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STEP 1Science involves both rationalism and empiricism. Empiricism involves acquiring knowledge through observation. Scientists always test out their ideas by systematically observing, by way of our human senses and/or specialized instruments, phenomena in the natural world. Observation alone, however, is not enough. We can often be misled by our observations and draw conclusions based upon what we expect to see (i.e., expectations) or what others suggest to us (i.e., suggestions). That’s where rationalism comes in. Rationalism involves thinking about what we can conclude and not conclude about our observations given the available information and how it was acquired. In addition to rationalism and empiricism, skepticism is an essential feature of the scientific approach to understanding about the world. Skepticism is about keeping an open mind and always thinking about alternative explanations for events, rather than blindly accepting the conclusions of others. The purpose of this activity is for you to further your understanding of skepticism. First, watch a video of a talk given by Michael Shermer on believing strange things. It’s available by clicking on the link below.http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/michael_shermer_on_believing_strange_things.htmlMichael Shermer is the founder of the Skeptic Society (http://www.skeptic.com). The mission of this scientific and educational organization is to promote science and skepticism by challenging controversial ideas and claims.Here is some background information about Michael Shermer published on the TED website (http://www.ted.com/speakers/michael_shermer.html):“As founder and publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Michael Shermer has exposed fallacies behind intelligent design, 9/11 conspiracies, the low-carb craze, alien sightings and other popular beliefs and paranoias. But it’s not about debunking for debunking’s sake. Shermer defends the notion that we can understand our world better only by matching good theory with good science. Thus, in order to explore a conspiracy theory that pre-planted explosives caused the World Trade Center towers to fall on 9/11, the magazine called on demolition experts.Shermer’s work offers cognitive context for our often misguided beliefs: In the absence of sound science, incomplete information can powerfully combine with the power of suggestion (helping us hear Satanic lyrics when “Stairway to Heaven” plays backwards, for example). In fact, a common thread that runs through beliefs of all sorts, he says, is our tendency to convince ourselves: We overvalue the shreds of evidence that support our preferred outcome, and ignore the facts we aren’t looking for.”After viewing the video, visit the Skeptic’s Dictionary. It is available by clicking on the link below.http://www.skepdic.comThis website has a wealth of information in the form of brief articles on various topics from alternative medicine to the supernatural. Once on the website, read the article about Clever Hans (http://www.skepdic.com/cleverhans.html), which is about a horse who could do math (but not really). This case teaches us the importance of thinking about alternative explanations for our observations.STEP 2After you have viewed this content, respond to the following three sets of questions in a cohesive paper (that means everything fits together logically and flows from sentence to sentence and paragraph to paragraph). Include brief introductory and closing paragraphs.What is skepticism? Describe the concept of skepticism. Look up some definitions online and then present the ideas in your own words. How is skepticism an important part of science?
What are two specific demonstrations in Michael Shermer’s TED talk that illustrate the importance of exercising skepticism when presented with claims? Describe each of the two demonstrations you selected, and explain Shermer’s purpose in presenting the demonstration. What alternative explanation does Shermer present for the claim?
How does the story of Clever Hans illustrate the importance of skepticism? What was the specific test done to falsify the claim that Clever Hans had mathematical ability? In other words, what test showed this not to be the case? What was the alternative explanation discovered (i.e., the real reason) for the horse’s ability to tap the correct answers to questions asked?
Your paper should be about 2- to 3-pages in length, with double spacing, 1-inch margins, and double spacing. Make sure to carefully proofread your paper, and run both a spell check and a grammar check.
Requirements: .doc file