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Excerpts and Special Features:



Some Special Features:
From Chapter 9: Justification, Paradigms and Reasoning
From Chapter 10: Seeing, Reasoning and Scientific Justification
From Chapter 12: Philosophical Dialectic and High Justification
The Basic Philosophical Ideas behind Critical Thinking:
From Chapter 13: Religion and Science
From Chapter 14: Pseudoscience as Unjustified Statements
From Chapter 15: The United States and the Global Corporate Economy
The Bastard Theory of CEO Compensation:
Jukebox Government:
Environmental Damage:
The Business Cycle:
Taxes and “Wealthfare:”
Korten on Corporations:
Near the conclusion of the book:



Some Special Features:

Several features of this book ought to be of wide use to many readers. First, the tables of reason and conclusion indicators in Chapter One should be of use to readers of any level to improve their recognition of reasoning and analysis of it into reason and conclusions.

Second, the method of arrow diagramming in Chapters One and Two should help anyone determine the structure of any piece of reasoning no matter how long or complex.

Third, Chapter 6 contains a very recent, large expansion of syllogistic logic which enables us to form general statements with much more precision on five levels of generality, not just two. It also provides a method of determining validity of 4,000 syllogistic forms which is exact and avoids the circle - drawing and confusion students sometimes face over where to put the “x” in Venn diagrams.

Fourth, Chapters 9 and 10 get deeply into that part of Theory of knowledge called “justification.” This is essential for evaluation of unsupported claims. Chapter 12 expounds the philosophical positions underlying critical thinking as a method.

Fifth, for young people, particularly students, Chapters 13, 14, and 15 provide large doses of negative facts about religion, pseudoscience, and the American and global corporate economy as things to be critical about, background for evaluation of many unsupported claims.

From Chapter 9: Justification, Paradigms and Reasoning

There are some powerful parts of human nature which distort our world views, making us poor epistemic agents. The main ones are EGO, SELF-DECEPTION and WISHFUL THINKING. “Egotism” means thinking that you are better than others “Egoism” means "looking out for Number One." Both often lead to “rationalization.” Rationalization is reasoning from reasons which falsely favor oneself and ones' group. In general, people tend to think too highly of themselves, their own family members, school, church, nation. They also think too lowly of others. Gilovich cites surveys which show that large majorities of people think that they are more intelligent, fair-minded, less prejudiced, and better drivers than the average person. It is mathematically impossible for large majorities to be better than average. We are able to deceive ourselves, because these selves are loose-knit collections of subsystems, not single souls which can “see” all our beliefs at once.

From Chapter 10: Seeing, Reasoning and Scientific Justification

Thinkers make up words to help talk about things. For example, the Greeks talked about "Zeus's thunderbolts." They meant what we now call "lightning"... [There follows a discussion of the words “epicycle" and “possession by demons:"]

Some people seem to behave like two or more different people. Medieval priests tried to explain this strange behavior. Following the Bible, they theorized that such people were "possessed by demons." “Demon” thus became a theoretical term. This led them to practices such as beating such people or making them eat and drink foul substances. The theory was to make the body unpleasant for the demon. This treatment didn't help to explain or predict split personality behavior. Worse yet, it added to the misery of the sick person. So eventually people stopped saying things like (50) "Fat red demons make people violent, while thin green ones make them sad." Were these medieval exorcists really talking about anything when they talked this way? Most of us would be inclined to say "no." ...

A shorter form of Ockham’s Razor is “What can be explained by the assumption of fewer things is vainly (that is uselessly, wrongly) explained by the assumption of more things.”... Ockham’s Razor is a principle of critical thinking which has come to be deeply involved in philosophy and science. “Ontology” means the study of what kinds of beings exist (and maybe of what kinds don’t exist.) Let’s call the list of things we believe to exist our “ontological commitments.” Ockham’s Razor says we should be parsimonious (say par sih moan e uhs), that is, stingy, in what we believe to exist. We need to have good reason to believe that something exists. It must be necessary to actually explain or predict something. ...

From examples like “demon” and Ockham’s Razor has developed the idea of “the Ontological Fallacy.” The Ontological Fallacy is the fallacy of making a thing out of words. When people hear a word, particularly a noun, used in a sentence, they automatically think there must be some thing which the noun stands for. But this is not always true, as we see in the case of "possession by demons."...

Proposed theoretical terms, to function in highly justified claims, must occur in statements which are testable and consistent with other justified claims. The statements must explain and predict events and enable us to act successfully on the world...

An explanation is unjustified when it 1) relies on unprovable or improbable claims as initial conditions or laws and 2) uses unnecessary entities.

Horrendous examples of both circumstances 1) and 2) are given by Robbins (1959, p. 18). In 1608 an Italian Friar named Guazzo explained why a priest cut his own throat while waiting to be burned at the stake. The priest was 90 years old. He had been tortured. He was desperate over his fate. But Guazzo “explained” that a demon appeared to him and tempted him so that ... he cut his own throat with his knife. A papal judge named Paulus Grillandus gave an “explanation” why a witch can not escape from prison. The devil could, after all, change her shape and enable her to crawl through the keyhole. However, “when the devil has once got control over [witches] he is eager that they should be put to death, in order that they should not escape him by recanting and penitence.”

Often what needed to be explained had an obvious explanation which could not be accepted. An example was the torture and murder of people based on false accusations. An Inquisitor named Bartolemeo Spina “explained” why oxen which were left unguarded and allegedly killed by witches were later found alive and in their original condition. The Church would have been committing a mortal sin to torture and murder innocent people on false charges. But the Church cannot commit mortal sin. So he “explained” that witches kill the oxen and eat them but then, with the help of the devil, they put the skin back on the bones and bring them back to life. Demonologists had to explain how a woman could be seen in bed at night by her husband and still be far away at a witches’ Sabbath. A “deus ex machina” (say DAY uhs eks mah keen a) is a “god in the machine,” a non sensible, personal being assumed to exist just to explain some event without careful study of the laws and causes involved in that event. Since it has no known laws governing its’ behavior, it is a “wild card”. It can be used to give a “pseudo explanation” of any event. Assuming “wild card” supernatural powers and a devil, inquisitors could pseudo explain evidence of witchcraft and even treat non-evidence as evidence.

Among competing explanations those are better which: 1) explain numerical detail of an event or object more precisely, 2) explain similar events in detail, 3) explain other types of events, 4) enable precise prediction of future events, 5) enable or make it easier for humans to have effects on events though the development of tools, instruments, machines or procedures, 6) do not leave the event or data to be explained surprising, 7) do not allow for raising unanswerable questions. Such explanations are also 8) simpler and 9) consistent with other explanations and theories which are better in the same senses. Non sensible personal beings which can violate the laws of nature (spirits, souls) are useless to provide any specific explanation to fix, predict or control anything and are worse than scientific explanations on these criteria.

From Chapter 12: Philosophical Dialectic and High Justification

Many philosophers, like some religious leaders, have been persecuted for their freethinking in the long process of putting wisdom and justice into government and other human institutions. Socrates was executed. Anaxagoras was banished and Aristotle had to flee from Athens. Zeno of Elea was tortured. Hypatia was murdered. Seneca was forced to commit suicide. Boethius was imprisoned and executed. Bruno was burned at the stake. Spinoza was excommunicated by the synagogue and the victim of attempted murder. Hobbes, Locke and Marx had to flee their countries. Gramsci was imprisoned for a long time...

The Basic Philosophical Ideas behind Critical Thinking:

Critical thinkers believe in a view called Realism (or “Truth Absolutism” or “the Objective View of Truth.”) Realism says there is a way that the world is independent of what anyone thinks. It says that there are facts which are independent of what anyone wishes or hopes the facts might be. It is the view that the truth really is “out there.” It holds that much important truth is objective, not subjective or relative to individuals, societies, or sets of concepts. It disagrees with the view that we humans make our reality. That view could be called “Idealism” or “Truth Relativism” or “Truth Subjectivism.”... Other ideas presupposed by critical thinking are materialism, mechanism, naturalism and humanism.

From Chapter 13: Religion and Science

Many wars are described in the Old Testament. In Exodus Ch. 15: V. 3 Moses and the children of Israel sing: “The Lord is a man of war.” In Numbers Ch. 31: V. 7-18 it describes the fate of the Midianites. After the Israelites defeat them, they kill the kings and all the men. When they bring the women and children to Moses, he gets angry and says: “kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” In Deuteronomy Ch. 2: V. 31 - 34, Moses relates that God gave Sihon and his land to the Israelites. Moses says (V. 34) “And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain.” These religions prohibited birth control so they could out breed others to build bigger armies. Retrograde fundamentalists still try to prohibit it while there is an environmental crisis and they have lost control of governments and the ability to field armies at all.

To kill a large number, or all men, women and children; civilians, is called “genocide.” It is widely condemned among nations today as barbaric wrongdoing. Yet God threatens or orders it repeatedly. In Deuteronomy Ch. 3, genocide is committed against all of the three score (60!) cities of Bashan (V. 4.) In Ch. 7, V. 2 it is commanded against 7 nations. In Joshua, Ch. 10, God “delivers” 6 cities, “and he [Joshua] smote [them] with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain.” Check out 1 Samuel 15:2-3 and Hosea 13:16 on ripping open pregnant women and dashing infants. With such images of God, it is no wonder that a fundamentalist American-Israeli M.D., Baruch Goldstein, could forsake his medical oath, take up a submachine gun and slaughter worshipers in one the holiest Islamic mosques in Israel. Lately they have wished to kill each other over a red cow and an offensive drawing of Mohammed...

Tertullian (150 - 230 A. D.) said that the incarnation of Christ “is certain because it is impossible.” He also said, “Credo quia absurdum est,” I believe because it is absurd. He seemed to recognize that theological statements are absurd, highly unjustified, by a standard of evidence applied to factual claims. Their distinctive absurdity is a reason for their being held at all. Distinctive absurdity seems to be a necessary quality in statements settled on to be “articles of faith.” Theological claims are picked to be confessed, not professed or asserted. They are membership-confessing statements (see Cowley, 1991 p. 7.) In marketing terms, they differentiate brands, like Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man...

Such non - reality - based disputes are settled only by political struggle, war or schism, (splitting.)...

Judaism was founded about 4,000 B.C. Hinduism developed around 1,500 B.C. Gautama began the split of Buddhism from Hinduism about 500 B.C. Catholicism began with the death of Jesus in 33 A. D. Islam began with the teachings of Mohammed around 600 A. D. The Eastern Orthodox Church separated from Catholicism around 1,000 A. D. The Reformation saw Lutheranism begin with Martin Luther’s 95 theses in 1517. The Anglican Church split from Catholicism in 1534. Presbyterianism began with the teachings of John Calvin and John Knox in the 1560s. Unitarianism has origins going back to the 1500s. Congregationalism developed out of Puritanism in the early 1600s. The Baptist religion began with John Smyth in Amsterdam in 1607. Methodism was founded by John and Charles Wesley in England in 1744. Episcopalianism formed into a separate religion founded by Samuel Seabury in 1789. Mormonism was founded by John Smith in Palmyra, New York in 1830. The Salvation Army began with William Booth in London in 1865. The Jehovah’s Witnesses religion was founded by Charles Taze in the 1870’s. Christian Science was founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy. Pentecostalism was founded in the United States in 1901.

Which of these 19 religions were founded on the discovery of some new, repeatable phenomenon of nature? Which have led to theories confirmed by others’ observations? Tools and inventions are machines. the essence of a machine is reliable performance. Which have contributed any tools or inventions for the production of food, clothing, shelter, or medicines for prevention or cure of diseases? Which have not been in conflict with others for followers? Only critical thinkers ask such questions. Major religions have hundreds or thousands of denominations. There are no Orthodox, Pentecostal, Adventist or Jehovah's physicists. This suggests that if there is one Reality, science is getting at it, theology is not.

From Chapter 14: Pseudoscience as Unjustified Statements

The term “pseudoscience” means "pretend" or "fake" science. The pseudosciences present a lot of claims as true, as known, as providing important factual knowledge of reality, as useful for prediction of events and gaining some wisdom and control over one’s life. Yet on examination such statements turn out not even to be justified. Subjects in which pseudoscientific claims are made include abduction (kidnapping) by aliens, ancient astronauts, astrology, the Bermuda Triangle, crystal and pyramid power, cults, demonic possession and exorcism, Freudian psychology, ghosts and channeling, health and nutrition quackery, monsters (like Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster), New Age Millenarianism, psi phenomena, (including telepathy, and telekinesis), pyramid power, satanism and witchcraft, and UFOs as “flying saucers.”

Hines (1998) excellent treatment of pseudoscience lists the most common qualities of the pseudosciences as follows.

1) They make unfalsifiable hypotheses.

2) They look for or actually manufacture “mysteries.”

3) They claim that these “mysteries” can not be explained by science.

4) They uncritically accept myths or Bible stories as literally true.

5) They uncritically accept eyewitness testimony of unique, non-repeatable events for the existence of phenomena which careful scientific observers can not reproduce.

6) They accept as real phenomena events which probably did not happen at all or which can be explained in natural terms, or in terms of hoax, fraud or magicians’ tricks.

7) They refuse to revise or change their findings substantially in light of new evidence (Hines 1988.)

We can add to Hines’ list several more from Radner and Radner (1982) 8) The pseudo sciences also engage in anachronism, that is, they present as new, ideas which are sometimes old and long discredited. 9) They make false analogies or ones at least very weak. 10) They make pseudo explanations of events by scenarios rather than scientific explanations by causal laws. 11) They are “armchair fields.” They substitute interpretation of texts (like the Bible or people’s reports) for real-world laboratory or field research.

The “paranormal” is that area of pseudoscience which relies on dualistic pseudo explanations. The paranormal includes extrasensory perception (ESP), telekinesis, ghosts, poltergeists, near-death experiences as “proof” of life after death, reincarnation, and faith healing. As we saw in Chapter 12, dualism has such severe problems that it is unjustified to hold it. Therefore, it can not explain and certainly can not justify the existence of these alleged phenomena.

If there is one principle that students who wish to become critical thinkers should absorb from the following exposure to pseudoscientific claims it is probably one stated by Sagan (1995.) The principle is this. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof! ...

From Chapter 15: The United States and the Global Corporate Economy

Large portions of this chapter are based on work by Nancy Folbre (A New Field Guide to the American Economy) and David Korten (When Corporations Rule the World.)

Critical thinkers are people who can draw distinctions. A very important distinction is that between the American people, our government and our economic system. The American people have made great achievements in the nearly 210 years since the country was founded. However, the thesis of this chapter is: The economic and governmental systems under which American’s accomplishments have been made are terribly flawed. Furthermore, inequalities, injustices, social and environmental damage they have created are getting worse, not better. High stock prices, low inflation and increased employment can not make up for the basic inequality of wealth, the decline in Americans’ real wages, job insecurity and other negative factors...

Wealth in the United States is very unevenly distributed. In 1991, the top 20% of households with incomes of more than $53,448, owned 45% of all household wealth. The bottom 20%, with incomes of less than $12,852, owned about 7% (Folbre, et. al. Sec. 1.1.) The rich continue to get richer at the expense of the poor and middle classes. The top 1% increased their share of net worth, or wealth, from 31% to 37% between 1983 and 1989. Their share now exceeds that owned by the bottom 90% of all families. Much of this wealth will be passed on, untouched, to the next generation. The top tax rate on income fell from 90% during the Kennedy years to 31% during the Reagan years (Sec. 1.2.) The richest 10% of families held: 80% of all nonresidential real estate; 91% of all business assets; 85% of all stocks; 94% of all bonds. More than half of the richest 400 people in this country largely inherited their wealth (Sec. 1.4.)

The Bastard Theory of CEO Compensation:

What are American CEO’s paid so much for? One theory, to put it in plain language, is that they are paid so much to be bastards, to lay off thousands of American workers, force others to do their work, ship jobs overseas to get lower labor costs, rape the environment, and generally do anything to get higher profits and stock prices...

Jukebox Government:

Put a quarter in a jukebox and it plays your tune. Put a quarter million dollars in the political party machinery and government writes laws and makes decisions that you want... However, all the money given by wealthy individuals alone is small be comparison to what corporations themselves give. In terms of money power, giant trans-national corporations have become the dominant form of governmental institution in the world today. Without being elected to any office, they get law written the way they want it by paying off politicians with campaign contributions. In other words, government by corruption is the standard operating procedure of our federal government. It takes so much money to get elected to national office the money can not possibly come from the people in small contributions. Also, no organizations other than corporations have enough money to really influence government, not even unions. In Congressional campaigns in 1991-92, business outspent other groups by a wide margin. It invested more than $295 million in its favorite candidates. Organized labor could only raise 15% of that (about $43 million.) Environment organizations and other “special interests” only raised $18.6 million (Folbre, Sec. 1.7.)

The distribution of income worsened considerably in the 1980s... In 1992, women still earned only about 71 cents for every dollar a man earned ... About 43 million Americans have physical or mental disabilities, and 66% are unemployed ( “Job creation,” 1993.) Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, challenged people, this largest minority of all, face serious risk of poverty. Blacks and Latinos MAKE up about 12% and 10% of the population. Asians and Pacific Islanders, 3%, and Native Americans nearly 1% (Sec. 4.1.) Only 12% of Blacks’ households and 15% of Latino’s had incomes over $50,000 in 1992, compared with 27% of white households. In 1991, Latino and Black families had a median net worth of only about one tenth that of white families...

Environmental Damage:

Large areas of land have been degraded through overgrazing, deforestation, agricultural mismanagement, and pollution. Land degraded as a percentage of total vegetated land 1945-91: in Asia, 20%; Africa, 22%; South America, 14%; Europe, 23%; North and Central America, 8%; Oceania, 13%; the World as a whole, 17% (Sec. 8.3.) Three hundred seven types of Mammals, 226 Birds; 80 Reptiles; 14 Amphibians; 65 Fish and 386 plants are the number of endangered species, worldwide, as of 1992. Species extinction is to some extent natural. However, humans may be losing species which could be very valuable to ourselves by destroying their habitats (Sec. 8.4.)

The Business Cycle:

The American economy is subject to a business cycle of booms and busts. The sooner the student learns this, and learns to make hay while the sun shines, the better off he or she is likely to be financially in life. The US has had panics or recessions in 1873, ‘84, ‘90, ‘94, 1912, ‘29-39, ‘54, ‘58, ’70, ’73, 80-82, and ‘91...

Taxes and “Wealthfare:”

American workers pay lower income and payroll taxes, on average, than workers in other industrial countries (25% as compared with 33%, Sec. 5.4). Most business also pay higher taxes in other industrial countries. Japan and Germany have steeper corporate tax rates. And their economies are growing faster than ours. Initiative is not damaged by taxation. Although European workers pay more income and sales taxes, they get a large variety of subsidized government services, including universal health care, and much better unemployment compensation than we do. Moreover, they don’t have to be ashamed, as we ought to be, about the number of fellow citizens in poverty, homelessness, in ill health or who go to bed hungry at night.

From another perspective, the average American working person’s taxes are too high. That perspective is in relation to taxation on the wealthy and corporations. Zepenzauer and Naimen (1996) outline how this works. They assemble data indicating that wealthfare amounts to $448 billion per year! Wealthfare is the money not collected from the wealthy and corporations in taxes which used to be collected, or ought to be collected, or which is transferred to them from working people’s taxes, (Zepenzauer and Neiman, p. 6) We could wipe out the $117 billion deficit by cutting wealthfare just 26%. Wealthfare for the rich costs about 3.5 times as much as welfare for the poor, which is now being cut. three years of wealthfare costs more than it costs to run the entire federal government for a year. The national debt is now about $5.1 trillion. Less than 12 years of wealthfare at the current rate equals all the deficit spending the U. S. government has engaged in over more than 200 years!

Korten on Corporations:

It is Korten’s thesis that corporations have emerged as the dominant governance institutions on the planet. The largest among them reach into almost every country in the world and exceed most governments in size and power. The corporate interest more than the human interest now defines the policy of nations and international bodies... 358 billionaires in the world have a combined net worth of $760 billion - equal to the net worth of all the poorest 2.5 billion of the world’s people.

Near the conclusion of the book:

If the extensive critical discussion which went before makes the situation seem hopeless, it was not intended to do so. Humankind makes progress very slowly. By critical intelligence over perhaps 7,000 years we have developed science and mastered most of the secrets of the universe. Critical intelligence has made it possible for humans to live long, healthy lives, to develop their talents and abilities, and to contribute to the welfare of others.

There are still tremendous problems. One is the thousands of undisarmed nuclear weapons, desperate people, fanatics and nations which may get and use them. Another is corporate domination, the worsening economic condition of many Americans and the growth of the intolerant Patriot Movement in response to it. However, critical thinkers are not doomed to unhappy irrelevance. Disraeli said, “Justice is truth in action.” In his acceptance speech for the Green Party Presidential nomination Ralph Nader (1996) quoted Daniel Webster: “Justice is the great work of human beings on earth.” He added, “It’s truly remarkable what the fulfillment of civic potential does to human beings. They’re happier.... So the very pursuit of justice becomes the pursuit of happiness.