Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: What to Ask Before Believing

Earlier this week The New York Times published an interesting discussion between philosopher Michael Lynch and physicist Alan Sokal on epistemic first principles, or, as Lynch put it in an earlier essay, the “Reasons for Reason.” To illustrate the practical advantage of observation and inductive reasoning in the formation of beliefs, Sokal quotes a passage from James Robert Brown’s Who Rules in Science?:

Certain reasoning patterns tend to promote survival; others don’t. If Og reasoned: “In the past tigers have regularly eaten people, but I’m sure this one will be quite friendly,” then very likely Og is not your ancestor.

Beliefs are important. How we form them can have profound consequences for our own lives and–especially in a democracy–for the lives of the people around us. In this 15-minute video from the Richard Dawkins Foundation, Skeptic magazine founder and editor Michael Shermer gives practical advice on how to separate sense from nonsense when forming beliefs. The next time someone tries to convince you of a tiger’s friendliness, do yourself a favor and take heed of what Shermer has to say. via Philosophy Monkey

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