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Understanding Scientific Reasoning

by Ronald Giere


Ronald Giere covers how to analyze media reports of scientific information. This is not a book about reasoning strategies within various scientific fields.


Giere begins with a general discussion of data, evidence, models, and predictions, delivering short, well-written essay examples of historical cases--DNA, evolution, phlogiston, astrology--and how they fit into the scheme. This discussion takes up 118 pages.


Much of the remainder of the book covers statistics and causal relationships. He shows what correlations are, what determines their strengths. Discussing statistics, he shows how we can go wrong with unrepresentative samples and other errors. Turning to causal claims, he writes about the distinction between correlation and cause. Smoking and Saccharin are two issues covered in detail.


The last two chapters cover decision-making--alternatives, expected values, outcomes, and their ilk.


The material in this work is covered more clearly and concisely in Decision Making: Its Logic and Practice. If you enjoy science writing, his examples might be a pleasure. Giere’s work resembles a more difficult version of Discover Magazine. Recommended.


J.T. Fournier, updated 5/09/09


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