Monday, November 18, 2013

Another Example of IDiot Reasoning

My philosopher friend, Chris DiCarlo, and I are trying to teach our students how to think critically. We use the evolution/creation debate as an example of how to make valid arguments (and how not to make them). Two of the important points we emphasize are that you should try to avoid the strawman fallacy and you should try very hard not to misrepresent your opponent's point of view. (These are related.)

I tell my students that it's important to understand what your opponents are arguing—you must try and walk in their shoes, so to speak. This is crucial. You may decide that their arguments are completely wrong and ridiculous but you must make sure you interpret them correctly or you are guilty of several sins.

You might recall that I recently posted a comment about David Evans, Executive Director of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) [David Evans Says, "Teach What the Vast Majority of Scientists Affirm as Settled Science"]. I liked the idea that we should teach what the "vast majority of scientists affirm as settled science." When it comes to teaching, you have to make a decision about what is good science and what is bad science and it seems reasonable to NSTA (and to me) that the consensus among the experts is a good criterion to use. If you read the comments in that post you'll see that it's not always easy to decided what that consensus is, but that's not the main point.

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