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

Paperback | January 28, 2013

byTheodore Schick, Lewis Vaughn

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This concise and engaging text teaches the basic principles of good reasoning through an examination of widely held beliefs about the paranormal, the supernatural, and the mysterious. By explaining what distinguishes knowledge from opinion, science from pseudoscience, and evidence from hearsay, How to Think about Weird Things helps the reader develop the skills needed to tell the true from the false and the reasonable from the unreasonable.

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This concise and engaging text teaches the basic principles of good reasoning through an examination of widely held beliefs about the paranormal, the supernatural, and the mysterious. By explaining what distinguishes knowledge from opinion, science from pseudoscience, and evidence from hearsay, How to Think about Weird Things helps the...

Format:PaperbackDimensions:9.1 × 6.4 × 0.6 inPublished:January 28, 2013Publisher:McGraw-Hill EducationLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0078038367

ISBN - 13:9780078038365

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

FOREWORD vii

PREFACE ix

Chapter 1Introduction: Close Encounters with theStrange1

THE IMPORTANCE OF WHY 2

BEYOND WEIRD TO THE ABSURD 4

A WEIRDNESS SAMPLER 6

Notes 13

Chapter 2The Possibility of the Impossible14

PARADIGMS AND THE PARANORMAL 15

LOGICAL POSSIBILITY VERSUS PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY 16

THE POSSIBILITY OF ESP 22

THEORIES AND THINGS 24

ON KNOWING THE FUTURE 25

Summary 29

Study Questions 29

Evaluate these Claims 30

Discussion Questions 30

Field Problem 30

Critical Reading and Writing 31

Suggested Readings 31

Notes 32

Chapter 3Arguments Good, Bad, and Weird33

CLAIMS AND ARGUMENTS 34

DEDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS 39

INDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS 42

Enumerative Induction42

Analogical Induction46

Hypothetical Induction (Abduction, or Inference to the Best Explanation)47

INFORMAL FALLACIES 49

Unacceptable Premises49

Begging the Question49

False Dilemma 49

Irrelevant Premises50

Equivocation50

Composition50

Division51

Appeal to the Person51

Genetic Fallacy51

Appeal to Authority51

Appeal to the Masses 52

Appeal to Tradition52

Appeal to Ignorance52

Appeal to Fear53

Straw Man53

Insufficient Premises53

Hasty Generalization53

Faulty Analogy54

False Cause 54

Slippery Slope54

STATISTICAL FALLACIES 55

Misleading Averages55

Missing Values55

Hazy Comparisons56

Summary 56

Study Questions 57

Evaluate these Claims 58

Discussion Questions 59

Field Problem 59

Critical Reading and Writing 60

Suggested Readings 60

Notes 61

Chapter 4Knowledge, Belief, and Evidence62

BABYLONIAN KNOWLEDGE-ACQUISITION TECHNIQUES 63

PROPOSITIONAL KNOWLEDGE 64

REASONS AND EVIDENCE 65

EXPERT OPINION 71

COHERENCE AND JUSTIFICATION 74

SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE 75

THE APPEAL TO FAITH 77

THE APPEAL TO INTUITION 79

THE APPEAL TO MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE 81

ASTROLOGY REVISITED 84

Summary 90

Study Questions 91

Evaluate these Claims 91

Discussion Questions 91

Field Problem 91

Critical Reading and Writing 92

Suggested Readings 92

Notes 93

Chapter 5Looking for Truth in PersonalExperience96

SEEMING AND BEING 97

PERCEIVING: WHY YOU CAN'T ALWAYS BELIEVE WHAT YOU SEE 99

Perceptual Constancies99

The Role of Expectation100

Looking for Clarity in Vagueness101

The Blondlot Case105 "Constructing" UFOs 107

REMEMBERING: WHY YOU CAN'T ALWAYS TRUST WHAT YOU RECALL 111

CONCEIVING: WHY YOU SOMETIMES SEE WHAT YOU BELIEVE 118

Denying the Evidence118

Subjective Validation120

Confirmation Bias126

The Availability Error130

The Representativeness Heuristic134

Anthropomorphic Bias136

Against All Odds 139

ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE: WHY TESTIMONIALS CAN'T BE TRUSTED 142

The Variable Nature of Illness144

The Placebo Effect146

Overlooked Causes147

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE: WHY CONTROLLED STUDIES CAN BE

TRUSTED 148

Summary 150

Study Questions 151

Evaluate these Claims 151

Discussion Questions 152

Field Problem 152

Critical Reading and Writing 152

Suggested Readings 153

Notes 153

Chapter 6Science and Its Pretenders158

SCIENCE AND DOGMA 159

SCIENCE AND SCIENTISM 160

SCIENTIFIC METHODOLOGY 161

CONFIRMING AND REFUTING HYPOTHESES 166

CRITERIA OF ADEQUACY 171

Testability172

Fruitfulness174

Scope177

Simplicity178

Conservatism180

CREATIONISM, EVOLUTION, AND CRITERIA OF ADEQUACY 181

Scientific Creationism183

Intelligent Design191

PARAPSYCHOLOGY 197

Summary 211

Study Questions 212

Evaluate these Claims 213

Discussion Questions 213

Field Problem 213

Critical Reading and Writing 213

Suggested Readings 214

Notes 215

Chapter 7Case Studies in the Extraordinary220

THE SEARCH FORMULA 222

Step 1: State the Claim223

Step 2: Examine the Evidence for the Claim223

Step 3: Consider Alternative Hypotheses 224

Step 4: Rate, According to the Criteria of Adequacy, Each Hypothesis 225

HOMEOPATHY 227

INTERCESSORY PRAYER 231

UFO ABDUCTIONS 234

COMMUNICATING WITH THE DEAD 247

NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES 252

GHOSTS 267

CONSPIRACY THEORIES 275

Summary 287

Study Questions 288

Evaluate these Claims 288

Field Problem 289

Critical Reading and Writing 289

Suggested Readings 290

Notes 290

Chapter 8Relativism, Truth, and Reality295

WE EACH CREATE OUR OWN REALITY 297

REALITY IS SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED 301

REALITY IS CONSTITUTED BY CONCEPTUAL SCHEMES 306

THE RELATIVIST'S PETARD 311

FACING REALITY 313

Summary 315

Study Questions 316

Evaluate these Claims 316

Discussion Questions 316

Field Problem 316

Critical Reading and Writing 317

Suggested Readings 318

Notes 318

CREDITS C-1

INDEX I -1