Tag Archives: skepticism

Carl Sagan Day: Three Historians Reflect on Carl Sagan’s Life

For “Carl Sagan Day” (which is today), this extended reflection on Carl Sagan’s life seems fitting to post.

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Who’s the Pillar of Salt Here?

Imagine yourself a teen or young adult church member in America, but you have doubts. What happens when you express them?  At Christianity Today, Drew Dyke, the author of Generation Ex-Christian (Moody), shares his disturbing interview discoveries:  Almost to a person, … Continue reading

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Critical Thinking Tip #2: Be Alert to Your Premises

Thomas Jefferson once encountered a jaw-dropping claim. The claim that confronted Jefferson was from eyewitnesses who said that they had seen rocks fall from the sky. They even claimed to retrieve fragments from them. And here’s the kicker: the witnesses, under normal circumstances, … Continue reading

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Think v. Blink: When Reasoning, Should You Be Attentive to Your Emotional States?

When reasoning, should you be attentive to your emotional states? I say yes. To illustrate why, let’s pretend that a friend of yours comes to you with the following claim: I’m pregnant. Should you believe her? Perhaps your blink (your first visceral … Continue reading

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The Origin of the Words “Agnostic” and “Agnosticism”

I found the following little gem in Google’s library of free and out-of-print books yesterday: it is the story of the origin of the words “agnostic” and “agnosticism”, charmingly told by Richard A. Armstrong, in his book, Agnosticism and Theism in … Continue reading

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Video of the Apparent Missile Launch Seen over Los Angeles Yesterday

As of right now, the Pentagon is denying responsibility for Monday’s apparent missile launch near Los Angeles, claiming not to have any idea what might have caused the appearance of so large a contrail (“condensation trail”). Might it be from a submarine? … Continue reading

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Ross Douthat’s Curious Reasoning about the Historical Jesus

Ross Douthat, in a recent New York Times piece, says that scholars would evaluate the documentary evidence for Jesus’s sayings and doings far more sympathetically if the New Testament had no miracles in it: If the letters of Saint Paul (the earliest surviving … Continue reading

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Sean Carroll on What It Means to Have a “Sciencey Attitude”

I like this pithy summary, by Sean Carroll, of what science is: Propose an idea, see where it leads, toss it out if it conflicts with the data, build on it if it seems promising. But what if your idea … Continue reading

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Aristotle on (what ought to be) a source of social shame

A great Aristotle quote: It is absurd to hold that a man ought to be ashamed of being unable to defend himself with his limbs but not of being unable to defend himself with speech and reason, when the use … Continue reading

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In praise of Chateauneuf (Voltaire’s godfather and tutor)

Below are some rather impious lines from La Moisade, a 17th century French satirical poem (author unknown). It opens with this sass of Mosaic legislation: A teaching so irrelevant Shall not my doubts destroy? With empty sophism thou shalt not My reason … Continue reading

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Steven Pinker is skeptical of new media skepticism

At the New York Times this week, Steven Pinker has a not-to-be-missed op-ed on new media skepticism. A taste: Media critics write as if the brain takes on the qualities of whatever it consumes, the informational equivalent of “you are what … Continue reading

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A critical thinking question: what do you do when experts collide?

On the question of whether the United States is headed for an inflationary period or a deflationary period, highly trained economists are divided. This today at the Economist: Last week, we launched our economics channel with a debate on whether inflation … Continue reading

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Three Pretty Good Reasons to Doubt the Resurrection of Jesus

Below are three pretty good reasons to doubt the resurrection of Jesus: First, no agnostic or atheist needs to prove a negative. Burdens of proof fall upon those making a spectacular claim. If someone claims, for example, that an intelligent … Continue reading

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Messianic prophecy, Jesus, and an inconvenient fact

Am I impressed that the Hebrew Bible (the “Old Testament”) has numerous chapters and passages that seem to foreshadow Jesus’s ministry and death? No. Why? Because their predictive value is vastly diminished by an inconvenient fact: THE WRITERS OF THE NEW … Continue reading

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If bees believed

If bees had religion, wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect them to talk to an all-powerful and all loving Queen Bee and imagine her heaven as hive and flower? Our Mother who art in hiven, . . . It would … Continue reading

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John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) on Hell Belief and Critical Thinking

In John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography  is a brilliant reflection on hell belief: he argues that belief in hell is made paradoxically both strong and weak by an across the board system failure in critical thinking. Here are the two critical thinking errors that Mill … Continue reading

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Teaser for the Pilot TV Show “The Skeptologists”

Michael Shermer and his gang of skeptical inquirers look like they’re channeling the Sopranos. And in the word “skeptologist” I feel a vague association with “exorcist.” I don’t know if this show is ever going beyond the pilot stage—or if any … Continue reading

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David Aaronovich on the Growing Skeptics’ Movement

In a Salon interview, David Aaronovich, the author of a new book that historically contextualizes and debunks conspiracy theories, praises the post-9-11 growing skeptics’ movement in the United States and Britain: Maybe I’m a false optimist, but I think we have a … Continue reading

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Blogging Schick and Vaughn’s “How to Think about Weird Things,” Chapter 2

Every other year or so I find myself returning to Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn’s critical thinking text, How to Think about Weird Things, and rereading the whole darn thing through again. Schick and Vaughn’s book is a rather popular college text, and it’s in its sixth edition. … Continue reading

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Of Cookie Crumbs and Religion’s True Nature

I have two questions. Here’s my first: if a crumb from a cookie falls to the kitchen table and breaks into four pieces, do you now have one cookie crumb divided by four, or four cookie crumbs? Here’s my second … Continue reading

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