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The Incredible Magic Hooey Stick

Answer Key

  1. Most students will be forced to admit they could not make the propeller change direction, let alone make it spin.

  2. Scientific explanations, indeed science itself, is methodologically naturalistic so by method can not invoke supernatural causation to explain the apparently unexplainable. In science, all events have natural causes. It is this link between cause and effect that drives the probing eye of modern science. Religious explanations are rarely tested against physical reality. They rarely demand empirical evidence because the basis of religion is the practice of faith, not skepticism, empiricism, and logic. Each of these methods of seeking knowledge is potentially valueable, yet each is very different. One is not better than the other.

  3. Science deals with cause and effect relationships based on the laws of nature. ( It is important for teachers/students to recognize science from non-science)

  4. Prescientific cultures may have supernaturalism as their prevailing paradigm. And since religion, in one form or another, seems to be more intimately woven into the cultural fabric of societies, they are vital to defining social status, mores, etc .

  5. Most students will be very tentative about their explanation. This is good, and models science well. The tentative and contingent nature of science is well demonstrated when individuals offer models, and then subject them to peer review/comment. Students will find that by collaborating with others they may modify their hypotheses and may actually feel they have approached a more accurate explanation.

  6. Hopefully the students will intuitively realize that the absence of evidence for one view is not evidence for another view. Such false dichotomies exist all around us in political campaigns, socio-political debates such as the "creation-evolution controversy," product promotions, and many other areas of daily life. Helping students with this realization will make them effective citizens and savvy consumers.

  7. Duplicating claimed psychic events with natural physical processes does not eliminate the possibility of supernatural causation. However, science always looks for the simplest explanation, "parsimony." It is far more likely that the laws of physics can explain the phenomenon than the presence of some unseen, supernatural and unmeasureable force.

Additional resource:

  • Video: NOVA, Secrets of the Psychics (Magician and McArther Fellowship winner James Randi explores the claims of psychics and puts them to scientific tests)
    web site: http://www.randi.org/jr/ptspoon.html.

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