The Lecture

Weekly Topics

The specific topics to be covered in the course include the following, which are organized by topic. In addition, some explanatory information is provided to clarify the nature and purpose of the topics.

Comment: As in all extraordinary claims discussed in the Foundations of Sciences course, students will not be told what to believe, rather, they will be asked to look at the evidence and critically examine it from a scientific perspective that includes information relevant to the topic. Students will learn that the truth of a claim may be measured with a sliding scale of confidence which ranges from definitely true, to probably true, possibly true, probably false, and definitely false. Many of the extraordinary claims that will be examined in the course fall in between the end points of this scale.

Topic 1: Weird Things People Believe and Witch Trials

  • why people believe strange or unfounded things.
  • how and why “witch hunts” occur with examples from past and present.

Topic 2: The Nature of Science

  • arguments, reasoning, intro to logic

Topic 3: Limits to Perception and Memory

  • truth and how it relates to personal experience
  • illusions, hallucinations, faults in human perception
  • real world examples

Topic 4: Astronomy: What are those Lights in the Sky? The size of the Universe – or is it a Multiverse?

  • solar system, galaxy
  • 5 fundamental forces
  • UFOs?, astrology?
  • possibilities of alternate realities

Topic 5: Paranormal Phenomena

  • discerning the ordinary from the extraordinary
  • physics and chemistry
  • contemplating the physics of ghosts

Topic 6: Complementary and Alternative Medicine

  • anecdotal evidence, placebos, scientific studies
  • human biology, care and maintenance
  • CAM case studies

Topic 7: Crystal Power: What rocks and minerals can and can’t tell us

  • origin of the earth
  • continental drift, plate tectonics
  • Bermuda triangle?

Topic 8: Cryptids: Bigfoot, Nessie and El Chupacabra!

  • biology
  • ecology
  • principle of parsimony

Topic 9: Genetics: Can Vulcans and Humans Make Babies?

  • genetic code of life
  • mutations

Topic 10: Evolution: How did we get here and where are we going?

  • fossil record
  • natural history
  • Darwin, etc
  • natural selection and speciation