Weird Science (CH 199)

Weird Science is a freshman seminar (3 credits), normally offered each Fall for incoming freshman (or sophmores with first year status). The following course description is given in the UofO course catalog:

"What about ESP? What about UFOs? Because science is a powerful and apparently successful tool for understanding the natural world, we might expect to find instances where certain strongly held beliefs are claimed to be "scientific". This course will investigate these claims by learning how science tackles difficult problems. Through this process we will learn that while science must always remain uncertain, the need to believe with certainty is quite human."

The course is discussion and presentation oriented primarily based on readings from three textbooks, "The Demon Haunted World" by Carl Sagan, "Why People Believe Weird Things" by Michael Shermer and "Flim-Flam!" by James Randi, along with selected readings from various other texts and articles. The following are a few of the various items that are used in the course:


The following graphs are the results of the very unscientific (though anonymous) surveys that I took of the first day of class and a subsequent survey on the last day of class in Fall, 2004. The students were essentially the same group (one or two drops).

The graphs below are the results from the Fall, 2007 class and notice that some positive controls (germs cause disease, evolution by natural selection, etc.) were added to test the trends.

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For more information, please contact me:

John Donovan
210 Cascade Hall
University of Oregon