Phil 100 TR S18: 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. Also, this experiment does not need to be one that you personally could conduct. This is a hypothetical experiment where money and ethical considerations are no problem, so don't be afraid to imagine big ideas for this part of the paper. 

A successful essay will contain the following:
  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.
    1. paragraph that states the claim made by proponents of the pseudoscience.
    2. A paragraph explaining the evidence that a proponent of that pseudoscience would cite in support of the claims of that pseudoscience.
    3. A paragraph presenting an alternative hypothesis or explanation for the claims made by proponents of that pseudoscience. 
    4. A paragraph that compares the claims of the pseudoscience to your alternative hypothesis. For each of the five criteria of adequacy you should identify which hypothesis (the pseudoscience or your alternative) does better on that criterion. 
  3. A paragraph describing your experiment.
  4. A conclusion paragraph 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 Thursday, May 17, 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, May 3
  • You will need to bring two copies of a draft of your paper to class on Thursday, May 10 for in-class peer editing.