Apologies for the late update, it’s been one of those weeks…
A short while after our club featured in The Age newspaper I received a very nice email from a homeopath requesting the opportunity to come and speak with my kids. My first thought was definitely not. I didn’t want a promoter of pseudoscience speaking to my kids and spreading his ideas. I put the idea down for a while but wound up discussing it with a few different people, both within and without the sceptical community. The general opinion seemed to be that I was potentially ignoring a great opportunity for my kids.
They made me realise that what I was doing could really do with some real-world experience. It’s all well and good for me to teach them about pseudoscience and the like, but how useful is this knowledge without practice? In the words of one of my regular year 7 girls:
“It’s kind of ironic how you’re teaching us to question things but we just believe everything you say.”
There’s nothing like being put in your place by a 12 year old. It’s a sobering experience.
A few people have (reasonably) expressed concern that some of the students might be swayed by the homeopath’s words. I was a little worried myself before I realised that I was totally underestimating my kids. They have impressed me so many times in the past and I am positive that they will continue to do so.
The homeopath was very complimentary and positive in his email so I am sure that he will be equally nice in person. I honestly have to admire his willingness to come and visit, knowing that we are very definitely not fans of what he does. Still, I think that it is very important for my kids to listen to everybody’s point of view and to make their own minds. My job is to ensure that their minds are up to the task of separating science from fiction.
Before the visit we will be spending some time going over the history and practice of homeopathy, plus looking at some of the scientific studies performed on it. Both the positive and negative. This will be a great opportunity to show the kids the difference between properly controlled and blinded studies and ones featuring small sample sizes and biased reporting.
The students are very excited about this and really looking forward to hearing what he has to say. They are already planning questions to ask him and a few are even doing some research on their own. These guys give me hope for the future!
We spent the rest of the session going over a few logical fallacies. We did this for a couple of weeks last year but I thought it would be a good idea to go over them again. I was only able to get through a few due to the sheer amount of questions I was fielding. Questions on everything from the big bang to the origin of life on Earth. From blood-letting to whether or not Usher’s music can be scientifically proven to be awful. (Yes it can).
We managed to go over six fallacies:
Ad ignorantiam – claiming that something is true because we can’t disprove it
Argument from authority – believing something simply because the speaker has some kind of authority
Argument from final consequences – believing in something because you don’t like the alternative
Argument from personal incredulity – stating that something is impossible because you can’ t understand it
Argument from antiquity – claiming that an idea must be good if it has been around for a long time
Argument from popularity – basing an idea’s merit on how popular it is
The presentation I give can be found on the resources page.
We will keep covering logical fallacies next week. It’s a surprisingly popular topic so I think it’s one I’ll refresh from time to time. In fact it’s so popular that one of my students has written a logical fallacies quiz! She has collected a series of quotes and determined which logical fallacy (or fallacies) are being committed. I’m so proud of her and thrilled that so much initiative is being taken. I can’t wait to give it a go, I hope I score well.
For people who don’t understand why anybody would become a teacher, this is one of those reasons.