Critical Thinking, Logic, and Rationality
Posted on June 30, 2013 by Pyrrho
Logic and Rationality
We care about logic in regard to rationality and critical thinking because some form of logic is necessary to arrive at valid conclusions. Although is true that we may arrive at incorrect conclusions even though we apply rigorous logic, it is essential to have followed a discipline that allows us, and just as importantly, others, to evaluate and re-evaluate our thinking. When we reach conclusions without having followed a rigorous discipline of logic and reasoning, we cannot reliably check the methods or the information that we may have used to develop our reasoning.
Errors are an unavoidable consequence of the limitations of reality as we know it. We use logical methods and rational analysis to check our work. We have formalized these methods into what is known as formal logic, mathematics, and the scientific method. The application of these methods range from the simplistic to the extremely complex, yet the fundamental principle remains the same, that is, the use of a formal system of rules for the collection, examination, testing, and storing of information, as well as a formal system of rules for the evaluation of the information.
People often use the term "critical thinking" without considering what it really means. In its simplest form, critical thinking is "thinking about thinking," although the definition encompasses much more than that. Applications of critical thinking range from the solving of puzzles to the systematic analysis of human thought. The key word is "critical': the meaning is not merely that of criticism, although that may be involved. Critical thinking requires much more than simply picking holes in an argument. It requires systematic approaches to analysis that may include non-standard methods. Although a discipline and structure is necessary for logic, critical thinking may involve inductive as well as deductive reasoning and may involve flashes of insight or human intuition. Even so, critical thinking still requires the framework of logic and rationality if we are to have reasonable confidence that we or someone else can work through our methods in order to check the validity of our conclusions.
The discipline requires that revision is possible. Revision is not only possible via the methods of logic and rationality, it is expected and is even a requirement. The disciplines of rationality, logic, and critical thinking ensure that we continue to evaluate information as new information becomes available and when other people, through the application of their own methods, arrive at different conclusions. The social aspect of critical thinking is essential to continued, improved understanding of reality.
Because imperfection and error are unavoidable in reality as we understand it to work, uncertainty and doubt are necessary parts of the discipline. We know that our observation of information may be affected by circumstances beyond our control, so we accept uncertainty as a given. We attempt to control for imprecision by various means, including but not limited to double-blind experiments, algorithms for statistical analysis of data, large observational sets, and painstaking methodologies. We do not expect perfection. We acknowledge and accept uncertainty as part of reality.
Objectivity is essentially an ideal, that is, a state that is desirable but, given the limitations of human capability, ultimately unattainable in absolute terms. We strive to remain as objective as possible, accepting that we are subject to bias. We attempt to control for bias using the same methods we use to control for uncertainty. When we fail to control for bias, the results of our work are suspect, if not invalid. Even machines are capable of bias, in terms of variances in the quality of manufacture or in terms of environmental affects on sensitive equipment.
How to Think About UFOs
A series of questions to ask when confronted with claims about extraterrestrials traveling to Earth
Posted on May 30, 2013 by Pyrrho
What is the claim?
- Is it specific or general?
- What are the details?
- Is the claim combined with assertions of fact?
- Is the claim combined with assertions of a religous nature?
- Does the claim conflict with the laws of physics, e.g. gravity?
- Is the claim unique or part of a group of claims about the same event?
Who is making the claim?
- What is their history regarding such claims?
- What evidence do they claim to have?
- Does their claim depend upon anecdotal accounts, i.e. stories that are recollections of events in the past?
- If there are anecdotal accounts, when did they allegedly take place?
- Are the people who allegedly experienced the events still alive?
- Are their stories consistent over time, or have they changed?
- Is there any?
- Are there actual pieces and parts of the UFO?
- Are there residuals, i.e. chemicals, waste products, damaged vegetation, altered landscape, radiation?
- Could any of the above have been produced by human action?
- How was the evidence collected?
- Who collected the evidence?
- What methods were used to prevent contamination of or tampering with the evidence?
- Where is it kept now?
- Where has it been kept in the past?
- Is there a distinct, specific, and detailed record of who has kept the evidence and where?
- Are scientists permitted to examine the evidence?
- Are there special conditions to be met before the evidence can be examined?
- How clear are the photographs?
- How clear is the video?
- How old are the photographs?
- Have they previously been debunked or explained?
- Could the photos or video have been altered?
- Could the videos have been shot using special effects?
- What is the scale of the putative UFO in relation to other elements in the images?
- Who originated the photos or video?
- What is their history regarding similar evidence?
- Are high resolution originals available, such as film negatives?
- What were the atmospheric conditions under which the photo evidence was generated?
- Are there corroborating photographs?
- Have efforts been made to examine the location and conditions where the photographs were taken?
- Are the originals available for examination by scientists?
- Are there special conditions to be met before examination is allowed?
Your Basic Skeptical Community
Posted on May 24, 2013 by Pyrrho
The mainstay of The Skeptical Community is embodied here by The Skeptical Community Forum. Feel free to join in.
In this world, truth and fiction are so interwoven that it is often nearly impossible to separate them. At this particular refuge for skepticism and critical thinking, you can expect merciless challenge of assertions, rationalizations, opinions, and whatever else someone claims to be the truth.
Without delving into a long-winded recitation of history: in 2004 this site was founded upon the basis of and need for free speech in the practice of skepticism and critical thinking. We intend to keep it that way.
Free speech isn't always easy. We are not here to protect you from the thoughts and opinions of other people. If you are easily offended, please be advised that we do not have a kiddy table or a shallow wading pool. We do not filter "bad words". We do not moderate discussions. There are plenty of other places where well-meaning people impose their own mores upon the expression of ideas.
As you may note if you read further down the page, we've had a couple of challenges lately. Well, we're still here.
Forum is Back Online
Posted on May 19, 2013 by Pyrrho
So is my broadband. Here's the link, you bastards: The Skeptical Community Forum
Test Forum is Online
Posted on May 14, 2013 by Paulie
What do I know from running a forum? It could get struck by lightning or something.
Fool with it if you feel like it. It will probably be deleted tomorrow or the next day, so don't put anything valuable in it.http://www.skepticalcommunity.com/shinebox
Posted on May 14, 2013 by Pyrrho
Sorry for the inconvenience. I've backed up the database locally and we are considering next steps.
It may be a while before the forum is restored. Certainly not before the weekend.
This attack was similar to the last one. Malware code was inserted into various PHP files, which will be deleted from the server. However, I will not put the forum back online immediately.
Please scan your computers for viruses and malware.
Again, sorry for the inconvenience.
I can be reached via jimdominic @ gmail . com
...and we are back...
Posted on April 20, 2013 by PyrrhoThe forum is back online.
I strongly suggest that you change your passwords. The database checked out clean but change your password anyway.
I have put some additional security in place and will continue to monitor the site.
Forums are offline
Posted on April 16, 2013 by Pyrrho
The forums are offline indefinitely to resolve a server intrusion. The database has been backed up, but numerous forum software files have been compromised.
Please take steps to scan your computers for viruses.
There definitely was malicious browser exploit code injected into the files. Under the circumstances it was necessary to shut down until this problem is resolved. No ETA at this time.
Sorry for any inconvenience.
Pixy has been checking the server and we are working on a restoration plan. This may take a couple of days. My best guess this morning is that we can get the forum back up on Saturday. If people want to discuss this further you can contact me at skepticforum @ gmail . com.
I've set up a clean installation of the forum software in a sooper-sekrit location on the server. Don't bother trying the obvious places...it won't be there. There are a few things yet to be done and I will issue on-the-spot guidance when it will be ready for you.
All previous forum software files have been deleted from the server, along with the WordPress files and some old blog software.
Welcome to The Skeptical Community
Posted on May 5, 2004 by skeptica
I welcome you to the Skeptical Community website and forum.
Please click the forum link above to access the forum community. This is a place on the internet that will welcome believers and skeptics of ALL flavors and interests. We value free speech. We value debate. We value interaction. We also value critical thinking above all.
That means there is apt to be a lot of passion and rhetoric thrown about. You need to have conviction about your thoughts. You may feel that your voice is not being heard. That happens. But, there may be another day and another time where your ideas and thoughts may be more receptive to everyone.
It is wonderful to have passion about critical thinking. Do not forget to have compassion for each other.
Critical thinking should be applied to all areas of your life. It is for everyone.
I hope you learn something everyday here. And, I hope that we build a community where we can show that critical thinking is a valuable skill that everyone should use in their lives.
Posted on February 3, 2011 by skeptica
Lately, I have been noticing a war of words between hard-line skeptics and kinder, gentler skeptics. This is most unfortunate. That is not to say that I don’t think that a discussion about how we talk to believers is unwarranted. In fact, I have always advocated an open dialogue that is not filled with acerbic rhetoric with others. After all, would you listen to someone with a righteous attitude that thinks that you are stupid, unenlightened and uninformed? I think not. The schoolyard bully is never the person that you will leave the best impact on you.
I think that the bigger picture is being missed by both sides. After all, we are a minority of a minority. Can we really afford to splinter off into groups at this stage of our development? We should all be uniting to accomplish a bigger goal.
If we continue along this route, we will become an “exclusive” group as opposed to an “inclusive” group. Currently, in our development as a community, the discussions are at an ivory-tower stage. These talks are held at a higher level of society because these people have the luxury and time to think about the questions at hand. There will be no “skeptic movement” until there is a grassroots level of effort among the members of the community.
For now, what I see is an emphasis on unconditional skepticism. Unconditional skepticism is not like unconditional love. It is complete, unqualified, and categorical skepticism. It is a quest for logical perfection with a hard edge of intolerance.
We need all kinds of approaches and all kinds of people to accomplish what I consider is the one important goal–critical thinking for everyone. Let’s cast aside the swords and think critically about that!
Please join me in discussing this in the Rants of a Street Skeptic subforum. Follow the Forums link above.
Where is the Skeptic Rage?
Posted on March 1, 2011 by skeptica
I thought I would be posting more, but I seem to be living my life as opposed to writing about it. Enough of the excuses, let’s get on with the rant! :-)
I see history possibly repeating itself here with the advent of all of the unrest in the Middle East. I fully support the people of any country demanding freedom and fairness. After all, having access and the ability to exercise both of those tenets is very important in the pursuit of an ideal society. What that society is or what it is based on is something that every country and their citizens have to determine.
However, as we have seen, leaders rarely want to give up power especially when they got that power not necessarily by the will of the people. The case in point here is Libya. By all measures, Muammar Ghadafi, should have stepped down many decades ago. But, he’s been propped up by the first world governments that have short term goals when it comes to oil and energy. Why haven’t we collectively found a way to lessen our dependence on oil?
Have people forgotten the lessons of the 70s oil crises (yes, there were two of them)? Here it is three decades later and we are even more wedded to oil consumption. And, let us not talk about the emerging economies of the third world countries that seek to have the same high energy lifestyle that the first world has. Can you blame them? They are only reacting to what they perceive is the “good life.”
So, my question is the following: where is the skeptic rage? There should be rampant rage for what is happening to economies all across the world. And there should be a lot of rage for what I think has been a lost opportunity on everyone’s part to rectify our dependence for oil.
I am not implying that only skeptics should be angry. Certainly, all of us should be angry enough to start to demand more accountability from our leaders. I know I have been doing that for a while. But, where are my brothers and sisters in skepticism? Is proving that ghosts don’t exist or that paranormal activity is a lie more important than the things that actually affect us on a daily basis?
yours in rage,