The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for November 9th, 2010

Do You Have ESP? A Lesson in Skepticism from the JREF

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 9, 2010

As a member of the organization’s educational advisory panel, I’m happy to announce that the James Randi Educational Foundation has released its first free, online module for use in the classroom!  It’s called “Do You Have ESP?” and addresses the common perception that extra-sensory perception (ESP) is real.  Here’s the announcement from the JREF website…

First JREF in the Classroom Module Now Available Free

Written by Michael Blanford
Friday, 05 November 2010

Do You Have E.S.P.? is a downloadable lesson module for use in high school and junior high school science and psychology classes that allows students to explore the scientific method, critical thinking and parapsycholological research through an examination of the history of possibly flawed research methods of E.S.P. claims. Students can come to their own conclusions about the existence of paranormal abilities as they conduct E.S.P. experiments and learn first-hand about the pitfalls of bias, experimenter error and fraud in the laboratory. Classes may share their results with the James Randi Educational Foundation for publication online and view cumulative data from schools around the country on our website. …

I highly recommend that you check out this lesson!  If I have some time this year, I plan to try it out in my own classroom – download it here. And if you’re a teacher, make sure to tell your colleagues about it 🙂

 

Posted in education, psychics, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Belief in the Supernatural is Natural

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 9, 2010

The more and more research I see on this particular topic, the more I become convinced that we skeptics are quite a freakish bunch.  I’m not referring specifically to the type of parties we throw (though there are some pretty trippin’ skeptic parties out there I’ve attended 🙂 ), instead I’m talking about what seems to be the fact that a belief in the supernatural & paranormal may be deeply embedded in many of us.  In short, the belief in the supernatural seems to be… well, quite natural.

This recent article by Discovery News go into much more detail, so I’ll just link to it below and pass it along to you…

Superstitious Beliefs Getting More Common

By Emily Sohn
Fri Oct 29, 2010

It’s that time of year again. Ghosts, goblins and other spooky characters come out from the shadows and into our everyday lives.

For most people, the thrill lasts for a few weeks each October. But for true believers, the paranormal is an everyday fact, not just a holiday joke.

To understand what drives some people to truly believe, two sociologists visited psychic fairs, spent nights in haunted houses, trekked with Bigfoot hunters, sat in on support groups for people who had been abducted by aliens, and conducted two nationwide surveys.

Contrary to common stereotypes, the research revealed no single profile of a person who accepts the paranormal. Believers ranged from free-spirited types with low incomes and little education to high-powered businessmen. Some were drifters; others were brain surgeons. …

The entire article is quite a fascinating read, and Dr. Michael Shermer of the Skeptic’s Society has a few revealing comments as well…

… Regardless of the person or the phenomenon, paranormal experiences are purely quirks of the human brain, said Michael Shermer, executive director of the Skeptics Society, an educational organization, and founding publisher of Skeptic magazine.

Whether it’s hearing creaks in an old house or watching dots move randomly on a computer screen, he said, people tend to look for patterns and meanings in everything.

“The default condition in brain is that all patterns are real,” Shermer said. “It’s just what we do.”

In learning more about how we seem to be hard-wired for such belief in what skeptics would call pseudoscience, flummery, or nonsense, I think there is a lesson for us all.  As skeptics, we need to be aware of this fact of our basic human nature in order to be more productive in our encounters with believers.  And I think we need to take it into account in those interactions – that doesn’t mean that we agree with the woo-woo beliefs, but it does mean that we at least understand the basic drive behind why many believe what they do.

Posted in ghosts & paranormal, psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: