Phil 100 Su15: 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.
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 Tuesday, July 28, 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  Thursday, July 16.
  • You will need to bring two copies of a draft of your paper to class on Thursday, July 24 for in-class peer editing.
  • A 5-minute in-class presentation on your essay on Tuesday, July 28.

Grading Criteria for Essays: 
The goal for the student is to provide evidence that s/he has read and considered the course material and is able to write intelligibly about the concepts covered therein. You want to identify the prompt to which you are responding and provide evidence that you have understood the material. 

To earn an A, your responses provide evidence of the ‘B’ standards below, plus that you have really thought about the concepts covered in the reading and lectures: 
  • You use very original examples to illustrate the concepts of the reading. 
  • You apply very specific events or discussions from the reading to some new situation. 
  • Your writing is excellent and/or your style is very interesting 
To earn a B or higher, your responses provide evidence of your having read and comprehended the material. In addition to the ‘C’ standards below: 
  • You apply ideas from the reading to correspondent ideas presented in the classroom. 
  • You use examples from the lectures to illustrate the concepts in the reading. 
To earn a C or higher, your responses provide evidence of your having read and comprehended the material. 
  • You answer correctly all basic questions about the main ideas and characters. 
  • You show recognition of all main ideas or characters’ names and their respective associations. 
  • You correctly identify all concepts introduced or reviewed in the reading. 
  • You correctly identify and apply all terms from the reading and lectures. 
  • Your writing is relatively free from spelling and grammatical errors. 
  • You use examples from the reading or lectures to illustrate your answers. 
To earn a D or higher, your responses provide some evidence of your having read, thought about, and comprehended the material: 
  • You answer correctly some but not all basic questions about the main ideas. 
  • You show some recognition of main ideas or characters’ names. 
  • You correctly identify some but not all concepts introduced or reviewed in the reading and lectures. 
  • You correctly identify and apply some but not all terms introduced or reviewed in the reading and lectures. 
To earn an F, you provide hardly any or no evidence of having read, considered, and comprehended the material.