Problems in Thinking

Problems in Scientific Thinking.

1: Theory influences observations.

2: The observer changes the observed.

3: Observational tools or systems construct results.

Problems in Pseudoscientific Thinking.

4: Anecdotes do not make science.

5: The use of scientific jargon does not make science.

6: Bold statements do not make claims true.
The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinarily well tested it must be.

7: Heresy does not equal correctness.

8: Burden of Proof: Outsiders must prove their position; insiders take their facts as a given with no need to question their validity.

9: Rumors don’t equal reality.

10: The unexplained is not inexplicable.

11: Failures get rationalized.

12: After the fact reasoning, Correlation does not mean causation.

13: Coincidence does not prove something.
Coincidence rarely takes into account the actual statistics or probability of the event happening nor does it relate how many times it didn't happen before under the circumstances.

14: Representativeness: We must analyze and see unusual events in the larger context to see how well they represent their class of phenomena.

Problems in Logical Thinking.

15: Emotive words and fake analogies
Words and false stories used to create an emotional response rather than one of logical thinking are tools of rhetoric.

16: Ad Ignorantium
The false notions that “if it can’t be proven it must be false” and “if it can’t be disproven it must be true.”

17: Ad Hominem and Tu Quoque literally “to the man” and “you also”
These fallacies redirect thinking onto the person holding or presenting the idea. A judgment of the thinker is used to say something about the idea itself though this does not prove or disprove anything.

18: Hasty generalization
Prejudice, conclusions are drawn before facts warrant it.

19: Over reliance on authorities
We often automatically trust the judgments of someone who, for whatever reason, we feel are authorities. We must examine the evidence.

20: Either-or
This is the creation of a dichotomy relationship. The false thinking is that if one is wrong the other must be right. Things are framed in a way so that your thinking is limited and black and white. With this kind of thinking, once one thing is disproven you are expected to come to the false conclusion that the other MUST be correct. The truth is that there must be POSITVE EVEDENCE for that which is proven, not just negative or disproving evidence against opposing theories.

21: Circular reasoning (Fallacy of redundancy, begging the question or tautology)
A claim is merely a restatement of one of its premises. Here is a simple Example: “Is there a God?”…. “Yes, because the Bible says so”….. “Is the Bible correct?”… “Yes because it was inspired by God.” So in this limited line of reasoning God is because God is.

22: Reductis ad absurdum and the slippery slope
Reductis ad absurdum” - carrying on an argument to it’s logical end, so reducing it to an absurd conclusion. We are then expected to be sure that if an arguments consequences are absurd it must be false, but this is not true. “The slippery slope” - The construction of a scenario that leads to an end to prove something about earlier events. Here is a simple example: “Ice-cream makes you fat, this leads to obesity, this can cause death.” Conclusion - “Don’t eat Ice-cream, it kills.”

Psychological Problems in Thinking.

23: Effort, inadequacies, and the need for certainty, control and simplicity: Most of us, most of the time want nice, neat answers and control of our environment. This can radically oversimplify and interfere with critical thinking. We commonly, don’t accept things that discredit our vested interests and want to think we know how things are. This increases with traditional education.

24: Problem solving inadequacies: In tests when people must chose a right answer to a problem, after being told particular guesses are right or wrong they….
A. Immediately form a hypothesis and look only for examples to conform to it.
B. Do not seek evidence to disprove their hypothesis.
C. Are very slow to change the hypothesis even when blatantly incorrect.
D. adopt overly simplified hypotheses if the information is too complex
E. If there is no solution, if the problem is a trick and right and wrong is given at random, they form hypotheses about coincidental relationships in the observed. Causality is always final.

We must make an effort to overcome these inadequacies in solving problems.

25: Ideological immunity or the Planck Problem: In science and in general life we all resist a paradigm shift of any kind. The more educated, the stronger the supposition that what and all that we know is correct. The lower the IQ, the less likely to welcome new ideas and to be open-to or accept them. The higher the IQ, the more we think we “know” the answer and are less likely to change our minds.


Spinoza’s Dictum “ I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions but to understand them.”

Derived from the book “Why People Believe Strange Things” by Michael Schermer

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