your job is to examine sources on a topic of interest to you, identify examples

your job is to examine sources on a topic of interest to you, identify examples of both scientific and pseudoscientific sources on that topic, and critically examine the veracity of each source using the tools provided in class, as well as the resources listed below. Several of the topics discussed in the course include comparisons of differing interpretations of the same event or historical process. Your assignment is to search for two online sources that cover the same topic of archaeological interest, but that present very different (and ideally contradictory) interpretations. Try to identify one source or interpretation that is academic (or mainstream) in character, and one that is pseudo-scientific. As we discussed in class, pseudoscientific research usually falls into two categories: sensationalist and political. Try to identify what the motivations for a particular interpretation might be when you evaluate the two sources. See below for tips on how to spot pseudoscientific interpretations of the past. In your paper, briefly explain the subject matter of the sources you have found. What is the topic being discussed? What are the different explanations, and what is the reasoning behind each? Which view do you think is the better explanation, and why? Be very explicit about why one interpretation is more viable, scientifically testable, or reasonable than the other. Do a bit of research to identify the authors of the sources, their background, and any potential biases that may be influencing their interpretations. A Toolkit for Identifying Pseudoscience: What is pseudoscience? Explanations that claim to be objective and based in fact, but are actually not provable. Some examples: Faith-based assertions, elective use of data, claims of secret knowledge, outright falsification or manipulation of data, and a tendency towards the dramatic. How to identify pseudoscience: Prior Plausibility: how well does a theory fit with what we already know Occam’s Razor: simpler explanations should be preferred over complex Non-sequitur argument: “They laughed at , and he was right, so I must be right also” Public Verifiability: can other people apply the ideas and get the same results? Authority: who is the person making the argument? Humility: while not all good scientists are humble, a crackpot is almost never humble $$$: is someone getting rich off of their claims? Is there a financial benefit for promoting an unlikely or scientifically untenable argument? Tips for the paper: Topic selection: Try to find two sources with conflicting views of the same issue. It might be easier to start with a pseudoarchaeological source first, then find information about the results of more legitimate research on the same topic. Select a topic that was NOT one of the ones we went over as case studies in class. Web site selection: Be careful when you select sites. This is perhaps the most important step in the assignment. Try to find sources that have enough information so that you can adequate evaluate them, such as information about the authors, the nature of the data they are using to support their argument, and the possible motives behind their research (this is particularly important with pseudoarchaeological sources). Evaluation: Be critical of the sources you find. The purpose of this assignment is to help you become good consumers of information. Try to dig around and look for biases, weaknesses in the arguments, and motivations for every interpretation.

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