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How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age (1995)

de Theodore Schick, Lewis Vaughn

Altres autors: Martin Gardner (Pròleg)

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4401255,958 (3.74)5
This brief, inexpensive text helps students think critically, using examples from the weird claims and beliefs that abound in our culture to demonstrate the sound evaluation of any claim. The authors focus on types of logical arguments and proofs, making How to Think about Weird Things a versatile supplement for logic, critical thinking, philosophy of science, or any other science appreciation courses.… (més)
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Yet another book about thinking to deacquisition for sloppy thinking. Ironic isn't it? I will use two examples. The author makes much of the idea that Babylonian astrologers did not survey people about personality traits to determine the efficacy of astrology. If he had actually studied the history of astrology he would have known that the current personality trait style of astrology was not what early astrologers did. They were more concerned with the fate of nations--predicting storms, quakes, floods, invasions and so forth, predicting events in the ruler's life that might affect the nation: will he have heirs, will he die in battle, etc. The contemporary emphasis on intangibles such as personality is a reaction to the rise of scientific criticism of astrology. Homeopathy is another subject that the author has apparently not bothered to inform himself about. I have read accounts of trials of homeopathic remedies that really ignore the basis of the treatment. Say--gather 10 people who have a common cold and give half of them THE homeopathic remedy for the common cold. There is no such thing. Anyone who has had more than one cold in their life knows that what we lump together as colds can run different courses. Some start with a sore throat, turn into a chest cough and gradually clear up. Some start with copious runny mucus, a red nose, post nasal drip, etc. For a homeopathic practitioner these are two different conditions that would require different remedies. And even two people with the same general symptoms might receive a different remedy depending on their food cravings, sleep patterns, psychological state or previous history of receiving remedies. Higher potency (more diluted) remedies are dismissed as having nothing of the original substance in them. Well, no one claims they do. Homeopathic theory says that the energy pattern of the original substance has been transferred and increased by agitation. Since modern science refuses to try to detect or measure the energy patterns this explanation is dismissed as nonsense. Dismissing a system because you don't understand its principles is like dismissing literature in a foreign language. I thoroughly approve of teaching people how to approach novel or mysterious claim; how to detect flaws in logic and arguements, but distorting the actual history and theory of claims you are testing is not the way to do it.
  ritaer | Mar 6, 2023 |
I never finished reading this book, mostly because it was preaching to the choir, and I got bored. I may give it another chance, if I ever have the time. ( )
  zeropluszeroisone | Jan 30, 2022 |
Perhaps logical arguments and rhetoric should be compulsory topics for sciences majors? (Or all STEM majors generally.)

I know; it's icky philosophy and doesn't have any nice, hard answers but it's worth it for the change in thinking it can provoke.

At the very least, you'll learn how to construct more persuasive arguments, which is not so important for research but very important in communicating it (or communicating why someone should give you a grant to do it).

You'll also learn about why people are stubborn in their beliefs, why some people hold mistaken beliefs (and these people aren’t necessarily 'stupid'; some of them are in STEM fields themselves, though usually not in ones that would counter their views) and that bombarding people with evidence is really not a very good way to argue. (It is a way to argue, but it's often ineffective.)

Rhetoric will also teach you how to argue and speak more persuasively - and, it will teach you how many of these charlatans and snake-oil sellers convince people to follow them. (Many are true believers in their claims, mind you.)

Given that people already in STEM fields probably don't have the time to pick up whole new degrees, I'd suggest looking into some entry-level books on the subject and work on it in your spare time like “How To Think About Weird Things” (Schick and Vaughn; I used the 2014 edition but there may be a newer one now) and “The Elements of Reasoning” (Munson, Conway and Black; there is a newer edition though). They're pretty good starting resources and they were surprisingly cheap for textbooks, though others may have other suggestions; see what your country's universities recommend.

At the very least, look into the backfire effect and other common issues with arguments and errors of reasoning. Look at what others have suggested to work with these issues. While we are one of the very few species we know of that can reason logically, that doesn't mean we're perfect at it; it's not necessarily an innate skill, and we can still make mistakes along the way. Constructing persuasive arguments is definitely not an innate skill; it's something that needs to be taught, and yet, so few people in fields where it is essential (or very, very useful) take the opportunity while it's available.

Of course, logical argument and rhetoric would be wasted on science deniers; their grasp of rhetoric & logic is even weaker than that of scientists. It would, however, be very useful when dealing with journalists, who routinely garble even the most basic, wikipedia-verifiable science. And don't even get me started on University press release writers. ( )
  antao | Aug 29, 2020 |
A good reference for teachers or others worrying about the amount of magical thinking in our world. The author writes readably, and has some very interesting insights. The book is fairly loaded with great epigrams about critical thinking, and the chapters are well organized. There are some unfortunate problems: I nearly aborted early when the author totally blows the differentiation between inductive and deductive; such an important topic in logic and critical thinking should be handled with much more care. A truly good editor could have caught this, and prevented a major blunder. If you can get past that chapter, you will be rewarded for your patience. ( )
  Devil_llama | May 3, 2011 |
Although dry at times, this book addresses logic and critical thinking, and how they can be used to evaluate supernatural claims, in a complete and easy to understand way. A glance at the tags for this book will reveal the breadth of scope - I recorded eighteen separate non-evidence based topics that were addressed (including ESP, psychics and homeopathy), and I was not trying to record all of the topics that were touched upon.

I would recommend this book if you are looking for a high school/college introductory-level textbook on logic, or if you get frustrated with a majority of the debunkers you read and want to see it done carefully and cleanly. The book is heavily sourced, and each chapter ends with review questions and problems. ( )
1 vota princemuchao | Apr 30, 2009 |
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Schick, Theodoreautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Vaughn, Lewisautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
Gardner, MartinPròlegautor secundaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
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This book is for you who have stared into the night sky or the dark recesses of a room, hairs raised on the back of your neck, eyes wide, faced with an experience you couldn't explain but about which you have never stopped wondering, "Was it real?"
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This brief, inexpensive text helps students think critically, using examples from the weird claims and beliefs that abound in our culture to demonstrate the sound evaluation of any claim. The authors focus on types of logical arguments and proofs, making How to Think about Weird Things a versatile supplement for logic, critical thinking, philosophy of science, or any other science appreciation courses.

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