Take Home Lab 1: Creating Your Own Pseudoscience
Over the course of the semester, you’ve been exposed to a number of different important aspects of
good science, common aspects of pseudoscience, and faulty reasoning techniques. Now, you’ll use them
yourself to create your own bad argument, and then later expose someone else to it to see how
effective the techniques are!
Here is a summary of the different pseudoscience related topics we’ve covered in the lab so far this
Cherry Picking: Ignoring data that doesn’t fit your desired conclusion, and only presenting data
Argumentum Ad Populum: Arguing that a large number of people believing something to be
true is evidence that it’s true.
False Dilemma: Artificially restricting the number of choices in a discussion so as to force
someone to accept a bad answer because it is the best of what remains.
Shifting the Burden of Proof: Making a claim with no evidence, but arguing that because
evidence to the contrary doesn’t, that the claim is there for true.
Uncertainty in Measurements: No measurement can be made with perfect accuracy, and so
measurements must also be accompanied with a value for the uncertainty in the measurement
to let people know how precise it was.
Reliability of Models: When attempting to model a real-world system, qualitative results are
often valid even if, due to not including every relevant factor to the model, precise results are
Argument from Authority (Reverse): Arguing that because someone is not an expert on a
particular topic, their arguments about that topic are automatically discountable.
Using the above techniques to abuse science and argumentation, write a short (No more than 3 pages)
paper arguing in favor of something you know to be false, or is very probably false. Then, you must
discuss your arguments on page three of this document. You are not restricted to arguing science topics;
as long as a particular topic is subjected to debate and research, it is a valid choice for this assignment.
For example, you could write a paper arguing that videogames cause violence, or that aliens constructed
the pyramids of Egypt. Not every topic works though, so you must obtain permission from your lab TA
lecture professor before proceeding with that topic.
In writing your paper, you are required to use at least three of the pseudoscience topics listed above.
You of course are welcome to use more, but you must use at least three. Additionally, if there is a
technique that you are familiar with, but we have not discussed, you may use that as well.
When handing in the assignment, hand in both your paper and the following page, stapled together.
Words of Caution:
The second take home lab (Which you are NOT doing yet!) will be to expose someone not in this course
to the pseudoscience you’ve created to see how effective it is. Keep this in mind while writing your
paper. It will help to imagine that you really are trying to convince someone that what you’re arguing is
for is true, rather than thinking of this assignment as just demonstrating your proficiency in the
techniques we’ve taught you about.
In a similar vein, you can imagine that any argument is more effective when it is clear and well
presented. What I mean is that if your paper is filled with grammatical errors, run on sentences, and
spelling mistakes, even if the (bad) arguments themselves are well constructed, they will fall on deaf
ears. Make sure to avoid this.
You will almost certainly need to invoke the results of experiments or studies in your paper. One way
you might do this is to find experiments/studies online and use what you need from them, making sure
to cite whichever ones you use. Alternatively, your topic or pseudoscience technique might make it
possible for you to conduct your own small-scale experiment. For example, perhaps you conduct a small
study by polling your friends. However, do not simply fabricate a study that doesn’t exist.
Take Home Lab 1: Creating Your Own Psuedoscience
Lab Section: ______________________
TA/Professor Signature: _____________________________________
Please hand in this page stapled to the front of your written paper.
Describe Your Techniques
In the space below, identify each of the pseudoscience techniques you used in your paper, and discuss
how you used them, what makes them pseudoscientific (i.e. why relying on them does not necessarily
get you closer to the truth), and how someone who realizes what you’re doing might argue against it.
You should write approximately one paragraph per pseudoscience technique.
Fengshui, known as Chinese geomancy, is a pseudoscience originating from ancient China, which claims
to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment, is the topic I would
like to approach.
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