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How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age by Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaughn

 

Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaughn examine truth, UFOs and the paranormal. Debunking the X-Files mindset entertains some, but the best part of this work describes well-reasoned medicine (clinical trials repeated many times on humans, having representative, large enough control groups, accounting for all relevant causal factors). Medical anecdotes should be ignored, even when doctors deliver the anecdotes.

 

Schick and Vaughn discuss why solipsism and relativism rot minds, arguing that specific claims are not "true for me and not true for you." Claims are true or false, period. If you like aardvarks and your neighbor dislikes aardvarks, the claim "You like aardvarks," is true and the claim "Your neighbor likes aardvarks," is false. They are two separate claims, not one claim true for you and untrue for someone else.

 

But the categorization and explanation of logical fallacies by the authors is mediocre. Much of Weird Things is unclear and mistaken. The following is not a good principle of reasoning: "Premises are unacceptable if they are at least as dubious as the claim they are supposed to support." Does that mean if a conclusion has a five percent probability of being false, and one of its premises has a six percent probability of being false, the premise is unacceptable? I think not. If premises are relevant, valuable, and have sufficient probability of being true, they are acceptable, though they sometimes deserve smaller weight. Shick and Vaughn's emphasis on debunking fringe beliefs gets tiresome, but much of this work is worth it. Recommended.

249pp. (H) 1995

 

Book review article by J.T. Fournier, last updated December 31, 2014

 

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