Science vs. Pseudoscience
Last week in my Frontiers of Science class, I gave news articles to groups of 5-6 students and asked them to read and discuss the merits of the articles. I did not provide any additional information and I waited for them to report their findings with the class. They are first year undergraduate students at Columbia with truly beautiful minds.
The first group started to bring up important points about the first article and why this was an interesting study. They were trying their best to analyze the article in a good positive way. I got the impression that they have realized to some extent there were several questionable statements in the article, but they were not pointing to them. Different positive opinions were brought up until I ask if there was anything wrong with the article! Of course at that time they started criticizing their articles and elaborating what they had found that were not satisfying or not even correct!
My observation was that my students could intuitively realize mis-information and strong claims of the news articles, but they only started to criticize when I stimulated the passion of being critical. That’s what we all need to learn! My ambition is to create an environment for my students to develop this habit.
That’s what we’d like to teach in Frontiers of Science: to be critical and argumentative; to be skeptical (but not too much); to think critically and analyze the world phenomena; and to develop scientific habits of mind.
This week, we will read the scientific articles related to those news articles.