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Aliens Close Encounters of a Multidisciplinary KindSpring 2010 Cross-listed: Cognitive Science/Natural Science 177Professor: Salman HameedE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgOffice: ASH 218Phone: 559-6160Office hours: Monday 4:00-5:00 pm & Thursday 2:30 – 4:30 pm or by appointment.Course Description:This course can be summed up as: everything you wanted to know about aliens but wereafraid to ask (a scientist). The course will explore the topic of extraterrestrialintelligence from the perspective of several different fields. We will look at the history ofUFO sighting claims and analyze the reliability of eye-witness testimonies, explorepsychological & sociological reasons behind claims of alien abductions, and analyze thecurrent state of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) from the perspective ofastronomy and planetary research. We will also examine how film and television haveshaped our view of aliens in popular culture. We will conclude the course by looking atreligions that have been inspired by UFOs and extraterrestrials.REA, WRIReadings:Readings will be available on the course website:https://athena.hampshire.edu/S300867/“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” - Carl Sagan
Requirements:Readings & class participation: You are expected to have read the assigned reading for each class, andcome prepared to participate in the class discussion. Your class participation will be part of your finalevaluation. You may also be asked to lead a class discussion during the semester.Papers: There will be 2 papers (3-6 pages) assigned over the course of the semester covering the differenttopics discussed in the class. These will be due in class.In-class assessment: There will be an in-class assessment of the topics discussed in the class on Monday,April 19th.Research Project and final paper: You are expected to conduct original research on topics related to thecourse. More details will be discussed later in the semester. You will be asked to define your own topic andwrite a proposal (due date for proposals: Mar 24th) for your project. You will also write an associated finalpaper detailing your research and the paper is expected to be between 8-10 pages long.E-mail policy: 1) I am happy to answer your questions over e-mail. However, before pressing the sendbutton, please think: Is the information you are seeking already available elsewhere (for example on thesyllabus)? 2) Please do not expect immediate response (please allow 24 hours for response before sending areminder) 3) If for some reason you have to send an assignment by e-mail, please cc a copy to yourself. Iwill not accept the excuse of forgetting to attach the assignment or some other e-mail malfunction. It isyour responsibility to make sure we have received the full assignment. I will send you a confirmation e-mail.Portfolio: At the end of the semester you will hand in a portfolio that includes all of the work that you havedone for this class.In order to receive an evaluation you must complete all written work (including the in-classassessment) on time, attend class, and hand in a final portfolio. In order to receive a designation of‘satisfactory completion’ you must meet the above requirements and your work must show sufficienteffort and proficiency with the general themes of the class.
Class Policies: • All assignments are due in class on the specified due date; late work will not be accepted unless you have spoken with me prior to the due date, and I have agreed to an alternate due date. If, due to serious illness, death in the family or other tragedy, you miss significant class meetings and/or assignments, please notify me as soon as you can. • You are expected to attend class prepared to discuss the material assigned for that day and to arrive on time. If you miss a significant number of classes this will affect your final evaluation. • Class discussions should be a comfortable arena for sharing ideas, and every member of the class should feel respected and included in the discussion. Paranormal/pseudoscientific beliefs can sometimes be a sensitive topic, so it is particularly important to be mindful of this, and respectful of your classmate’s ideas and contributions to class discussion. Be thoughtful and courteous in making your own comments, and be sure everyone has a chance to contribute.Plagiarism is a serious offense and will not be tolerated. If a student is found guilty of plagiarism, heor she will not receive an evaluation for this class and the case will be brought before the Dean.
Syllabus IntroductionW 1/27 Why are we fascinated with aliens? / Science – as an investigative tool UFOs: Close Encounter of the First KindM 2/1 The idea of extraterrestrials Readings: Steven Dick, From the physical world to the biological universe from Life on Other WorldsW 2/3 History of UFOs I / Type of Encounters Readings: Steven Dick, The UFO controversy and the extraterrestrial hypothesis from Other Worlds Brenda Denzler, A short history of the UFO myth from The Lure of the EdgeM 2/8 How to evaluate strange claims? / Scientific methodology Readings: Aliens Carl Sagan from The Demon-Haunted World How Thinking Goes Wrong Michael Shermer from Why People Believe Weird ThingsW 2/10 Can we trust our senses? The constructive nature of visual perception Reading: The Constructive Nature of Human Perception Terence Hines, from Pseudoscience and the Paranormal UFOs II: Photographs, physical evidence and abductions Terence Hines, from Pseudoscience and the ParanormalM 2/15 What factors influence our perception about UFOs? Reading: The effect of news stories about UFOs on reader’s UFO beliefs, Communication Quarterly, 10, 165, 1997 Does Television news about UFOs affect viewer’s UFO beliefs?, Communication Quarterly, 46, 284, 1998 Close Encounters: An examination of UFO experiences, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 102, 624, 1993 .W 2/17 Advising Day (No class) Abductions: Close Encounter of the Fourth KindM 2/22 History of Alien Abductions Reading: A short history of Alien Encounters, Brenda Denzler, from The Lure of the EdgeW 2/24 Understanding claims of alien abductions I Readings: Abduction by Aliens or Sleep Paralysis? by Susan Blackmore Susan Clancy, Abducted: How people come to believe they were kidnapped by aliens, chapters 1-2M 3/1 Understanding claims of alien abductions II Clancy, Abducted, chapter 3 Clancy et al., Memory Distortion in People Reporting Abduction by Aliens, Journal of Abnormal Psychology Vol. 111, Issue 2, 2002. pp 455-461. Please read the full article, but please pay more attention to Introduction, Method (including all the sub-sections), and Discussion.
W 3/3 Understanding claims of alien abductions III Clancy, Abducted, chapter 4-6M 3/8 The trauma of “abductions” I Reading: Leonard Newman and Roy Baumeister, Toward an Explanation of the UFO Abduction Phenomenon, Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 7, Issue 2, 1996. You dont have to read the full article. Please read until "Escaping the Self".W 3/10 The trauma of “abductions” II Readings: McNally et al., Psychophysiological Responding During Script-Driven Imagery in People Reporting Abduction by Space Aliens, Psychological Science, Vol. 15, Issue 7, 2004. pp 493.M 3/15 Spring BreakW 3/17 Spring Break Aliens: Mythology for the Scientific Age?M 3/22 Aliens – Myhthology for the scientific age? I Readings: Newberg & Daquili, Myth-making: The compulsion to create stories and beliefs from Why God wont go away 2001 Signs of the secular times: The adoptive and transcendent function of UFOs in America from Encyclopedic Sourcebook of UFO Religions 2003W 3/24 Aliens – Myhthology for the scientific age? II Readings: James Lewis, Mythology and Folklore from UFOs and Popular Culture 2000 Dianna Tumminia, Rumor to postmodern myth from Encyclopedic Sourcebook of UFO Religions 2003 The abduction narrative as a contemporary myth Matheson, p 279 Search for Life in the UniverseM 3/29 Getting a sense of scale Reading: Benett et al, Developing Perspective from Cosmic PerspectiveW 3/31 What is life? / Origin of Life on Earth Reading: Hazen, Emergence and the experimental pursuit of the origin of life from Exploring the origin, extent, and future of life 2009M 4/5 The Habitable zone – The search for life in the solar system Readings: Rothschild, A biologist’s guide to the solar system from Exploring the origin, extent, and future of life 2009 Sushil Atreya, The Mystery of Methane on Mars & Titan from Scientific American, May 2007W 4/7 Are there other solar systems out there? Readings: Marcy & Butler, Giant planets orbiting faraway stars from Scientific American 1998 Pilcher & Lissauer, The quest for habitable worlds and life beyond the solar system from Exploring the origin, extent, and future of life 2009 Explore this page for nice visuals for detection, and also its parent page for general information about extrasolar planets (here they are referred to as "exoplanets") http://media4.obspm.fr/exoplanets/pages_detection/detectee.html
M 4/12 What about intelligence? Readings: The evolution of intelligence: An integral part of SETI and Astrobiology by Lori Marino William H. Calvin, The Emergence of Intelligence from Scientific American 1998. The big question: Intelligent aliens? by Seth ShostakW 4/14 Discussion Reading: An exchange between Carl Sagan and Ernst Mayr, Is There Intelligent Life on Other Planets?M 4/19 In-class Assessment (first 30 minutes) Where is everybody? / Fermi’s paradox Readings: The Chance of Finding Aliens by Govert Schilling and Alan M. MacRobert; Sky & Telescope, 1998. Ian Crawford, Where are they? from Scientific American July 2000 Ethics, Religion, and Life in the Universe** Tu 4/20 TUESDAY NIGHT SCREENING: CONTACT, 6:30-9:30pm, ASH AuditoriumW 4/21 Religion and SETI : What if aliens did really contact us? Discussion of the movie Contact Reading: The quest for extraterrestrial intelligence by Carl Sagan. Note that this article was written in 1979, but it conveys some of the questions we have grappled with in our class.M 4/26 What if we are the aliens? Readings: The search for extraterrestrial life: epistemology, ethics, and worldviews from Exploring the origin, extent, and future of life 2009 The implications of discovering extraterrestrial life: different searches, different issues from Exploring the origin, extent, and future of life 2009W 4/28 UFO Religions Readings: Christopher Partridge, Understanding UFO religions and abduction spiritualities from UFO Religions 2003M 5/3 Raelians: A religion for the scientific age? Readings: Susan Palmer, The Raelian apocalypse: Playing with prophesy, Appeasing the aliens or Pleasing the public? from Encyclopedic Sourcebook of UFO Religions 2003M 5/5 Concluding thoughts Reading: Steven Dick, The Meaning of life: Implications of ET intelligence from Life on other worlds 1998