Friday, April 04, 2014

bringing pseudo-science into the science classroom


realclearscience | By stressing the importance of critical thinking and reasoned skepticism, groups like the New England Skeptical Society, the James Randi Educational Foundation, and the Center for Skeptical Inquiry constantly battle these forces of nonsense, but their labor all too often falls on deaf ears. It's time to take the problem of pseudoscience into the heart of American learning: public schools and universities.

Right now, our education system doesn't appear to be abating pseudoscientific belief. A survey published in 2011 of over 11,000 undergraduates conducted over a 22-year period revealed that nonscientific ways of thinking are surprisingly resistant to formal instruction.

"There was only a modest decline in pseudoscientific beliefs following an undergraduate degree, even for students who had taken two or three science courses," psychologists Rodney Schmaltz and Scott Lilienfeld said of the results.

In a new perspective published Monday in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, Schmaltz and Lilienfeld detail a plan to better instruct students on how to differentiate scientific fact from scientific fiction. And somewhat ironically, it involves introducing pseudoscience into the classroom.
The inception is not for the purpose of teaching pseudoscience, of course; it's for refuting it.
"By incorporating examples of pseudoscience into lectures, instructors can provide students with the tools needed to understand the difference between scientific and pseudoscientific or paranormal claims," the authors say.