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A Skeptical Studies Curriculum Resource

Science & Global Change Colloquium

This course was taught at the University of Maryland during the fall 2011 semester.

Excerpt from Syllabus

What is Science, and how is it distinguished from other aspects of human thought? Physicist Richard Feynman famously said “Science is what we do to keep from lying to ourselves”: words that get to the heart of the scientific enterprise. In an age when the activities of human society and technology can greatly affect Earth’s systems for decades, centuries, and even millennia to come, we must be able to evaluate the merits of ideas as they relate to the actual natural world, independent of our personal, political, or philosophical preconceptions. In this semester, students will learn the basic intellectual “tool kit” of the scientific enterprise. They will discuss how Science differs from other fields of human endeavor, with a particular emphasis on distinguishing scientific ideas from pseudoscientific thinking. Students will also discuss the influence of our understanding (and often misunderstanding) of Science upon contemporary society. In this course we examine real cases of Science gone bad, and the effect (good and bad) of popular portrayals of Science and scientists has on the public. We begin exploring the details of the origin, use, and effects of the energy resources which we use to run our world.

Learning Goals

By the end of the semester, every student should be able to:

  • Accurately employ understanding of logical fallacies and critical thinking skills in evaluating truth claims.
  • Effectively distinguish between scientific and non-scientific approaches to the understanding of the natural world.
  • Identify the major energy resources used in modern society.
  • Write webpages using html code, upload them to a University server, and maintain their personal website.

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