Skepticism & Freethought

As a scientist, I think that being able to critically examine things is key to being a happy, healthy human being. I don't mean being a cynic, a constant nay-sayer to anything outside of your comfort zone. I want all people to be able to employ the principles of critical thinking to become scientific skeptics - being open minded, but demanding evidence before accepting something as truth or factual. To this end, I attempt to spread skepticism and it's brother freethought to as many people as possible. This includes emphasizing critical thinking skills in the college courses I teach, speaking to public groups on scientific issues, and modeling to the best of my ability how to be a skeptic.

Below are some of my specific educational and outreach activities directed towards the above goals. If you would like me to speak to your group on skepticism, critical thinking, or a specific pseudoscience, please contact me and I would love to help.

While I cover critical thinking principles heavily in my General Psychology courses, I actually have an entire course dedicated to learning how to become a scientific skeptic. It's called "Science vs. Pseudoscience," and in it we cover how and why you can't always trust your brain, ways that social pressures suppress critical thinking, aliens, ghosts, demons, magic, psychics, alternative medicine, and intelligent design. The course website contains lecture notes, a link to the online textbook, and tons of other resources.

As a part of SvPs, over the past two years we have had some exciting projects happen. First is the student-created, professor-edited free online textbook
Science, Pseudoscience, & Critical Thinking. This text covers all of the topics from the class and more, including cryptozoology, pseudohistory, conspiracy and end-of-the-world theories.

We also have a series of student-created documentaries called
Pseudoscience in Oklahoma. The topics include the Oklahoma Octopus, hauntings, devil worship, alt-med, a John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy, and others.

Finally, in addition to my lecture notes being freely available on this website, I am also a contributor to Michael Shermer's Skepticism 101 project - "a comprehensive, free repository of resources for teaching students how to think skeptically." My complete PowerPoint slides, multiple syllabi examples, and more are all available on that page.

I am involved in two major outreach efforts concerning skepticism. The first is in my role as the faculty advisor to the UCO Skeptics. Our purpose is to promote an evidence-based outlook on the world, especially towards claims that involve supernatural, paranormal, and pseudoscientific elements. We actively promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason to examine such claims. We maintain a scientifically skeptical mindset, examining claims based on evidence and not a priori assumptions, while avoiding cynicism. As a group, we represent a fairly diverse set of worldviews, including atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secular humanists, and more. We welcome and encourage free discussion of often taboo and off-limits subjects and challenge beliefs that are held even by our own members.

This group has been highly active on campus since receiving official status as a club in 2010. We hold bimonthly meetings and at least once a month have an activity on campus to help promote skepticism. We also traveled as a group to the 2011 Texas Freethought Convention and were well represented at FreeOK in 2012. Recently, we have moved into some off-campus activism as well, protesting supposed psychics and getting some good publicity as a result.

The other avenue I engage in is public discourse. In addition to a smaller talk given at the Disbelief Discourse (held monthly and co-hosted by the UCO Skeptics and AOK), I was the opening speaker at the 2012 Oklahoma Freethought Conference, which had over 500 attendees. Recently, I was honored to be added to the Center for Inquiry's Speakers Bureau. I also actively write on skeptical and freethought topics, both regularly for the Skeptic Ink Network, in a column entitled Great Plains Skeptic, and occasionally for the Skeptical Inquirer, the flagship publication of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (a Center for Inquiry affiliate).



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