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Critical Thinking

Glendower:   I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur:        Why, so can I, or so can any man 
                              But will they come when you do call for them?

                                                         –Henry IV, Part 1

Science evolves, Faith is static

As science evolves it finds better and better ways to describe the real world. On the other hand, superstition and pseudoscience continue to muddle the waters. Science is the rational, incremental pursuit of knowledge. The only real way to progress is to design and conduct studies, report the results in peer reviewed journals and proceed to the next question. Problems come in interpreting the results, of course, and journalists have a responsibility to fairly represent the studies’ conclusions – often they’re taken out of context or oversimplified

Unfortunately, as the American public becomes less scientifically literate  more people can be misled [not helped any by those who think creationism is a science]. Basic statistics should be a part of everyone’s education, probably more important for people than geometry or trig or calculus. Critical thinking is required if we’re to have an informed populace. And it matters because anyone can vote, serve on a jury, etc, no matter how ignorant [ie, lacking in facts, not stupid]. The solution is not to narrow the franchise but rather to raise the level scientific knowledge and other important information in everyone’s daily life. This involves not only information but also how we organize that information.

Critical thinking gives us the tools to evaluate information and it’s a process that can easily be learned. In a way pseudoscience and beliefs in paranormal are some of the easiest fallacies to debunk. At first many of these claims appear to be invulnerable, but once you learn which questions to ask these claims are easy to deny. I first started reading the Skeptical Inquirer when Martin Gardner talked about it in his column in Scientific American in the 1980s. By investigating claims of the paranormal using scientific methods it’s easily shown that basic scientific methods deny these extraordinary claims.

Most of these creationist canards are examples of logical fallacies, so studying them can help understand and expose fallacies in other fields, especially given the ‘alternate facts’ approach of the Trump presidency

More about Creationist arguments

Creation Myths

For example the book of Genesis can’t stand up to a rational, scientific reading – it’s actually a conflation of at least 2 earlier creation myths and the order of creation is different in each story this – in one place it says man was created after the animals, in another that animals were created first – it also says light was created before the sun which is the source of our light. These errors show problems in using an ancient text to describe the modern world.

By allowing the religious to define atheism many thinkers have been forced on the defensive. Atheism is not firm knowledge that there is no God, for who can prove a negative? Rather atheism is merely the acknowledgment that we find no evidence FOR the existence of any god. Some would call this agnosticism but there’s really no difference. It’s not an easy or comforting conclusion, but, it means we need to seek a moral basis somewhere other than “do this or you’ll go to hell!”

Skeptic Magazine and Free Inquiry are other sources for developing your critical thinking skills.
Science is under attack from many quarters these days. These books give some excellent introductions and explanations of some of the more common misconceptions and misguided attempts.

 

“The distaste for” progress” and machine-civilization which is so common among sensitive people is only defensible as an attitude of mind. ” George Orwell

Here are several books that focus on specific areas of irrational thinking and also show that the right has no monopoly on faulty thinking. These books give some excellent introductions and explanations of some of the more common misconceptions and misguided attempts.The Secret Origins of the Bible Tim Callahan

Proof of Creation

The Evolution of God

Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality
Quite a mouthful of a title, but an excellent book debunking ‘Goddess spirituality’s fraudulent promises of a newage of peace and justice.   Davis “exposes the complete want of archaeological evidence for this claim, revealing the ovement’s nineteenth century roots in radical Romanticism” (from the jacket)
cover
Higher Superstition : The Academic Left  and Its Quarrels with Science.. A thorough examination of the results of applying a confused literary philosophy to science.   Covers postmodernism, feminism, radical environmentalism, multiculturalism and AIDS activism — each of these areas has tremendous strengths, but the deconstructionist approach (aka political correctness) often leads to absurd positions.  None of these discussions can be dismissed with soundbites, and this book is heavy going in places, but essential for anyone trying to work or think within modern science and academia. cover

Life’s Dominion – Ronald Dworkin  – arguments  on deciding the taking of life – abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment
Heisenberg’s War – scientists’s responsibilities during war

Related work:

One of the more absurd and inane ideas is that of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution.  ID has no scientific backing – there’s no actual research supporting it, there’s no peer reviewed articles [as Michael Behe one of its chief proponents admitted under oath in the2005 trial in Dover PA. ]  So it’s sad to see Northwest Great Books Institute  include Behe’s  Darwin’s Black Box as one of its selection for their annual meeting in Bellingham WA.