Science and Pseudoscience
Ignorance of what science is (and what it is not) is widespread in our society, and because of this, the ability to separate reasonable scientific claims from unreasonable or pseudoscientific claims is often lacking. Natural science uses a process whereby theories are developed and refined by experimentation. Pseudoscience is based on claims that cannot be verified or falsified, and therefore fall outside the realm of science. When pseudoscience is taken as scientific fact, the cost to society is dear: billions are spent on worthless medical therapies, people’s health is endangered, tax dollars are squandered on government projects that are destined to fail, and misunderstandings of how the world works are perpetuated. In this colloquium we will study how science approaches complicated problems and learn the skills necessary to critically evaluate claims about the natural world. Possible topics of study include: astrology, ESP, intelligent design, various forms of alternative medicine, misconceptions of global warming, and perpetual motion machines. No specialized background in science is necessary to take this colloquium.
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