Debunking the Paranormal

Introduction:

Do you believe in ghosts? Bigfoot? Alien abductions? If you said yes to any of these, you're not alone. Many people hold beliefs about the existence of paranormal phenomona. However, many of these things cannot and have not been supported by scientific evidence. Though many people (even well respected people) claim that science can prove the existance of the phenomena, many of their arguments fall flat in the face of critical thinking. While certainly there is nothing wrong in believing in these things, its important to distinguish what science is and how it is used to discover patterns and knowledge about the world around us. Science is based on natural and predictable phenomena that can be tested. Beware of claims made by "pseudoscientists".

Process:

1. Read "A Field Guide to Critical Thinking" - http://www.csicop.org/si/9012/critical-thinking.html

2. Choose a topic that is considered to be in the realm of the paranormal, such as alien abuctions, ESP, or ghosts. I suggest you don't choose one that you are personally committed to as it may skew your objectivity. The point of this lesson isn't to convince you either way. The point is to analyze the so-called evidence surrounding the phenemona from a scientific viewpoint and using critical thinking skills.

A list of paranormal topics can be found at the Open Directory Project - http://dmoz.org/Society/Paranormal/

3. Compile a short list of claims and evidence used to support the existance of the phenomena. You can use various websites and your own knowledge base to compile this list. For instance if I was doing a report on bigfoot. Some of the claims I might list are: eyewitness accounts, footprints found, and some videotapes.

4. Write a paper that discusses the topic and its evidence and then analyze the evidence at least three areas of reasoning (from "A Field Guide to Critical Thinking".

5. Discuss ways that science could support the existance without relying on weak arguments. Use the scientific method and scientific processes to propose a research method that could support the existance of the phenomenon.

6. Your final paper should contain the discussion and the research proposal. It should be typed and include any internet sources or references you used.

Grading
Poor (0 pts) Satisfactory (3pts) Good (4 pts) Excellent (5 pts)
Introduction Paragraph Does not state theme or purpose of the essay States theme or purpose, but does not provide background information or other related information States theme or purpose and provides limited background information States theme or purpose, provides background information, creatively hooks the audience on the topic
Grammar and mechanics Many spelling and grammar errors, format problems (paragraphs and transitions) A few spelling errors and grammar problems, formatted correctly One or two spelling or grammar errors, formatted correctly, errors do not detract from text No grammar or spelling errors found, formatt is nice and paragraphs transition smoothly
Analysis Not all of the areas are addressed, "evidence" cited is sketchy and is not evaluated from a critical thinking standpoint Most of the areas of critical thought are addressed (missing 1 or 2), not enough "evidence" to make a strong argument Each area of critical thinking is addressed, not enough "evidence" is presented to make an strong argument Each area of critical thinking is addressed, areas of "evidence" for the paranormal event are discussed within the context of the 6 areas of critical thinking
Thoroughness Writer does not support the arguments at all. Examples are out of context or ineffectual. Very few examples are cited to support argument. Overall, the essay has a feel of vagueness or too many generalities are used. Some examples are cited that support the writer's arguments. The essay is vague at points. Many examples cited that support the writer's arguments and analysis of the problem, the writer clearly states why the "evidence" presented is problematic within a scientific context
Research Proposal Proposal is vague, scientifically invalid, and not testable Proposal is vague and only follows some scientifically valid methods, testability questionable Proposal uses the scientific method and presents ways a person could support the existance of paranormal event, scientifically testable Proposal uses the scientific method, presents genuine ways that a person could support the existance of paranormal event in ways that are scientifically testable.