Trinity College
Skepticism and Belief
Judy Moran and Barbara Walden

Course philosophy: Through the study of specific issues in science that non-majors encounter in their daily lives we will provide students with the analytical and logical skills to enable them to think critically about data and evidence and know what constitutes a valid experiment.

Unit 1:What's the chance that that will happen?

Topic In-Class Activities Out-of-Class
Course philisophy: Learning via hands-on activities. Present data to support this!

The wisdom of using the lottery as an IRA Group activity: powerball probabilities Excel workshop
Expected winnings Film clip: beginning of Waking Ned Devine
Distribution of chosen numbers

Coincidence and disease clustering Film clip: A Civil Action

Unit 2:Deciphering the evidence:

Topic In-Class Activities Out-of-Class
Graphical display of information Golf scores of CEO's - analysis of article in New York Times Write letter to the editor refuting conclusions in Times article
Correlation vs. causation Computer workshop: graphical analysis of student data
Distributions, mean, median, standard deviation Film clip: Challenger accident, Feynman testimony

Graphical analysis of data in the Challenger accident

Unit 3:The elements of a good scientific argument

Topic In-Class Activities Out-of-Class
What questions can science answer? What can't it answer?
Guest lecture: "Can You Believe Your Eyes?" - Bill Mace, Psychology Dept.
Making an effective and convincing argument Guest lecturer: Beverley Wall, Writing Center, Prof. of Composition and Rhetoric Film: Facilitated Communication, NOVA
Elements of an experiment: control, uncertainties Laboratory experiment: The Physics of Bicycle Wheels, or Coffee Filters

Film clip: Emily Rosa and therepeutic touch Design an experiment to address the objections of therepeutic touch practitioners to Emily Rosa's experiment


Astrology experiment: survey students with multiple horoscopes

Next syllabus
Syllabi index
Introduction


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