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Enhancing Thinking Skills in Science Context Lesson 9 Pseudoscience.

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1 Enhancing Thinking Skills in Science Context Lesson 9 Pseudoscience

2 Activity 1 Read the following news: The Fifth Great Invention of China

3 Activity 1 A man from China called Wong Hung Shing claimed that he discovered the technology to convert water to fuel oil on 7 November 1983. He first prepared a chief formulation that contained a small amount of alkyne (a compound that can be burned) and then he added this chief formulation to a large amount of water (ratio: 1/100,000 volume/volume). A water-based fuel was claimed to be created that could be a substitute for petrol and the cost was very cheap. He said that the water-based fuel could be produced very easily by a simple machine. One tonne of the chief formulation could be produced in 20 minutes and one tonne of the chief formulation could in turn produce 10 tonnes or more of the water-based fuel.

4 Activity 1 The mass media reported Wong ’ s invention and he demonstrated his technology to some famous scientists in China. Some presidents of the universities and senior government officials believed his invention doubt. Some mass media claimed Wong ’ s invention as the Fifth Great Invention of China.

5 Discussion questions: 1)What was Wong ’ s invention? 2)What were the evidences (or what seemed to be the evidences) that supported Wong ’ s invention? 3)Were the evidences you read from the news sufficient to make you believe in Wong ’ s invention? If not, what other evidences or information you would like to get hold of before you can believe in Wong ’ s invention?

6 1.What was Wong ’ s invention? A very cheap water-based fuel produced by adding small amount of alkyne to large amount of water in the ratio 1:100,000 (V/V).

7 2. What were the evidences (or what seemed to be the evidences) that supported Wong ’ s invention? a.He demonstrated his technology to some famous scientists in China. [It did not tell whether those famous scientists believed his invention or not] b.Some presidents of the universities and senior government officials believed in his invention without a doubt. [The newspaper only told us that there were some people of high rank believed in Wong ’ s invention but there were also some or many people who did not believe in Wong ’ s invention] c.Some mass media claimed Wong ’ s invention as the Fifth Great Invention of China. [We do not know the credibility of the mass media]

8 1. Were the evidences you read from the news sufficient to make you believe in Wong ’ s invention? If not, what other evidences or information you would like to get hold of before you can believe in Wong ’ s invention? a.Background of the “ inventor ” including his qualifications and career; b.His experimental procedure and exact formulation; c.Can we repeat his experiment? d.Can his invention be tested by famous universities, the government or accredited organisations? e.Any theoretical backup to his invention? Can we use existent scientific concepts, theories, principles or laws to explain the mechanism of his invention?

9 Background of Wong Hung Shing Wong was born in China and received 4- year ’ s schooling. He had been a carpenter, soldier and a bus driver before he invented the water-based fuel.

10 Commercial Interests / Corruptions / Flaws? Wong ’ s invention was widely reported in the mass media. He flew to many places like Beijing, Shanghai to demonstrate his invention. He was then appointed the head of the newly established Energy Institute of Hei Long Jiang ( 黑龍江 ). In 1987 he was commissioned RMB$600,000 ( 人民幣 ) to produce the water-based fuel at He Bei( 河北 ). However, more and more people became skeptical about his invention as time went by. He was finally caught in 1987 and sentenced to 10- year imprisonment.

11 Reflection questions: 1. Can you suggest some reasons why people believed in Wong ’ s invention? 2. How do we know that Wong ’ s “ invention ” is not real science? Explain your answer.

12 Activity 2 Read the following advertisement found in a newspaper:

13 SUPER Water

14 SUPER Water SUPER Company has a water filter that can convert tap water to SUPER WATER. SUPER Water can change ordinary water to smaller water clusters. These water clusters can pass easily through ion channels of cells. Hence, water can be absorbed faster than ordinary water molecules to keep our skin moist. The pH of the SUPER WATER is 9.5. Alkaline water can prevent people from constipation and long-term diarrhea. The dissolved oxygen content of SUPER WATER is also greater than that of ordinary tap water. The higher dissolved oxygen content can improve health because it can increase the metabolic rate of cells and hence enhancing the immunity of the body.

15 SUPER Water SUPER WATER Filter was invented by an expert of water science, Dr. Kwun Lee. He is the chairman of International Research Laboratory on Water Science since 2001. The SUPER WATER filter has been accredited by NSF. The cost of the SUPER WATER Filter was HK$6,000. The filter core needs to be changed every year and the cost is HK$500.

16 Change water into smaller water molecule clusters Alkaline waterAccredited by NSF Higher dissolved oxygen content SUPER WATER

17 Customers Scientists Salesman of the SUPER COMPANY Representatives from the Consumer Council

18 Task 1: 1. Do you believe the claim? Suppose you are - a customer, explain whether you believe the claim of SUPER Water filter or not. - a salesman of the SUPER company, how will you promote the SUPER Water filter to your customers? - a scientist, tell people with scientific evidences or sound reasons whether you support the claim of SUPER Water filter or not. - a representative from the Consumer Council, give advice to the consumers on the claim of SUPER Company on SUPER water.

19 Pseudoscience False knowledge

20 Pseudoscience  a set of beliefs about the world incorrectly thought to be scientific  a certain method, theory, or practice that claims to be scientific but fails to adhere to the basic requirements of the scientific method.   more likely to be driven by ideological, cultural, or commercial goals.

21 Characteristics of Pseudoscience Claim not supported by scientific research Contradict with existent science knowledge, theories, principles, laws … Results not reproduced or verified Unclear experimental procedure

22 Characteristics of Pseudoscience No concrete research findings from other scientists in the following days support the claim or theory The findings are usually for commercial use -selling questionable products for big profits

23  The company uses a lot of scientific terms (water clusters, ion channels, cells, pH, dissolved oxygen content, metabolic rate, immunity) to describe the special feature and function of its filter. The use of such scientific terms may make people think that the claim is scientific. However, how true the claim is needs further evidence or research findings from other scientists. Now there is no further information provided by the company.

24  The company told us that the product was invented by an expert of water science and the product has been accredited by an international organization NSF. We may check more information about the credibility of Dr Kwun Lee and the International Research Laboratory on Water Science by searching the internet. If Dr Kwun Lee has little or no research publication in high standard journals or the scale of the International Research Laboratory on Water Science is very small (say only one chairman and no other staff), the evidence of the claim would be weak.

25  Will the accreditation of NSF affect your decision to believe the claim of SUPER WATER Filter? (Remarks: NSF stands for U.S. National Sanitation Foundation Standard) The accreditation of NSF is irrelevant to the claim of the product. Accreditation by NSF only shows that the production of the product matches a set of regulations set out by the NSF. However, NSF is NOT an organisation that is responsible to test or verify the claim of the product.

26 SciencePseudoscience The claim is testable and supported by scientific research recorded in high standard scientific journals. The claim is not testable and there is no support from scientific research recorded in high standard scientific journals The finding does not usually contradict existing scientific knowledge, theories, principles and laws. The findings usually contradict existing scientific knowledge, theories, principles and laws. The claim is not vague and the experimental procedure is clearly written and the result can be reproduced by other scientists The claim uses vague language and the result cannot be reproduced or verified. The exact procedure of the experiment is not clearly provided. Other people cannot figure out what has been done and how it was done.

27 SciencePseudoscience As time goes by, more research findings from other scientists give more evidences to support the claim or the theory. No concrete research findings from other scientists in the following days support the claim or the theory. Pseudoscience explains away or ignores falsifying evidence. The product of the application of the science must be tested thoroughly before marketing. The findings are usually for selling commercial products with big profits.

28 Examples of Pseudoscience Astrology Reasons that Astrology is not considered as real science are as follows:   Astrological interpretations and prediction are not based on science theories, principles or laws but from astrological theories.   Astrologers do not conduct carefully controlled experiments to test astrological theories.   Astrologers use vague language to explain and predict things as well as to explain away wrong prediction. Some personality descriptions are very general and fit nearly everyone.

29 Reference:  Gregory Bassham, et al., Critical Thinking: A Students ’ Introduction, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2008)   《選擇》月刊第 357 期 ( 「神奇」水機健康 聲稱備受質疑 )


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