It can be applied in many different situations. Carl is a real scientist and this is your chance to see how the mind of a scientist works. Learn more about Carl here. What skeptical thinking boils down to is the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and -- especially important -- to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument. The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion that emerges out of a train follows from the premise of starting point and whether that premise is true.
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Arguments from authority carry little weight in science there are no "authorities". Quantify, wherever possible. If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.
Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified shown to be false by some unambiguous test. In other words, is isttestable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result? Additional issues are Conduct control experiments - especially "double blind" experiments where the person taking measurements is not aware of the test and control subjects.
Check for confounding factors - separate the variables. Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric Ad hominem - attacking the arguer and not the argument. Argument from "authority". Argument from adverse consequences putting pressure on the decision maker by pointing out dire consequences of an "unfavourable" decision. Appeal to ignorance absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Begging the question assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased.
Observational selection counting the hits and forgetting the misses. Statistics of small numbers such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes. Misunderstanding the nature of statistics President Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence!
Inconsistency e. Non sequitur - "it does not follow" - the logic falls down. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - "it happened after so it was caused by" - confusion of cause and effect. Meaningless question "what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Excluded middle - considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities making the "other side" look worse than it really is. Short-term v.
Slippery slope - a subset of excluded middle - unwarranted extrapolation of the effects give an inch and they will take a mile. Confusion of correlation and causation. Straw man - caricaturing or stereotyping a position to make it easier to attack..
Suppressed evidence or half-truths. Weasel words - for example, use of euphemisms for war such as "police action" to get around limitations on Presidential powers.
The Balony Detection Kit - Carl Sagan on Critical Thinking
By Maria Popova Carl Sagan November 9, —December 20, was many things — a cosmic sage , voracious reader , hopeless romantic , and brilliant philosopher. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts. Spin more than one hypothesis.
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The following are suggested as tools for testing arguments and detecting fallacious or fraudulent arguments: Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view. Arguments from authority carry little weight in science there are no "authorities". Quantify, wherever possible. If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work. Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified shown to be false by some unambiguous test. In other words, it is testable?