AAS 200th meeting, Albuquerque, NM, June 2002
Session 81. Astronomy Education and Public Outreach
Oral, Thursday, June 6, 2002, 10:00-11:30am, Mesilla

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[81.02] Turning a problem into an opportunity using the Fox Network's ``Conspiracy Theory: Did we land on the moon?" as a tool to improve student thinking on science and pseudoscience.

G. E. Mechler (Pima Community College)

Some television networks have displayed a propensity for producing specials of a pseudoscientific nature. The Fox Network has especially demonstrated this propensity. Its most notorious cases were ``Alien Autopsy" in the mid-90s and last Winter's ``Conspiracy Theory: Did we land on the moon?" Both have had effective critical responses from scientists and those responses are readily accessible on the Internet.

But their existence is emblematic of the larger societal problem of large numbers of citizens not being able to discriminate between science and pseudoscience. Many educators hesitate to include critical examinations of pseudosciences because 1) They themselves are not well versed in these areas, and 2) they prefer to avoid possible controversy and upset with their credulous students.

Fox Network's ``Conspiracy Theory: Did we land on the moon?" offers educators a rich example of televised pseudoscience that 1) can be rebutted in ways readily understandable by nonscience students and 2) will not result in throngs of offended students as this is not a particularly popular pseudoscience and few students will have an emotional investment in it.

This oral presentation will cover the benefits of using this particular television program to demonstrate scientific critical examination of claims, raise their general level of informed skepticism, and make clear how susceptible people --they, themselves-- can be to pseudoscientific claims when one is not familiar with the relevant science. A computer-slide presentation of this critique is available to those interested.

In addition, informal surveys were taken of two lab classes in which the program and critique were shown. Studentsí opinions of the moon-landings-were-a-hoax claim were taken before and after seeing the program and after the critique.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: gmechler@pimacc.pima.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34
© 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.