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Skepticism 101: A Call for Course Syllabuses from Those Teaching
Skeptical Courses

by Michael Shermer, Aug 30 2011

TO ALL TEACHERS AND PROFESSORS who are teaching courses in skepticism, critical thinking, science and pseudoscience, science and the paranormal, science studies, history or philosophy of science, the psychology of paranormal beliefs, religious studies, and the like…

Please send us your course syllabuses, reading lists, video/YouTube links, classroom demonstration ideas, student projects and experiments, research project ideas, and the like to my graduate student Anondah Saide. I want to add them to my own course syllabus on Skepticism 101, and create an online Skeptical Studies Program at for teachers and professors everywhere to go to in a creative commons/open source system so that we can build a new academic field going forward with skepticism into academia.

I know that such courses are being taught around the world because for the past two decades of publishing Skeptic magazine and writing skeptical books, I receive a lot of mail from teachers and professors seeking permission to use our materials.

What I would like to do is to create academic departments of Skeptical Studies, as the next step in the skeptical movement. (See, for example, Phil Zuckerman’s program of Secular Studies he is implementing this year at Pitzer College in Claremont, where I teach a graduate course in the spring. We have magazines and journals, trade books and conferences. The next step is a more organized penetration into academia via courses, textbooks, departments, and the like. I want to create a clearing house, an open-source site for people to access materials that will be made available to create your own course in Skeptical Studies, such as Skepticism 101: syllabuses, books, articles, assignments, videos, demonstrations, experiments, research projects, and the like. I am envisioning something along the lines of how psychology became an academic field a century ago.

To start the process off I share with you my own course syllabus for Skepticism 101, which I am teaching this semester starting this week at Chapman University on Tuesdays from 4–7pm with 36 freshman, the future of the skeptical movement!

Download Shermer’s Course Syllabus for Skepticism 101

Email Us Your Ideas

7 Responses to “Skepticism 101: A Call for Course Syllabuses from Those Teaching
Skeptical Courses”

  1. Chris Howard says:

    I’m planning on teaching a course on critical thinking at my community center, and I plan on using Texas States Philosophy Dept. Material, as well as The Bologny(sp?) Detection Kit.
    This will be my first time teaching the class, and I’d really appreciate any advice that you have regarding teaching strategy, do’s & don’t’s, etc.

  2. John K. says:

    Your syllabus gave an overview of beliefs in God, Miracles, Heaven, Jesus is God or the Son of God, Angels, Survival of the Soul after Death, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Hell, The Virgin Birth (of Jesus), The Devil, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Ghosts, Creationism, UFOs, Astrology, Witches, and Reincarnation.

    One of these things is not like the others . . .

    You may want to throw global warming in there, if only so that Darwin won’t get too lonely.

    • Max says:

      That was the result of a Harris Poll of Americans’ beliefs.
      After listing the poll’s results in his syllabus, Shermer wrote, “More people believe in angels and the devil than believe in the theory of evolution. Disturbing.”
      His point is that too many people believe in the supernatural, and too few people believe in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

  3. Ubi Dubium says:

    I’ve just sent mine. I did a course on “Brain Glitches” for the teens at the local UU church this summer. The course was on cognitive biases, mostly, but that let me get a good measure of skepticism in there. Thanks to Michael for giving me access to his powerpoint slides!

  4. Eddy says:


    I was wondering, is there any plan to make a skepticism course for children? I know Richard Saunders has a one time act which he can present to children, but I haven’t searched for or seen something like a course.

    The main idea is to have a fun way to attract children to critical thinking, to make them realise they benefit from being skeptical (tricks and explanations can be very exciting for children).

  5. Eric says:

    I sent mine to Michael as well.

    One thought for those teaching Darwin: look into using the Reacting to the Past game based around the Royal Society debates over awarding him the Copley medal.

    It’s a rather unique way for the students to learn about the time- it’s an elaborate role playing game where each student is assigned a role and has to try and achieve their victory conditions. Students run the debates themselves- the professor’s role is to sit in the back and listen. (And to spend a lot of time outside the class prepping them) There are a number of named major players (Huxley, Hooker, Sabine, Owen) with known goals and a number of synthetic characters who all have their own axes to grind. For example, there’s a character who wants to admit a woman to the royal society, another who wants to block socially “liberal” legislation and another who believes that Darwin is using hypothetical deduction in his theory and that only induction is proper science.

    See for more info

  6. Charles Sullivan says:


    If you know of any good video material that you can list (especially if it’s available on youtube) that would be really helpful.