The HWOC Skeptical Investigation Project
Become a more careful and inquisitive thinker in eight steps.
[Adapted from Mrs. Buczinsky]
Step 1: Get to know the perils of muddled thinking and enjoy yourself at the same time. Read, watch and discuss the items in the two Flipboard collections below.
Step 2: How good are you at identifying online hoaxes, frauds, or biased information? Bookmark a few key sites that can help you navigate questionable claims.
Test your skills here. Can you identify sites with a strong bias? Hoax sites? Frauds? Pay attention to the tactics you use (or don’t use) to figure out the answers. Con artists often depend on human laziness to get away with their scams. Don’t peek at the answers until you’ve done your best.
Step 3: Read Thomas Kida’s, “Six-Pack of Problems,” the introduction to his book, Don’t Believe Everything You Think. Kida’s essay identifies six psychological errors that cause all of our thinking to become muddled. Understanding Thomas Kida’s “6-Pack of Problems” is essential to our Skeptical project and a great article to use for reading practice, so we will also have an ACT-style quiz over its content.
Step 4: Each claim on the chart below remains unsupported by scientific evidence. Look over the claims until you find one you’d like to explore.
Before I will assign a claim for you to investigate, you must find at least four videos or articles that provide skeptical information about the claim and add these to a Flipboard magazine. Read the skeptical articles you find (or watch the videos), and add at least three Flipboard comments at the end of each. Your comments should state ideas or facts that you’d most like to remember as you begin analyzing the believer evidence for your claim.
One way to find the skeptical material you need is by searching for your topic along with the word “skeptic” or “skeptical.” You might also find material on the following sites:
As you collect your materials, be careful to distinguish between skepticism and denial. When scientists, historians, or other researchers present strong evidence (evidence based on the scientific method) and conclude that a claim is either true or without merit, some people, without offering new evidence, continue to express what they call “skepticism.” These people are “deniers” rather than skeptics. Among these people are those who deny the holocaust, or the 1968 moon landing, or climate change. Deniers may call themselves “skeptics,” but they are misusing that label. Science is not based on absolute truths, and deniers are likely to manipulate this lack of absolute proof as evidence to support what they prefer to believe is true.
Paste the link to your Flipboard magazine into the discussion I have created for you on Schoology and identify the claim you are hoping to investigate. If you are hoping to work with a partner, please paste one link as a reply to the other, and write “partners” next to your link.
Step 5: Once I have checked in your Flipboard magazine and comments, I will officially assign your research claims. At this point you can begin adding credulous articles and videos to your Flipboard magazine. (These are the posts and videos created by people who believe the claim is true.) In the pages of these articles, you will find and collect the evidence you will analyze for weaknesses. If you are working with a partner, make sure that you collect DIFFERENT credulous videos and articles.
By the time you are done researching, you should have collected at least 10–15 articles or videos (both skeptical and credulous) in your Flipboard magazine. (If you have a partner, that means you EACH have 10–15 articles and/or videos.) Make a PDF of the Skeptical Analysis Chart here to record your findings and analysis using Notability. (Or grab the PDF on our Schoology site and open it in Notability.) Your analysis should identify examples of logical fallacies, examples of Kida’s “Six-Pack of Problems,” and examples of any other muddled thinking you can identify. Use the baloney detection questions here to help you analyze the evidence you find.
Here is an example of the kind of analysis you will be doing. When you have completed all ten boxes of analysis, you will turn your chart into the Schoology assignment I created for you.
Step 6: When you have completed your analysis, write a meat-con paragraph answering the question, “What are the three most significant errors in thinking or reasoning you discovered while researching your claim.” Your main idea sentence should look something like this: Three significant errors in thinking typify the evidence presented by Big Foot believers.Each of your evidence sentences will state one of the three errors, and your analysis will provide specific examples of each error. Use our Grammarly site to edit your work, then turn in your highlighted meat-con paragraph to the Schoology assignment I created for you. Here is an example of the kind of meat-con you will be writing. If you are working with a partner, you may use the same ideas, but you must each write your own meat-con paragraph. Here is the rubric I will use to grade your meat-cons.
Step 7: Put together a Medium post you will use as a presentation tool. If you are working with a partner, remember that your presentation should be closer to 8 minutes rather than 5. Your Medium post should include three parts:
· A thorough presentation of what the believers claim. This section will probably take the longest and should include many pictures and at least one video clip. Use bullet points rather than complete sentences so you are not tempted to read your screen to the class during your presentation.
· The 3–5 most significant logical fallacies or 6-pack problems you discovered during your research. Use photos, links, and bullet points to explain these errors.
· The “so what?” Explain what is at stake with this issue. Is belief in this claim harmless? Is it sometimes helpful? Does it lead to problems?
Paste a link to your Medium post into the Schoology discussion I created for you and get ready to present! Here is the rubric you and I will both use to grade your presentation. Fill it in and submit it to the Schoology assignment after you watch the recording of your presentation.
Step 8: Enjoy the presentations from your classmates. As you watch and listen, keep track of the different claims and errors in thinking your classmates explain using a copy of this form. You will use these notes to write an impromptu essay at the end of the semester.