Humanists of Greater Portland Meetup Message Board › New class series, how to be a critical thinker (6 sessions)

New class series, how to be a critical thinker (6 sessions)

Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,485
Starting in March 2013, there will be a free 6-week course in critical thinking. We will meet two times per month (the second and fourth Sundays of each month, from March through May).

We are studying a book that promises to teach "critical thinking" in an educational and memorable way. The book is "How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age." We will be reading the 2004 version (not the latest, but good enough, and much cheaper.) Click here to buy the 2004 version: http://tinyurl.com/bx...­ (you should be able to see one listed for under $5).

Here is a course syllabus:

Critical Thinking, course schedule (6 sessions):
(The second and fourth Sun. of each month, March through May)

1. Date: Sun. 3-10-13
Topic: Forward, Preface, Ch. 1 "Introduction: Close Encounters with the Strange," Ch. 2 "The Possibility of the Impossible," and Ch. 3 "Looking for Truth in Personal Experience."
Details: http://www.meetup.com...­

2. Date: Sun. 3-24-13
Topic: Ch. 4 "Relativism, Truth, and Reality" and Ch. 5 "Knowledge, Belief, and Evidence."
Details: http://www.meetup.com...­

3. Date: Sun. 4-14-13
Topic: Ch. 6 "Arguments Good, Bad, and Weird."
Details: http://www.meetup.com...­

4. Date: Sun. 4-28-13
Topic: Ch. 7 "Science and Its Pretenders"
Details: http://www.meetup.com...­

5. Date: Sun. 5-12-13
Topic: Ch. 8 "How to Assess a "Miracle Cure"
Details: http://www.meetup.com...­

6. Date: Sun. 5-26-13
Topic: Ch. 9 "Case Studies in the Extraordinary" and Epilogue.
Details: http://www.meetup.com...­


Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,486
In the class, we will talk about claims, such as the belief in Bigfoot. This week, a scientist claims that DNA proves the existence of Bigfoot. But there are scientists that are skeptical:
http://phys.org/news/...­

Excerpt:
A team of researchers led by Melba Ketchum of DNA Diagnostics in Nacogdoches, New Mexico, claims to have succeeded in sequencing the genome of Bigfoot (Sasquatch). The team published their findings in DeNovo, a journal that Ketchum purchased and renamed because mainstream scientific journals would not accept the study. Scientists have been understandably skeptical.
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,491
Update: Someone in class noticed that this website:

http://findpdf.net/do...­

says you can get the pdf file of the textbook for free by clicking here:

http://elearning.zaou...­
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,492
Major topics for this Sun. 3-24-13 session:

1. The truth is not relative! The statement "truth is relative" is self-refuting.

2. Everyone has beliefs. There's advice offered for deciding which beliefs have merit.

3. There's a detailed discussion on astrology, specifically, and why it is worthless for predicting anyone's future. About 25% of the population wrongly thinks that astrology has some legitimacy.
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,493
FYI, class notes, for session 2 of 6, are now uploaded, see them here:
http://www.meetup.com...­
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,496
FYI, class notes for session #3 are now uploaded, found here:
http://www.meetup.com...­
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,498
This Sunday is another class session. Click here to see all the details: http://tinyurl.com/cd...­ .

In this session the topic is “science.” What is the difference between real science and fake science (pseudoscience)? Some very important aspects to “real science” include testability, fruitfulness, scope, simplicity, and conservatism. Each of these will be discussed briefly below. The more these aspects are evaluated against any potential competing hypotheses, the more one can determine if they are dealing with real or fake science. (And important question this addresses is “Is ‘creation science’ real science or pseudoscience?”)

“Testability” refers to the ability to test a hypothesis. If there’s no way to test it, then it isn’t science. A good hypothesis should be able to make predictions that can be seen to validate the theory; or have tests that would falsify it if the hypothesis was not true.

“Fruitfulness” refers to how useful a theory can be. If true, it may predict new facts that are yet to be discovered. Sometimes a person has a hypothesis that indeed does have significant consequences, but they actually negatively impact the hypothesis; in other words, they disprove the theory. Some people, in the face of data that disconfirms their hypothesis, create new ad-hoc extensions to their theory. These are essentially exceptions that are created for the hypothesis, because the data works against their general hypothesis. The technique of using ad-hoc adjustments is a very unhealthy approach to science, generally speaking (there may be rare exceptions).

“Scope” refers to the diverse phenomena a hypothesis might explain, able to unify and systematize our existing knowledgebase. For example, Einstein’s theory of relativity could explain and predict everything that Newton’s theory could, plus more (explaining some things that Newton’s theory couldn’t).

“Simplicity” refers to the principle that the fewer assumptions that are made, the better. For example, if there are two possible explanations for how a person arrived at work, with one involving a car and the other a spaceship, then the car hypothesis would be more preferred because it is more aligned with our experience (our knowledgebase about how people travel).

“Conservatism” is closely related to “simplicity,” in saying that the more a hypothesis aligns with other known theories that have strong evidence, the better.

We will discuss these in more detail, plus a few other things. "Creation Science" comes up as a major illustration in this section, from the textbook we are using.

Science should be "fruity," but this is going a little too far... ;-)



Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,499
The notes file for today's class is available here:
http://www.meetup.com...­
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,500
The next class session is on 5-19-13. Details for the event are here:
http://www.meetup.com...­
Bernie D.
BernieDehler
Hillsboro, OR
Post #: 1,519
Our session this Sunday 5-19-13 is "assessing miracle cure claims."

There are many claims for this pill, or that surgery, to be a solution for your medical problem. But is it true? One technique used to help discover the truth is by the administering of double-blind tests, with a placebo. A placebo is a fake alternative, to see if the fake alternative gives any better results than the purported cure. One fascinating thing to learn is that even surgeries have been tested with placebos (this means, performing a fake surgery to see if the results are any better than a real surgery).

The use of placebos and double-blind tests are some helpful ways to determine if a cure is real. But there are also other principles that are important and will be discussed. When it comes to assessing the efficacy of a cure, critical thinking is a must.

Details for the event are here:
http://www.meetup.com...­






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