Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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for the Academic Discipline of:
biology

Science of the Unexplained

This course was taught at Florida State College at Jacksonville during the spring 2013 semester.

Excerpt from Syllabus

An interdisciplinary study of selected topics in the biological and physical sciences and their impact upon man and society, with the course format including seminar, discussion and projects. Topics will vary…. genetics, tissue culture, space, Malthusian theory, light, sound, and mechanics. This course will provides students with a unique opportunity to examine many common pseudoscientific fallacies, learn how the human brain has evolved to encourage paranormal beliefs, and challenge the students to confront their own biases as they apply the scientific method to their own beliefs through in-class activities, experiments, and research projects.

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Biology of Love

This is an overview of the biological influences on sex, love, and attraction. It includes research on the types of “love” and which brain areas and chemicals are involved in those subjective experiences. This presentation was created by Randy Ludwig for Dr. Michael Shermer’s course, “Evolution, Economics & the Brain” taught at Claremont Graduate University during the spring 2011 semester.

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The Greatest Show on Earth:
The Evidence for Evolution

This book was required reading for the following course: “Evolution, Economics, and the Brain” taught by Michael Shermer during the spring 2011 and 2012 semesters.

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (book cover)

Richard Dawkins transformed our view of God in his blockbuster, The God Delusion, which sold more than 2 million copies in English alone. He revolutionized the way we see natural selection in the seminal bestseller The Selfish Gene. Now, he launches a fierce counterattack against proponents of “Intelligent Design” in his latest New York Times bestseller, The Greatest Show on Earth. “Intelligent Design” is being taught in our schools; educators are being asked to “teach the controversy” behind evolutionary theory. There is no controversy. Dawkins sifts through rich layers of scientific evidence—from living examples of natural selection to clues in the fossil record; from natural clocks that mark the vast epochs wherein evolution ran its course to the intricacies of developing embryos; from plate tectonics to molecular genetics—to make the airtight case that, “we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random selection.” His unjaded passion for the natural world turns what might have been a negative argument, exposing the absurdities of the creationist position, into a positive offering to the reader: nothing less than a master’s vision of life, in all its splendor. —Amazon

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Richard Dawkins gave a lecture on this book at the California Institute of Technology.
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Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy

This book was required reading for Thomas Holtz & John Merck’s course, “Science & Global Change Colloquium” taught at the University of Maryland during fall 2011.

Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy (book cover)

Knowledge of the basic ideas and principles of science is fundamental to cultural literacy. But most books on science are often too obscure or too specialized to do the general reader much good.

Science Matters is a rare exception-a science book for the general reader that is informative enough to be a popular textbook for introductory courses in high school and college, and yet well-written enough to appeal to general readers uncomfortable with scientific jargon and complicated mathematics. And now, revised and expanded for the first time in nearly two decades, it is up-to-date, so that readers can enjoy Hazen and Trefil’s refreshingly accessible explanations of the most recent developments in science, from particle physics to biotechnology. —Amazon

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Darwinian Arts & Notions of Beauty

The presentation explores the evolutionary basis for the creation and consumption of art in all forms. It discusses art’s adaptive function; as well as, its role in natural and sexual selection. The universality and evolutionary basis of aesthetic tastes in art is also discussed. This presentation was created by Amanda Limongi for Dr. Michael Shermer’s course, “Evolution, Economics & the Brain” taught at Claremont Graduate University during the spring 2012 semester.

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Current Topics in Biology

This course was taught at Davis & Elkins College during the spring 2010 semester.

Excerpt from Syllabus

This course exposes students to ongoing biological research. Published articles from scientific magazines and peer-reviewed journals will be thoroughly analyzed and discussed. As part of the course, students will be invited to watch selected episodes of Penn & Teller’s Showtime TV series “Bullshit,” which exposes and debunks pseudoscientific claims and paranormal phenomena.

Learning Goals

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Interpret scientific data, as presented in the literature.
  • Determine whether authors’ conclusions are valid, based on the available data.
  • Suggest follow-up studies to address weaknesses in current research.
  • Recognize the difference between science and pseudoscience.

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Why People Believe in God

In this lecture, arguably his most controversial subject that is based on his highly-acclaimed book, How We Believe, Dr. Shermer addresses a very old question in religion with the newest data from science, namely: why do people believe in God? As he attempts to answer the question using the best theories and data from anthropology, psychology, sociology, and evolutionary biology, Dr. Shermer also addresses the important role of religion in society, the historical roots of religion and why it arose around 5000 years ago as a co-equal partner to governments and states, the origin of myths and the importance of myth-making in human cultures, and what belief in God means for individuals and society. In his always conciliatory and friendly approach to deep and controversial subjects, Dr. Shermer nevertheless is not afraid to face head-on, and courageously confront our most meaningful questions that we all have about God, the universe, and the meaning of life.

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(217 MB Powerpoint Presentation)

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