Got Thinking Skills?

It’s hard to say whether the internet contains more good resources than bad, but anytime we highlight a good resource, we help nudge the inequality a little. So here’s a cat video. Just kidding! This website, “Critical Thinking Web,” stands out among many similar sites for it’s ease-of-use, rigor and interactive design. If you want to explore the world of logic and analytical thinking (and more!), this is a wonderful playground. I’ve used it as a supplement in my philosophy and logic courses. Founded in 2004 by Dr. Joe Lau of Hong Kong University, the site offers help with: Critical thinking … Continue reading Got Thinking Skills?

The Past Is Irrelevant

I frequently engage in conversations about beliefs. It’s kinda my thing. People often ask about the history of my beliefs or of someone else’s beliefs, especially religious beliefs. Everyone likes to construct a coherent story that will help them make sense of another person’s views. “That’s how they were raised,” or “they’re just reacting against such-and-such,” or “they went though some trauma that caused them to change their beliefs.” While I do find all this psychologically interesting, when it comes to evaluating a person’s beliefs, it is irrelevant. In the video, I don’t explain why the past is irrelevant. The … Continue reading The Past Is Irrelevant

Halloween, Christians, and Knowledge

Every October, I tread carefully on the subject of Halloween. Many people in conservative churches believe that Christians should not participate in a holiday with such unwholesome, pagan origins. Others see it as harmless fun. What should a reasonable, devout person think and do about Halloween? (This is an in-house debate for Christians, so caveat lector. If you’ve ever been baffled by the Christian fuss over the holiday, perhaps this will help.) The Irony of Knowledge The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth, speaks rather directly to the problem of “indirect” participation in pagan rituals. (If … Continue reading Halloween, Christians, and Knowledge

Ground Belief Podcast #1 with Mark Swanson

My first ever attempt at a podcasty thing. I “interviewed” Mark Swanson, Associate Professor in the MU School of Journalism. Mark is also the creator of Feudum, a new table top “Euro” style strategy game. Mark and I talk frequently about how complex board games require and develop critical thinking skills, and that’s the subject of our conversation on this “podcast.”  I’ve broken the interview up into two 20-min. segments, and the second half will be posted later this week. The audio quality isn’t great, since we recorded the whole thing completely on a whim using my iPhone. If you like … Continue reading Ground Belief Podcast #1 with Mark Swanson

Bad Thinking, Part 3: The SI Jinx

Pete Rose, infamous Cincinnati Reds baseball player, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in August of 1978, in the midst of a 44-game hitting streak. That same week, his streak ended. Numerous other examples over the years foster the belief that players or teams who achieve SI cover-status will experience the “SI Jinx” soon thereafter. A pair of local favorites: the University of Kansas football program appeared on the November 2007 cover after an 11-0 start, and lost the following week to rival Missouri; Missouri then graced the cover in December 2007 after reaching their first #1 ranking, and … Continue reading Bad Thinking, Part 3: The SI Jinx

Bad Thinking, Part 2: Mood Matters

Law and Order: SVU. (Start the video at 9:36, but you may have to watch some ads.) Notice the shift in mood. Scene: detectives asking a restaurant owner (Lyla) to look at the photographs of two criminal suspects, a man and a woman. Seemingly frustrated, she looks at them but doesn’t recognize either. Lyla: I’m not really good with faces. I’m more of a word person. Detective #1: Here’s a word. Focus. [Lyla abruptly hands the photos back to the detective and walks away, obviously offended.] Detective #2: What my partner means to say is that maybe you’re just underestimating … Continue reading Bad Thinking, Part 2: Mood Matters

How To Avoid Bad Thinking, Part 1

Fast and Wrong? Nobody likes being wrong. It’s embarrassing, it gives rise to regret, and sometimes it even places us in harm’s way. In my own experience, I’ve learned that I can avoid mistakes by slowing down and thinking things through before making a move. Sometimes I spend a good fifteen minutes analyzing my options. Unfortunately, when I do this in a chess match with my son, he starts expressing his frustration in various forms of body language. This slow-approach also causes problems in most sports, especially those involving high-speed projectiles. But in many contexts, slowing down and concentrating on … Continue reading How To Avoid Bad Thinking, Part 1

Fast Judgment, Slow Heart

We’ve always been good at jumping to conclusions and letting our prejudices run away with our reason, but now things are different. Our dumb ideas don’t just fizzle out, dying quietly in some back alley of our brain. We violently extract them from our imagination, like undeveloped offspring, and send them careening through cyberspace to assault everyone who will listen. Why? Because we can. In the classic sci-fi film, Forbidden Planet, we encounter a world where a massive machine empowers people to telepathically create anything by the power of thought alone. “Creation without instrumentality.” But they forgot that not all … Continue reading Fast Judgment, Slow Heart

Is It Arrogant to Think You’re Right?

Arrogance stinks. I’ve been accused of it, sometimes guilty of it. And I’ve seen the effects of it—even in my relationship with my dad. A year before he died, we attended our first and only baseball game together. My father loved baseball. When he offered to show me how to “keep score,” I scoffed, informing him that I wasn’t stupid and knew how to keep score. He tried to explain, but I had felt my intelligence insulted and wouldn’t have it. He didn’t force the issue. Years later, after he was gone, I realized what he was saying. I still … Continue reading Is It Arrogant to Think You’re Right?

Changing People’s Minds

I came across this article about Blaise Pascal’s persuasion “trick” a few months ago and loved it. (The title is a bit click-baity, but the principle is sound.) Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian. (Check out his wiki here.) An impressive fellow, to say the least. I won’t try to summarize the article, but if you enjoy engaging in lively discussions about important things with people who disagree with you (and actually hope to persuade), then this is worth a read! Groundbelief.com exists to help people learn how to communicate with each other about religion, politics, etc. … Continue reading Changing People’s Minds