Inquisitive students filled the Fé Bland Forum for the “Pseudoscience and Scientific Literacy” faculty colloquium Wednesday evening to explore the reality of widespread fallacious research and learn to question fake scientific news.
The event was co-hosted by the Biology Club, Astronomy Club, and Associated Student Government.
Ellen Carey, assistant professor and librarian, began by introducing the scientific terms that would become the subject of the rest of the evening. She defined pseudoscience as something that is “erroneously regarded as scientific,” and explained how it can be produced either by flawed content or through a faulty process.
Dr. Raeanne Napoleon, assistant professor of chemistry, spoke for the extent of the discussion, debunking popular health food gimmicks, vaccine denialism and alternative medicine. She even had the audience recite the girl scout promise, deeming everybody in attendance as “science scouts,” ready to challenge their own beliefs through science.
Napoleon said that while this era is “the greatest time in human history,” societal fear of accepting science into mainstream culture is damaging to human civilization everywhere. Preventable deaths of people fooled by false claims is what drives her passion to inform and defend against pseudoscience.
Both Carey and Napoleon emphasized the significance of questioning the source behind any scientific claim. Each of them spoke about understanding the motivations behind these claims, whether it’s a media source reporting a controversial study or an academic journal itself.
“The biggest thing that you can do to save yourself from pseudoscience is to learn to distinguish the credible [and] reliable information from the sensationalized,” Carey said.
Audience members were granted the opportunity to ask their own questions once the lectures of the nearly two-hour event had concluded.
This event was the third and final colloquium of the semester, a series designed to give faculty a platform to extend their passion for their research to interested students in an open forum.
“It’s the place where we incubate, nurture, and sustain the life of ideas of our faculty apart from their regular curriculum,” said Mark McIntire, philosophy instructor and event coordinator. “Here’s a place where we get to ask what ideas these professors want to share with the rest of their community.”