does he get? What does Sagan mean when he says,
"UFO occupants are so bound to fashionable or urgent
concerns of this planet"?
||The earliest commercially successful
UFO "contactee" was George Adamski. What was his
story? (be sure to describe the aliens).
||The first alien abduction story was
of Betty and Barney Hill. Describe the incident. What book
did Betty read? How long afterwards were they hypnotized?
Describe the aliens. What movie and TV episode was similar
to the Hill's story? When Sagan met the Hills and listened
to their hypnosis tape, what did he conclude? What did their
psychotherapist conclude was the explanation for the Hills'
||Repeated surveys have shown that ____
to ____% of ordinary, functioning people have experienced
at least once in their lifetimes, a vivid hallucination.
What has Sagan experienced since the death of his parents?
||What has research on REM sleep shown
can happen when people are deprived of dreams?
||List and 3 or 4 triggers for hallucinations.
||What might child nightmares have in
common with adult reports of alien abduction? In what settings
are abduction reports more likely to have occurred?
||What is sleep paralysis and what
might be its role in abduction reports?
||As facts about the inhabitability of
Mars and Venus have emerged during the past quarter century,
what has happened to the reported origins of aliens?
READING STUDY GUIDE FOR FINAL
The Demon-Haunted World
by Carl Sagan
Chapter Seven: The Demon-Haunted World
This chapter is a discussion of the history
of belief in demons, the torture of women accused of being witches,
and the parallel with belief in alien abduction.
||What is the other explanation for the
||What has the power of repetitive imagery
in advertising done to our beliefs? What question does Sagan
ask? Prepare to give your answer on the midterm.
Chapter Eight: On the Distinction Between
True and False Visions
||What have experts said about the reliability
of information obtained during hypnosis?
||What did the study by Lawson show in
which hypnotized subjects were informed they had been brought
to a spaceship and examined?
||Discuss the problems of reliability
- President Reagan's war stories
- Witnesses coached by attorneys
||Contrast the difference between the
way science assesses theories and the way we assess new
||On these pages Sagan discusses apparitions
of saints. Sagan makes parallels between apparitions and
alien abductions. Explain.
Chapter Nine: Therapy
||Who is John Mack? What did he conclude
regarding a guide to whether a reported alien abduction
is true? How did Sagan respond?
||Spanos studied people who reported
abductions. What did he conclude regarding: pathologies;
characteristics; conclusion with rape and childhood sexual
||On this page Sagan is setting the stage
for what has been called False Memory Syndrome. He is reminding
us of the real cases of child sexual abuse.
||What is repression?
||Summarize Neisser's explanation of
||What do people say when they explain
how memories of childhood abuse returned?
||Summarize the cautious statement by
the American Psychiatric Association.
||What does the book The Courage
to Heal say to therapists?
||In what way does Sagan see false accusations
of childhood abuse similar to reports of alien abduction?
||What are satanic ritual cults? What
are some systems described as Satanism?
||The 1994 study done for the National
Center on Child Abuse and Neglect examined over 12,000 claims
of sexual abuse involving satanic ritual cults and found
how many held up to scrutiny?
||Cite the case of Paul Ingram. (What
city?) What experiment did Ofshe perform? What were the
results? Where is Paul Ingram now?
||What did the past president of the
American Society for Clinical Hypnosis say about skeptics
of reports of satanic ritual abuse?
||Cite the similarities in all classes
of recovered memories.
||Cite the 1991 case of the teenager
who took her therapist to court.
||Sagan suggested a controlled experiment
with the patient sent to specialists in all three fields.
What does he suggest the therapist says to such a client?
||What was the experience of the self-described
abductees whose stories were initially met with skepticism?
Chapter Thirteen: Obsessed with Reality
||What has the Bible and the Torah said
about the belief in the paranormal?
||Tell the story of Carlos.
||Who is James Randi? What has been his
role in examining the paranormal?
||How is the occasional charlatan in
faith-healing different from the occasional fraud in science?
||What is a placebo? With what kinds
of ailments is it helpful? Under what conditions does a
||Tell the story of Lourdes. How many
of the claimed miraculous cures were accepted by the Roman
Catholic church? What is Sagan's analysis of this?
||What did Minnesota physician William
Nolen find in his year and a half study of faith healing?
||What important questions does Larry
Dossey ask in his book on the efficacy of prayer in treating
||Faith healers may characteristically
help what type of diseases?
||Explain the example of the Harvest
Moon Festival in death rates.
||Occasionally, what can faith healers
do for followers?
||Briefly finish the story of Carlos
||What did Alvarez and Randi prove?
||While a faith healer may not start
out with fraud in mind, what might happen?
||What worries Sagan about the next "Carlos"?
||If we've been bamboozled long enough,
what tends to happen?
||Explain the so-called "observer
||What happened when the spirit-rapper
confessed that she was a fraud?
||Take the example of crop circles and
explain what tends to happen as each is explained as a hoax.
||What does the example of the paragraph
on the cold read tell us?
Chapter Fourteen: Antiscience
|Read the quote of a summary of New
Age beliefs. Prepare to state your reaction to this.
||What point is Sagan making in comparing
the understanding of Quantum Mechanics with a New Age doctrine?
||"It is certainly true that all
beliefs and all myths are worthy of a respectful hearing.
It is not true that all folk beliefs are ___________________."
||What has been the criticism of science?
||Given that scientists make mistakes,
what is the job of scientists?
||What is wrong with the argument: When
Darwin formulated his theory of evolution, he was an atheist?
||While scientists are human and have
biases and prejudices, how is it different from many other
Chapter Fifteen: Newton's Sleep
||Science has been accused of being too
narrow. That is, without physical evidence, science
does not admit to the existences of what things?
||Until the middle of the 20th century
there had been a strong belief that life was not reducible
to the laws of physics and chemistry. What did people believe
made living things go?
||In theological discussion with religious
leaders, Sagan often asks what their response would be if
a central tenet of their faith was disproved by science.
How did the fourteenth Dalai Lama respond?
Chapter Sixteen: When Scientists Know
||Sometimes scientists try to have it
both ways: to take credit for enriching our lives, but to
distance themselves from what?
||Because technology has the capacity
to destroy this planet, the ethical responsibility of scientists
must be how high?
Chapter Seventeen: The Marriage of Skepticism
||How does Sagan compare the American
system of Jurisprudence with the way we should study the
world around us?
||What is the tendency for skepticism
to deal with issues of public concern?
||What does Sagan say about the marriage
of skepticism and wonder?