Feb 02, 2023
GS 201 - Scientific Skepticism - Someone is Wrong on the Internet!4 Credit(s)
The goal of this course is to explore scientific skepticism from a variety of angles. We will examine controversial scientific topics such as evolution, climate change, vaccine safety, GMOs and alternative medicine. The foundations of scientific skepticism including psychology, social science, logical fallacies, philosophy of science, media, statistics, criticism of science and the history of science and skepticism will provide a framework. Information literacy, science communication and debate skills will be developed throughout.
Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Investigate claims using reliable resources.
- Evaluate trustworthiness of sources (scientific literature, predatory journals, government agencies, media, scientific organizations)
- Understand and recognize strong vs. weak scientific arguments.
- Understand and recognize logical fallacies in the context of scientific arguments.
- Identify red flags.
- Understand differences between science, pseudoscience, bad science and bullshit.
- Apply this knowledge to assessing likely validity of arguments.
- Learn and recognize M.O.s of pseudoscience (pseudo-experts, cherry picking, innuendo, moving goalposts, self-refuting ideas, etc.)
- Learn to distinguish skeptics from deniers.
- Ask, answer scientific questions to help evaluate arguments.
- Seek, identify and interpret relevant scientific background.
- Seek, identify and evaluate relevant journalistic background as needed.
- Understand and identify cognitive biases, assumptions, framing in self and others.
- Analyze and debate issues: Formulate goals, tactics, strategies.
- Gather appropriate information, execute plans and modify as appropriate.
- Improve metacognitive skills: Reflect on knowledge and skills.
- Evaluate effectiveness. Propose improvements. Experiment with new ideas and strategies
- Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of experimental design and scientific studies. Learn to search for and identify scientific consensus.
- Improve understanding of statistics and uncertainty.
- Understand common statistical tools and identify common misuses of statistics.
- Become familiar with, understand and apply skepticism literature on common topics (see list above)
- Learn and understand standard arguments (especially PRATTs) on common topics.
- Apply knowledge to discussions and debates.
- Demonstrate openness to other views and intellectual honesty in discussing them.
- Explore impacts of decisions on individuals, communities and the world.
- Examine scientific basis, or lack thereof, for individual and group biases.
- Employ debate strategies that respect others.
- Understand and articulate issues in foundations of science, science communication, media and science, risk assessment, statistics.
- Apply understanding to analysis, discussion and debates of scientific issues.
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