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

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2001-08-09
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages
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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.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction: Close Encounters with the Strange

The Importance of Why / Beyond Weird to The Absurd / A Weirdness Sampler

2. The Possibility of the Impossible

Paradigms and the Paranormal / Logical Possibility versus Physical Impossibility / The Appeal to Ignorance / The Possibility of Esp / Theories and Things / On Knowing the Future

3. Looking for Truth in Personal Experience

Seeming and Being / Perceiving: True or False? / Perceptual Constancies / The Role of Expectation / Looking for Clarity in Vagueness / The Blondlot Case / "Constructing" UFOs / Remembering: Do We Revise the Past? / Judging: The Habit of Unwarranted Assumptions / Against All Odds / Selective Attention / The Limits of Personal Experience

4. Relativism, Truth, and Reality

We Each Create Our Own Reality / Reality is Socially Constructed / Reality is Consituted by Conceptual Schemes / Facing Reality

5. Knowledge, Belief, and Evidence

Babylonian Knowledge-Acquisition Techniques / Propositional Knowledge / Reasons and Evidence / Expert Opinion / Coherence and Justification / Sources of Knowledge / The Appeal to Faith / The Appeal to Intuition / The Appeal to Mystical Experience / Astrology Revisited

6. Evidence and Inference

Denying the Evidence / Confirmation Bias / The Availability Error / The Representativeness Heuristic / A Little Logic

7. Science and Its Pretenders

Science and Dogma / Science and Scientism / Scientific Methodology / Confirming and Confuting Hypotheses / Criteria of Adequacy / Testability / Fruitfulness / Scope / Simplicity / Conservatism / Creationism, Evolution, and Criteria of Adequacy / Parapsychology

8. How to Assess a ¿Miracle Cure¿

Personal Experience / The Variable Nature of Illness / The Placebo Effect / Overlooked Causes / The Doctor¿s Evidence / The Appeal to Tradition / The Reasons of Science / Medical Research / Types of Studies

9. Case Studies in the Extraordinary

The Search Formula /

Step 1: State the Claim /

Step 2: Examine the Evidence for the Claim /

Step 3: Consider Alternative Hypotheses /

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

Dowsing / UFO Abductions / Communicating with the Dead / Near-Death Experiences


Informal Fallacies / Unacceptable Premises / Begging the Question / False Dilemma / Irrelevant Premises / Equivocation / Composition / Division / Appeal to the Person / Genetic Fallacy / Appeal to Authority / Appeal to the Masses / Appeal to Tradition / Appeal to Ignorance / Appeal to Fear / Insufficient Premises / Hasty Generalization / Faulty Analogy / False Cause

In each chapter:

Study Questions

Suggested Readings


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