Simpson Colloquium SC 201-A: “Miracle Cures: Junk Science and Your Wallet”
M W 2:10 PM – 3:10 PM
Have you ever tried ear candling? For the uninitiated, ear candling is performed to remove earwax that has built up in your ear canal. A candle is lit on one end and the other end is inserted into your ear. The burning candle is supposed to create a vacuum that sucks the wax out of your ear. After the procedure the therapist slices open the candle and shows you the reddish-brown gunk that she claims is your earwax and other debris you’ve been harboring. You feel much better. But, have you ever wondered what you would see inside the candle if you burned it on a candleholder instead of in your ear? Well, you better start wondering.
This course is about how the sellers of junk science trick you into believing that you are being cured. We will examine strategies that make fake science look like real science, what real science ought to look like, how effective the placebo effect is in creating relief from symptoms, why tablets of ibuprofen are red while sleep aids are blue, and when bad science can actually cause harm. You will have the opportunity to use scientific methodology and critical investigation to analyze the miracle cures of your own choosing.
Meet Your Professor
Pat Singer, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
When I started college at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to major in Music or Chemistry. In the end I chose neither and majored in Biology. After completing my B.A. at St. Olaf College, I went on to complete my Ph.D. in Biology at Kansas State University and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Illinois in Biochemistry. Along the way, my growing interest in global issues occasionally distracted me from biology, but in the end my love of cells and molecules won out.
My primary, deep, and driving interest as a biologist continues to be cancer molecular biology. The nagging interest in global issues has never gone away. Fortunately at small colleges, like Simpson College, the pursuit of multiple interests is encouraged. I have had the privilege of traveling abroad with students during many May Terms. In the picture above I am on the left in authentic Thai costume and am in Chiang Mai, Thailand where 12 Simpson College students and I learned about Thai culture, Thai language, and Thai public health throughout the spring semester and May Term 2011.
My husband is a nuclear engineer for MidAmerican Energy. Both our grown children live in Iowa and got married in the fall of 2010. Both have chosen careers in the health profession. In my free time I like to run, mow the lawn, bicycle, and read, although I’m not that good at sitting.
Meet Your Destination Leader
I’m Sarah Jermeland, and I will be your destination leader for the class for “Miracle Cures: Junk Science.” I will be a sophomore in the fall, and I am a Biology and Math major. I am actually from Indianola, IA, so I didn’t travel too far from home. But, I find that I have way too much fun at Simpson, so I rarely go home. In high school I was on the dance team, in band and chorus, and part of a variety of other activities.
During my first year at Simpson, I have found myself focusing on my studies and working a part-time job. In the time I have away from studying, I enjoy hanging out with my friends and going to all the events Simpson has to offer.
I love to meet new people and am very excited for this upcoming school year. Do not hesitate to contact me! I am on Facebook, Twitter, and you could always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions. I can’t wait to meet you all!
Meet Your Writing Fellow
I am a member of the band and participate in many music events. I enjoy reading, running, playing music, drawing, and generally spending time outside.
I am a first-year Community Adviser for the 2012-13 school year. I am also the Writing Fellow for Dr. Singer’s transfer student colloquium class.