David M. Nixon
Engages students as active thinkers in their reading, analysis of writing and media, and writing. Emphasis is placed upon formulating, and critically evaluating arguments in examples and essays typical of both academic inquiry and active citizen engagement in everyday life.
Critical Thinking: How To Think About Weird Things. Do you believe in Big Foot? How about alien abductions? Telepathy? Astrology? Homeopathy? Prophetic dreams? Ghosts? Demonic possession? If not, why not? Are there good reasons to believe such things? Or good reasons to NOT believe such things? How do you tell good reasons from bad ones?
In this class we’ll investigate various paranormal, supernatural, and generally mysterious phenomena as a way to learn about and build our critical thinking skills. We’ll learn about the principles of good reasoning, the fallacies to avoid, and how to separate science from pseudo-science. We’ll address the question of whether “truth is relative”. We’ll learn why we should be skeptical of anecdotal evidence, and we’ll learn how to compare and evaluate various competing explanatory hypotheses.
When I look into my crystal ball, I see your future! It is this: At the end of this course you will have the resources to be able to critically evaluate the evidence and decide about these things for yourself.
Student learning goals
learning about informal fallacies and how to avoid them
learn about the principles of good reasoning
learn how to separate science from pseudo-science
learn how to compare and evaluate various competing explanatory hypotheses
learn why we should be skeptical of anecdotal evidence
get better at critical thinking
General method of instruction
No per-requisites. But students need to be willing to fully participate and speak in front of others.
NOTE: students who cannot make it to the first week of class are STRONGLY DISCOURAGED from taking this class, as you will lose points that CANNOT BE MADE UP.
Class assignments and grading