This is a graded participation point assignment.
Part 1: Is this Science?
- Read the scenario below.
- By yourself, answer the questions following the scenario in full sentences and paragraphs within the textbox provided at the bottom.
- If there is no experimental test you can come up with that might test the hypothesis, come up with an explanation of why you cannot test the hypothesis.
“When Prophecy Fails”
As part of a study of the dynamics of belief in groups, some social psychologists once infiltrated several small cults. Among the groups observed was one led by a woman who was given the fictitious name of Mrs. Marion Keech. The events described really took place. Mrs. Keech claimed to have made contact with extraterrestrial beings, and she regularly revealed to her followers what she claimed were messages from her contacts. One day, she said that her contacts had told her that they were going to destroy the world. She even gave a specific day on which this was supposed to happen. These extraterrestrial beings also told her, she claimed, that they would rescue her, and anyone else who wished to be saved, if they would wait at a designated location. On the appointed day, Mrs. Keech and her followers were at the designated place. The day wore on, but the world did not end. Finally, Mrs. Keech informed her followers that she had received a telepathic message from her contacts informing her that they had decided to spare the world from destruction because she and her followers had been so strong in their faith that the rescue would indeed take place. The psychologist undercover observer reported that the assembled followers returned to their homes apparently strengthened in their belief that Mrs. Keech was indeed in contact with powerful extraterrestrial beings.
(From Ronald N. Giere, Understanding Scientific Reasoning (4th ed.), Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1997.)
- What is the hypothesis formed by Mrs. Keech’s followers? What information did you use to figure out their hypothesis?
- Propose an experiment which would be a good test of this hypothesis, and explain why it would count as a good test. Think carefully; how could you potentially falsify their hypothesis? If there is no experimental test you can come up with that might test the hypothesis, come up with an explanation of why you cannot test the hypothesis.
Part 2: Pseudoscience vs. Science
Here is a list of different “sciences” and a brief description about them (all descriptions are from Wikipedia.org).
- Explain whether the field is pseudoscience or science and explain why in the textbox at the bottom. Feel free to use your iPad and the internet to help you reach your conclusions. Make sure you look for the key characteristics that makes something a science and what disqualifies something from being a science.
Organic farming – is an agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Organic agriculture continues to be developed by various organic agriculture organizations today. It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost, manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. In general, organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances. For instance, naturally occurring pesticides such as pyrethrin and rotenone are permitted, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are generally prohibited. Synthetic substances that are allowed include, for example, copper sulfate, elemental sulfur and Ivermectin. Genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, human sewage sludge, plant growth regulators, hormones, and antibiotic use in livestock husbandry are prohibited.
Biodynamic Agriculture – is a form of agriculture which includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in the 1920s, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives. Biodynamics has much in common with other organic approaches – it emphasizes the use of manures and composts and excludes the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include its treatment of animals, crops, and soil as a single system; an emphasis from its beginnings on local production and distribution systems; its use of traditional and development of new local breeds and varieties; and the use of an astrological sowing and planting calendar. Biodynamic agriculture uses various herbal and mineral additives for compost additives and field sprays; these are sometimes prepared by controversial methods, such as burying ground quartz stuffed into the horn of a cow, which are said to harvest “cosmic forces in the soil”, that are more akin to sympathetic magic than agronomy