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

Should We Remain Open to New Evidence?

I filmed a short commentary to respond to something I came across a few weeks ago. Randy Helzerman posted a video response (in 2007) to William Lane Craig’s claim that Bayes’ Theorem can be employed to argue for the resurrection of Jesus. Here’s Helzerman’s video: (if you don’t want to watch the whole thing, maybe try starting around 4:23) I’m not certain that Helzerman is an atheist, but he plays a great Devil’s advocate if not. I’m also not sure whether he’s saying that it’s a psychological fact that atheists cannot entertain new evidence, or that they shouldn’t entertain new … Continue reading Should We Remain Open to New Evidence?

Ground Belief Podcast #2 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.”  This is part 2 of the interview — part 1 is here. The audio quality isn’t great, since we recorded the whole thing completely on a whim using my iPhone. If you like board games, nerds, and the psychology of critical … Continue reading Ground Belief Podcast #2 with Mark Swanson

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

Is Science Better than Faith?

Ways of Knowing? I have an atheist friend, Anthony, who does interviews on college campuses, asking students about their religious beliefs. He skillfully engages in Socratic dialogue, asking them about why they believe what they do and helping them identify flaws in their reasoning. When people mention “faith,” he frequently asks a question like this, “Do you think faith is a reliable way of coming to know things?” Anthony thinks of faith as a “way of knowing” in contrast to other ways, like science. Science uses evidence derived from observation, experimentation, etc. to test new ideas, where as the “faith-way” … Continue reading Is Science Better than Faith?