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

© 2014
by Theodore Schick, Lewis Vaughn

7th Edition 352 Pages Paperback / softback
9780078038365 0078038367
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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.



Chapter 1 Introduction: Close Encounters with the Strange 1 THE IMPORTANCE OF WHY 2 BEYOND WEIRD TO THE ABSURD 4 A WEIRDNESS SAMPLER 6 Notes 13

Chapter 2 The Possibility of the Impossible 14 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 3 Arguments Good, Bad, and Weird 33 CLAIMS AND ARGUMENTS 34 DEDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS 39 INDUCTIVE ARGUMENTS 42 Enumerative Induction 42 Analogical Induction 46 Hypothetical Induction (Abduction, or Inference to the Best Explanation) 47 INFORMAL FALLACIES 49 Unacceptable Premises 49 Begging the Question 49 False Dilemma 49 Irrelevant Premises 50 Equivocation 50 Composition 50 Division 51 Appeal to the Person 51 Genetic Fallacy 51 Appeal to Authority 51 Appeal to the Masses 52 Appeal to Tradition 52 Appeal to Ignorance 52 Appeal to Fear 53 Straw Man 53 Insufficient Premises 53 Hasty Generalization 53 Faulty Analogy 54 False Cause 54 Slippery Slope 54 STATISTICAL FALLACIES 55 Misleading Averages 55 Missing Values 55 Hazy Comparisons 56 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 4 Knowledge, Belief, and Evidence 62 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 5 Looking for Truth in Personal Experience 96 SEEMING AND BEING 97 PERCEIVING: WHY YOU CAN’T ALWAYS BELIEVE WHAT YOU SEE 99 Perceptual Constancies 99 The Role of Expectation 100 Looking for Clarity in Vagueness 101 The Blondlot Case 105 “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 Evidence 118 Subjective Validation 120 Confirmation Bias 126 The Availability Error 130 The Representativeness Heuristic 134 Anthropomorphic Bias 136 Against All Odds 139 ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE: WHY TESTIMONIALS CAN’T BE TRUSTED 142 The Variable Nature of Illness 144 The Placebo Effect 146 Overlooked Causes 147 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 6 Science and Its Pretenders 158 SCIENCE AND DOGMA 159 SCIENCE AND SCIENTISM 160 SCIENTIFIC METHODOLOGY 161 CONFIRMING AND REFUTING HYPOTHESES 166 CRITERIA OF ADEQUACY 171 Testability 172 Fruitfulness 174 Scope 177 Simplicity 178 Conservatism 180 CREATIONISM, EVOLUTION, AND CRITERIA OF ADEQUACY 181 Scientific Creationism 183 Intelligent Design 191 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 7 Case Studies in the Extraordinary 220 THE SEARCH FORMULA 222 Step 1: State the Claim 223 Step 2: Examine the Evidence for the Claim 223 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 8 Relativism, Truth, and Reality 295 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



New to this Edition

New boxes on ghost hunters, ancient aliens, the Phoenix Lights, the Stephenville lights, end of the world prophecies, and immunization and autism.

New or updated sections on astrology, parapsychology, time travel, space travel, and psychic predictions.

New case study on climate change.

Retained Features

Explanations of over 30 principles of knowledge and evidence enhance readers’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Investigations of over 50 paranormal, supernatural, or mysterious phenomena including ghosts, astrology, ESP, and UFOs demonstrate how to apply principles of reasoning and judgment.

Discussion of the nature and function of science helps readers learn how to use the scientific method and distinguish science from pseudoscience.

Description of the SEARCH formula—a step-by-step procedure for evaluating any hypothesis—gives readers a template for assessing the plausibility of any claim.

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