Phil 100 S15: Essay Prompt

Your assignment is to write a 3-5 page essay in which you use the tools developed in class to examine and evaluate a pseudoscience. 

You should begin by picking a pseudoscience to examine. A Google search or a search on Wikipedia will yield numerous results. Then you should employ the SEARCH method to evaluate that pseudoscience. As a reminder, the SEARCH method consists of four steps:
  1. State the claim: what exactly is being claimed. We should try to be as detailed and clear as possible when we perform this step.
  2. Examine the Evidence for the claim: what arguments are made on behalf of this claim? Are they good arguments or bad arguments? Do the arguments commit any fallacies?
  3.  Consider Alternative Hypotheses: are there any other possible explanations for the claim being made, perhaps a simpler explanation (Ockham’s razor) or an application of Hume’s maxim? 
  4.  Rate, according to the Criteria of adequacy, each Hypothesis: We should apply our earlier criteria for evaluating and deciding between competing hypotheses: Testability, Fruitfulness, Scope, Simplicity, Conservatism.
Finally, you will conclude the essay by describing an experiment that could test the validity of that pseudoscience. Be sure to consider controlling variables, the use of a control group, and double-blinding.

A successful essay will contain 7 paragraphs:
  1. An introductory paragraph in which you describe what you will be doing in the essay and take a stand on the plausibility of the pseudoscience you will be writing about. It might be helpful to offer a brief history of the development of the pseudoscience here as well.
  2. A paragraph devoted to each of the four steps in the SEARCH method.
  3. A paragraph describing your experiment.
  4. A conclusion in which you summarize the essay and draw some conclusions about the validity of your pseudoscience.
  5. Properly cite all sources, and contain a "Works Cited" page. You may use MLA or CMS style for citations.
The essay should be typed, double-spaced in a 10-12 point legible font. In addition to the final draft of the paper which is due on Wednesday, May 6, you will also need to complete the following pre-writing assignments. Though these assignments will not be graded, failure to participate in them will result in an F on this essay:
  • You will need to select a topic which you will bring to class on  Monday, April 20.
  • You will need to bring two copies of a draft of your paper to class on Wednesday, April 29 for in-class peer editing.

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