Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 9.12

It’s Friday! Let’s have some fun!

Describe a way to introduce the concept of skepticism to a kid or to someone who doesn’t know anything about it. Added points for stories, real-life examples and activities!

Masala Skeptic

Maria Walters (a.k.a. Masala Skeptic) has spent a lot of time in ‘furrin parts,’ including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Pittsburgh. Although her passport is from India, she’s spent most of her adult life in the United States. She currently lives in Atlanta and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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62 Comments

  1. When I was in elementary school I was in this program for ‘gifted’ kids, and one of the units we did in the program was for identifying the lies and techniques used in ads. I think we had to go through a magazine and cut out the red herrings, appeal to authorities and stuff like that. The cool thing that I realize about that now is that they’re nearly all logical fallacies. I can’t remember now but I think we also had to make our own ads using the different fallacies.

    (I only mention this was in the ‘gifted’ program because I guess we got to do stuff like that in there because the curriculum was more flexible)

  2. Hi. First post here!

    When I was talking to my kids and told them I was an Atheist (when they were old enough), they asked me why.

    I said there’s probably 20 or 21 major religions, hundreds of minor ones, and some like Christianity or Islam have about a billion people who believe they are the one right religion. If you have common sense, how can you believe you’re religion is the only true one, yet all the others are wrong?

    Further, I said as a rational, thinking person, what’s more likely, all religions are correct (impossible), one religion is correct (unlikely, and which one?), or NONE is correct.

    They seemed to understand this and periodically still question me on skeptical ideas. They just don’t like me to yell at the TV when some pseudoscience is shown without critical analysis. Which is just about always. : )

    Regards,
    Monty

  3. I always thought that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny bunny were great tools for teaching skepticism to small children.

    When I was a kid, religion certainly couldn’t be questioned, but this set of myths gave me something to think and ask and slightly experiment about. I realize now that it was early logic and scientific method.

  4. Tall tales are great ways to teach kids skepticism. My Dad used to tell a story, and he’d make it more and more fantastical until I grew incredulous.

    Then he’d ask “why did you believe me up until then?”

    He never really wanted an answer, just wanted me to think about it.

  5. In my science class, to introduce homeopathy (via commercials for “Head On”), we make “homeopathic lemonade”, shaking the mixture 10 times against our hand, 10 times forward and backward, 10 times sideways, further diluting until we reach a 10X solution. I “explain” that the lemonade is getting stronger and stronger, right? When they disagree, and understand that it’s actually getting weaker and weaker because of dilution, it’s easy to show them the fallacy of homeopathy.

  6. I have a nine-year-old daughter who unfortunately inherited my childish tendency to be very, very gullible. I was always a target for kids who liked to tweak people like me, and it was not especially fun. I grew out of it eventually, and I would love it if my daughter not only escaped the inevitable teasing, but also grew up with something closer to the openmindedness it took me decades to find.

    For the everyday conversations, where so much of the teaching goes on when you’re a parent, this question is my favorite: “Well, how do YOU know?” It’s the kind of question a kid asks another kid, and it startles children to hear it from adults, especially three times in a row while they stutter through the platitudes they’ve heard from various places.

    Of course I don’t leave the conversation there, since that would just be mean, but it’s a great starting point for not believing everything you see on TV or hear from a grown-up.

    (I was a young adult before it really sank in that there was a person inside Chewbacca’s suit. I always had kind of wondered where they found a Wookiee to play him, but never thought past that. It was sort of embarrassing when I found that little pocket of credulity in my brain.)

  7. “Further, I said as a rational, thinking person, what’s more likely, all religions are correct (impossible), one religion is correct (unlikely, and which one?), or NONE is correct.”

    I think followers of the Bahá’í Faith might take issue with your analysis.

    I wonder if this logic schematic holds up generally? Let’s give it a try:

    All scientific theories are correct (impossible). One scientific theory is correct (unlikely, and if so, which one?), or NONE is correct?

    Hmmmm I cannot quite put my finger on it, but there seems to be some fundamental defect in this analytical approach — logically speaking that is.

    Maybe your kids could figure it out. : )

  8. I don’t know a special way to teach other people scepticism, but for me it is all about inducing the feeling that something unfamiliar to most people is not a bad thing at all.

    For example, people usually don’t like feeling insecure about their knowledge, they don’t like that there are things they don’t understand and therefore they prefer all these funny beliefs, religious or mystical or whatever. And most people without a scientific background never realize that it is doubting common truths that leads to progression in science. As a sceptical person, I would say, you have managed to know that you’re not knowing everything, or that your beliefs could be wrong, or that your whole worldview may be meaningless, without becoming sad about it and also that you appreciate disbelief as a useful tool to discover “truth” and finally to accept complexity as a fundamental part of our world and prefer it in comparison to seemingly simple, but wrong explanations.

  9. Further to my post yesterday,
    My caregivers for my first five years were doctors and nurses.

    They always answered my questions as if I were an adult.

    Even when I asked why they were changing the bed next to mine.
    I was told that Old Jimmy got very sick last night and the doctors couldn’t help him.
    I asked “did he die?”
    “Yes, he did.”
    I asked “did it hurt?”
    “We did our best to make sure it didn’t.”

    10 minutes or so later a guy from a few beds down got back from the shower and said, kindly, “I guess “Ol Jimmy’s gone to visit god”.
    I walked over to his bed and whispered
    “He died last night, I don’t think he’s visiting anyone.”

    If you want to introduce kids to rational thought just dont lie to them or sugar coat things
    They’ll always figure it out.

  10. When my son was five (he’s now thirteen), we had a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese. At a pre-determined point, the big rat himself made an appearance, during which my son’s friends all clustered around him in adoration. My son just sat there. He looked at me and said, “Is there a man in there?” I just shrugged. He looked back at Chuck, then at me, and said firmly, “I think there’s a man in there!”

    He made my job easy.

  11. I have a question for everyone. I am having difficulty with the definition of a skeptic. MUST one be an atheist? I no longer believe in ORGANIZED religion – I haven’t for decades, but I am not an atheist either. It’s not that I believe in a conventional God and I certainly do not believe in a micromanaging God, but I haven’t made that definitive jump to atheism. It’s simply not important to me to make that decision, if that makes sense. Essentially, spiritually speaking, I’m an agnostic, I guess, yet I remain a cultural Jew only because of my upbringing, in that I identify myself as Jewish if someone raises the question – though I follow none of it’s organized tenants. However, if anyone engages me in a true intellectual discussion about religion, I totally disconnect myself to Judiasm and emphasize everything logical and scientific. Am I still a skeptic?

  12. You do not need to be an atheist to be a skeptic, there are plenty of skeptics who are not atheists (Martin Gardner, Hal Bidlack) and a number of atheists who are not very skeptical (Rael the leader of the Raelians comes to mind). It’s just that a lot of skeptics, at least those active in the skeptic movement, tend to be atheists.

  13. I can add something to my earlier story about my son and how I’ve raised him. Usually when he asks a question, my first response is either “what do YOU think?” or simply silence and a raised eyebrow. He doesn’t always come up with the right answer, but I make sure he thinks about it; he’s learning to trust his own instincts.

    On another note, as painful as it is to say anything that might churn TrueSkeptic’s butter, I have to say, Monty, that you did indeed create a false dichotomy. Or trichotomy. Whatever.

    I assume that TS meant “all scientific theories on a particular subject” and not literally “all scientific theories,” because that would be stupid.

    Oooo, I have so much to say…but please let’s have fun here and not go off on a tangent.

    I went off on a Tangent once and came back in a Huff. Both are remarkable vehicles but neither gets you where you want to go.

    I’m about to get smacked hard by that big honkin’ hurricane…so I’ll leave it to you guys from here.

  14. To introduce my 7-year-old daughter to all things skeptic, I took her to Camp Inquiry, sponsored by the Center for Inquiry, back in July. I went too, as a teacher/counselor. We had a week of fun, friends, dancing, art, story-telling, s’mores, you name it! During their daily lessons, the kids gained hands-on experience with the scientific method. But the most unique, amazing parts of Camp Inquiry were when the students were treated to presentations by real, professional skeptics, such as Point of Inquiry podcast host D.J. Grothe and world-famous paranormal investigator Joe Nickell. My daughter came away from it quite excited about science, and logic, and figuring things out for herself. I believe it has truly changed her life. For show-and-tell the first week of school she took a magnifying glass, and explained to her 2nd grade class that she uses it to investigate the world, because she is a skeptic! (She then had to explain to them what a skeptic is…)

  15. Why is it that on the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox you can stand an egg on its end on a pane of glass?

    Now we all know of the challenge wherein someone facing death was challenged to stand an egg on end. They smashed the egg against the surface, creating a VERY wide base, and the egg stood upright.

    I have spent the last 20 years amazing friends and enemies with this TRICK. Get the egg, balance it between your fingernails carefully, push it back and forth until those little bumps on the shell of the egg create a not so microscopic tripod, and the egg will stand.

    Now for the Skeptic Part. Do this on the Equinox. Then do it again the following day. Ask the kids what the difference is. Does the Equinox matter?

    Now, google the following”stand egg on end” and you will get oodles of hits.

  16. trueskeptic @13

    All scientific theories are correct (impossible). One scientific theory is correct (unlikely, and if so, which one?), or NONE is correct?

    Hmmmm I cannot quite put my finger on it, but there seems to be some fundamental defect in this analytical approach — logically speaking that is.

    Well, this is bull. But let me elaborate.

    First, the statement about All Religions is a statement about Religion.

    Next, the statement about all Theories is not about a single subject, but about all subjects.

    In this regard, the analogy fails.

    qed

  17. True Skeptic is a troll.

    This was already established a while ago, and I have to say that I am getting warm fuzziness at the fact that the people here have been so warmly fuzzy towards this troll’s assininitude (frkc yue, spuklcheck! just kidyinf!)

    Anyhoo – yes! Let the child ask, and let the parent ask the child. I think that’s the best way for everyone to, well, think.

  18. “On another note, as painful as it is to say anything that might churn TrueSkeptic’s butter, I have to say, Monty, that you did indeed create a false dichotomy. Or trichotomy. Whatever.”

    Well done Favog for finding the obvious logical flaw in Monty’s lesson for his kids.

    “I assume that TS meant “all scientific theories on a particular subject” and not literally “all scientific theories,” because that would be stupid.”

    I am a little baffled by the confusion here. Over the course of history on through to the present – a great multitude of scientific theories stand in direct contradiction of one another (the same point that was being made about religion) and therefore it is impossible for them all to be simultaneously true. I thought it was pretty clear that Monty’s logical assault on religion was equally applicable to science.

    This was not a defense of religion. It was a critique of a logical fallacy, which Favog readily confirmed.

    Careful Favog – you keep that up and you too may be labeled an “idiot,” “troll” etc….

    After all, who needs logic when insults are so much easier and fun. ; )

  19. The great thing about skepticism is everyone already is a skeptic. Ask a UFO believer about someone else’s experience and they get down and dirty pretty quick (especially if book sales are involved). Granted most of their tools are irrational, but in the midst of it, there will be some reasoned arguments. Everyone has a core of skepticism, they just make localized exceptions.

    So, I would say, start with things about which they are already skeptical, then work on disassembling the machinery that makes exceptions for the local… Which is impossible, which is why they aren’t skeptics and never will be! But at least if they practice the mechanics of skepticism, there is some small hope.

  20. “Over the course of history on through to the present – a great multitude of scientific theories stand in direct contradiction of one another (the same point that was being made about religion) and therefore it is impossible for them all to be simultaneously true.”

    TS–I see that drdave has already addressed this by pointing out that you haven’t created a valid analogy, which was the intent of my remark. The difference in scientific inquiry is that all the competing theories can be tested and one–right or wrong, based on current knowledge–will win out. The equivalent in religious inquiry–

    “Is too!”
    “Is not!”
    “Is too!”
    “Is not!”

    –because the context for verification is self-referential.

    Monty was in the ballpark but he didn’t ask the right question. The question isn’t about the validity of any particular religion, but about the validity of a common assumption, i.e., that supernatural beings exist and influence reality.

    ‘Nuff said. Now I have to go find all the pieces of my house. I don’t like Ike.

  21. “TS–I see that drdave has already addressed this by pointing out that you haven’t created a valid analogy”

    Favog — I did not create analogy. All I did was expose a logical fallacy. My reference to science was just a means of providing an easily understood illustration of the fallacy.

    The point is that a logically fallacious argument can just as easily be used to discredit legitimate beliefs (like science) as it can be used to discredit unverifiable beliefs, such as religion.

    Since the topic is how to gently guide people who accept things on faith into becoming skeptics, my simple suggestion is that using logical fallacies is probably not the best approach. But I recognize that some may disagree. : )

  22. @TrueSkeptic: Could the reason for Favog’s lack of troll “accusations” comes from the fact that they didn’t call any of us “kids” in their post?

    Also Favog’s reasoning was clear, your reasoning was not. Rather than point out the apparent (and debatable) fallacy, you provided a false analogy to try to clue us “kids” in. Yes, it was a false analogy. I’ll *explain* because that’s what us non-trolls do.

    Although there are many branches of science, no one branch of science claims to be correct above all others. Although there are many religions, most claim to be correct above all others. All scientific theories aren’t designed to explain the same thing, creation for example. However, religions have many different explanations for the same thing, creation for example. Not all religions can be correct at the same time but multiple scientific theories could be correct at the same time. It follows that only one (or no) religion can be correct, because several different “theories” on the same thing can’t all be true at once. However science is made of many different theories so it does not follow that there are more likely one (or no) correct theories in the face of that.

    DrDave said this much more succinctly above, which you mine-quoted and ridiculed rather than discussing why the reasoning may *not* be a false “trichotomy” and sorting out what the original poster meant. Which is what we do here — discuss.

    It’s your arrogance and ridiculousness that makes you a troll, not your opinions.

  23. >>You do not need to be an atheist to be a skeptic, there are plenty of skeptics who are not atheists (Martin Gardner, Hal Bidlack) and a number of atheists who are not very skeptical (Rael the leader of the Raelians comes to mind). It’s just that a lot of skeptics, at least those active in the skeptic movement, tend to be atheists.<<

    Thank you, KILLY. It’s the only aspect of Skepticism that bothers me because, at times, Atheism feels like a fundamentalistic perspective. Fundamentalistic religious followers numb my mind with irrationality and upset me with their, sometimes, dangerous antiquities. I haven’t quite figured out how aggressive atheism makes me feel, but I do know when the attacks become personal it does take me aback a tad. Why can’t we all just get along? :)

    Listen, I think that organized religion is like a scalpel – only those with great knowledge and skill should be allowed to use it. Unfortunately, most are not so knowledgeable or skilled. It’s why they call the followers – a flock. In this day and age it’s simply antiquated. Other than the fact that humans tend to be social creatures and prefer hanging out with those of similar beliefs, customs, and/or self interests, what purpose does religion serve now other than it seems to be a better form of comfort it times of death and dying? The rational mind DOES need help when one grieves. But we still get by with other forms of bonding and friendship. Don’t we?

    To me, being spiritual does not mean you must be religious and the sixth definition of dictionary.com backs me up. “of or pertaining to the spirit as the seat of the moral ORRRR ( extra R’s are my own ) religious nature. ” Morality does not neccesitate religion. It simply is the ability to distinguish right from wrong and we utilize several compasses to find the correct direction ( personal, social, ethical, logical, religious ) , but we need not use them all.

    Too often religion, especially when taken to extremes, cracks the damn compass completely.

    Occasionally, in it’s most aggressive form, I feel that atheism shoves the compass completely up the religious person’s a**.

    Neither feels quite right to me.

  24. Kimbo –

    Not that I think you need any particular excuse to resort to calling me a troll, as that appears to be your default argument, but I did not call you or anyone else “kids.”

    I often don’t bother responding to your attacks, because you so often have not followed the discourse, and I would have to both correct your mistakes as to what has been said and your argument, whenever you bother to make an argument other than via ad hominem.

    I no more made an analogy between religion and science than I called anyone a kid. But you’d have to read what I wrote to know that.

    I exposed a logical fallacy. Favog confirmed the logical fallacy that I exposed. I merely illustrated the fallacy by applying it to science, so that it would be readily apparent. Then somehow people interpreted what I did as adopting the very fallacy that I was shooting down. And I am accused of using this fallacy to discredit science. Wow.

    DrDave’s lecture to me about the differences between science and religion, as well as yours, have nothing to do with anything I wrote.

    But the number of mistakes you made in distinguishing science and religion dwarfs Monty’s logical error. I could walk you through them, but what would be the point? Unless you want for me to give you a lesson in logic, and I don’t think you want that. ; )

  25. Ironically my own kids interrupted me, and I left out the correction as to “kids.” Monty had explained the argument/rationale he used to teach his kids. That’s where the reference to teaching kids came from.

    But I won’t hold my breath waiting for a retraction of your troll comment – Kimbo. : )

  26. @TrueSkeptic: By his own “kids” he means his nurse with his meds.

    Don’t put them under your tongue this time. When you’re lucid you sometimes make good points. And by good points I mean you forget to use your normal ‘bait and switch’ tactic.

  27. @TrueSkeptic: Your post:

    “Further, I said as a rational, thinking person, what’s more likely, all religions are correct (impossible), one religion is correct (unlikely, and which one?), or NONE is correct.”

    I think followers of the Bahá’í Faith might take issue with your analysis.

    I wonder if this logic schematic holds up generally? Let’s give it a try:

    All scientific theories are correct (impossible). One scientific theory is correct (unlikely, and if so, which one?), or NONE is correct?

    Hmmmm I cannot quite put my finger on it, but there seems to be some fundamental defect in this analytical approach — logically speaking that is.

    Maybe your kids could figure it out. : )
    _____________

    You did not anywhere indicate the name of the logical fallacy. You gave an analogy (all scientific theories…). Then you danced around the logical problem some more without naming it. Then you said “maybe you’re kids could figure it out” which I interpreted to mean the people posting on this board. So if I was incorrect for that last part, then my bad, but the rest stands. Then someone *else* pointed out what the logical fallacy was.

    I guess I might have understood you better if you had clearly state your point rather than dancing around it and applying someone’s statement regarding a specific concept to something else that does not make sense.

    Then you completely ignore the points I make in my post and assume things about me. I didn’t say that you were attacking science, I said your analogy sucks. Those are 2 completely different things. And “the point” of you pointing out my so-called mistakes would be to *discuss* rather than passively call me an idiot who’s not worth your time. If I made all these mistakes, what are they? How about we discuss them? That’s how people learn.

    I find it interesting that you attribute people misunderstanding you to their being stupid rather than your writing style. Also, has it ever occurred to you that a different point of view from yours is just plain different, as opposed to being a “mistake”? I think you need to start taking some responsibility for the way you represent yourself here. This is why I call you a troll. If you don’t like it, then stop making vague statements and unsupported claims and engage in a frigging conversation for once where you don’t assume you know everything. A *true* skeptic realizes their limitations and is open to learning from and teaching to others, not in being “right”.

    I look forward to a response that addresses the “mistakes” in my original post so we can discuss them, but if you’re just going to insult me and treat me like a child then don’t bother.

  28. A quick question for ”TrueSkeptic”; are you or were you a layer at any time? You seem to use a particular stain of logic US layers tend to be good in. Just curious…

    On topic again: Bring up your children thinking you are GOD, when they hit puberty they will become skeptics!

    Fool proof!

  29. I love Jason Reitman’s movie before Juno, Thank You For Smoking. There’s a scene it where Aaron Eckhart’s cynical lobbyist gives his son some guidance in pulling apart an idiotic essay question from school (something like “Why is the American system of government the best system of government?”).
    I think an approach like that — encouraging someone to question the underpinnings of a statement and look for evidence to support or refute it — is the best way to go.
    People have to believe in God or else they can’t be moral? Really, let’s think about that. Is there evidence to support that, and even if it were true, would that mean that God is real or just that a delusional belief is “necessary”?
    I’m basically free associating at this point. I hope my point is understood.

  30. When talking to someone who doesn’t know about it, i compare children’s beliefs in santa and tooth fairies, to religious beliefs. Mentioning how children believe in santa because no-one has told them it’s not real and when they find out want to carry on believing.

  31. Kimbo –

    To sum up:

    A. I quoted a logical fallacy that was used to discredit religion.

    B. I referenced a practical refutation of the fallacy – the followers of the Bahá’í Faith.

    C. I questioned whether the logic employed would hold up generally, and then said let’s test it.

    D. So I applied the same syllogism that Monty employed against religion to science, providing a practical demonstration of the problem with the logic employed.

    E. I gently suggested that the results the syllogism produced as to science appeared problematical (i.e. obviously wrong) and that maybe there is a problem with the logic.

    F. If you went back and read through Monty’s post that I was addressing (usually a requirement to understand one’s statements in context), you would see that I was replicating the very method Monty said he had employed with his kids.

    G. Monty employed the “Socratic Method,” which is designed to teach by asking questions instead of supplying answers. Its purpose is to prompt students through trial and error to find the correct answers themselves. (And Ambrose is correct – the Socratic Method is widely used in U.S. law schools to teach law students to learn and apply logic.)

    H. So, in keeping with the spirit of the Socratic Method that Monty introduced and employed, you are correct that I did not give the answer and “name” the logical fallacy – just as he did not do so with his kids.

    I. Instead I invited him to discover the logical error himself, given the practical rebutting reference and a practical rebutting demonstration that I had supplied for him.

    J. Because his post suggests that he has bright kids who can follow the Socratic teaching method, I stated that maybe “your kids” could come up with the answer, and they probably could.

    So in response to this, what does Kimbo conclude?

    A. My reference to “your kids” was an insult personally directed to her and others.

    B. I endorsed a logically fallacious argument to attack science. (When clearly I am demonstrating the logical fallacy of the argument by means of the absurd results it generates as to science.)

    C. That I am to be faulted for adopting the Socratic Method, introduced by the post that I was addressing, because I did not supply the answer myself and “name” the logical fallacy, which, of course, is the trademark of this thousand year old method of teaching logic.

    And for these transgressions, Kimbo, as usual, jumps in labels me a “troll.”

    Oh well. Par for the course.

    Kimbo — please forgive me if I do not take this time and trouble to reply to your insults or “arguments” in the future. : )

  32. Finally. Thank you for your response.

    For the last time: I already addressed my error re: “kids” and I did not say that you were attacking science.

    I maintain that the comparison was not an appropriate one. The statement as applied to religion can’t be applied to science in that way. Not because science is awesome and I think you’re insulting it, but because of the structure and content of the statement. I don’t think it’s a good comparison and that is the meat of my statement but instead of sorting that out we’re focusing on the minutia of how and what we said. I asked you to point out the “mistakes” in what I wrote, not what you assume I was thinking when I wrote it.

    You are not to be faulted for using the Socratic method. You are to be faulted for refusing to admit that you could have been at all unclear on the internet where people can’t hear tone or intentions. Where I was unclear or mistaken, I have already admitted.

    If I get any more suggestions that I can’t read, my intelligence is somehow sub-par, or that I’m somehow not worth the effort of typing a clear statement into a keyboard, I will be ignoring your existence from this point forward. I post here to have discussions and learn things, not get “locked in battle” with some stranger who’s opinion of me I could care less about.

  33. “B. I referenced a practical refutation of the fallacy – the followers of the Bahá’í Faith.”

    Quoting some stupid religion’s belief is not a refutation. The Baha’i believe all religions are compatible. Just because another religion claims all religions are compatible doesn’t make it so. In Christianity, Jesus is God; in Islam he is only a prophet. Those claims are contradictory.

    The scientific method replaces theories proven to be wrong with better theories, so all current theories are correct. The Theory of Evolution replaced creationism. Copernican replaced the Ptolemaic system.

    Name two current theories that are contradictory.

  34. Sorry to be a little late to the party on this.

    @TrueSkeptic – can I please ask you to be a little lighter on the sarcasm, particularly to someone who mentioned that they were a first time poster? We’d like to encourage new folks in the discussion, not attack them as soon as they try to make a point.

    I would also ask that you (and all our commenters) try to be civil in your tone when responding. We’re living on the Internet – your tone in your original post came out much more sarcastic than I am sure you were intending. Yes, yes, you were using the Socratic method. It doesn’t always translate that well in text.

    Also, to all, please try to keep the discussion a) on topic and b) civil. Personal attacks are unpleasant and unnecessary. Don’t make me turn this Internet around…

  35. Oh, and also, I don’t have kids of my own so I usually have to be pretty careful about what I push on other people’s kids. :)

    My methodology is usually to not talk down to kids. If they ask questions, I answer them as clearly and simply as I can but I usually tell them the truth, or my opinion, without sugar coating it.

    Also, when they’re at the right age, show them “Inherit The Wind.” I will never forget my 15-year-old nephew at my house one time and we put it on. Intially, he was not really paying attention (bah! black and white movie!) but by the end of it, he was sitting cross-legged in front of the screen, completely fascinated.

    Good stuff :)

  36. “Name two current theories that are contradictory.”

    I am sure that there are many, but let me choose a popular example:

    There are two current theories as to the primary cause of observable global warming.

    One is that it is primarily caused by human action that results in an increase in carbon emissions.

    The other is that is primarily caused by variations in the emissions of solar energy.

    The claims of these two theories are, currently, very much incompatible with one another.

  37. Chew: “The scientific method replaces theories proven to be wrong with better theories, so all current theories are correct.”

    Ummm Chew. I hate to be the one to point this out to you, but this claim of yours is self-contradictory.

  38. Chew: “Quoting some stupid religion’s belief is not a refutation. The Baha’i believe all religions are compatible. Just because another religion claims all religions are compatible doesn’t make it so. In Christianity, Jesus is God; in Islam he is only a prophet. Those claims are contradictory.”

    Let me quote Monty: “If you have common sense, how can you believe you’re religion is the only true one, yet all the others are wrong?”

    As you admit, Chew, the Baha’i do not believe that their religion “is the only true one” and “all the others wrong.” So the beliefs of that religion stand as a refutation of the bedrock assumption for the fallacious logical construction that Monty then employed: “Further, I said as a rational, thinking person, what’s more likely, all religions are correct (impossible), one religion is correct (unlikely, and which one?), or NONE is correct.”

    You can believe that the Baha’i faith is “stupid” as you state and still recognize that it refutes the premise that Monty asserted about all religions.

  39. Chew –

    As for the Baha’i being “stupid,” that’s quite a charge against a group that fundamentally believes in the soundness of Science and the scientific method.

    I am not a member of the Baha’i faith, but I did write a paper on them many years ago in HS.

    The Baha’i believe that the fundamental tenets of Islam and Christianity are both correct, as you state, but just incomplete – and that perceived contradictions are just semantical: “Prophet v. god” for example.

    The Baha’i would say that to say Islam and Christianity are wrong and false would be like saying Newtonian Physics is wrong and false. Newtonian Physics is correct within the confines of the phenomenon that it attempts to explain, but it is incomplete. The Baha’i would say that Quantum Mechanics did not prove Newtonian Physics to be wrong and false – just incomplete.

    The Baha’i believe that a progressive and evolving understanding of religious truths is analogous to a progressive and evolving understanding of scientific truth.

    The Baha’i believe in an ultimate unifying religious truth among the major religions to exist in a similar fashion to many scientists, including Einstein, believing in an ultimate unifying field theory to exist in Science to bridge the current, disparate and at times contradictory theories for the identified forces in nature.

    And the Baha’i believe that religious truth is in complete harmony with scientific truth, and as the understanding of scientific and religious truth advances – this would ultimately be demonstrable. Clearly these beliefs of the Baha’i require faith, as opposed to proof, but the same can be said of the scientists who are convinced of the existence of a unified field theory.

    Anyway, I would not be so quick to dismiss this entire group of people as “stupid.” But maybe that’s just me. : )

  40. The Earth warming up is described by scientific theories, i.e. the laws of thermodynamics, Stefan-Boltmann law, Kepler’s law of palentary motion, etc. It’s a fact that global warming is occuring but it isn’t a scientific theory in and of itself.

    So, what is the competing theory of Special Relativity? What is the competing theory of the germ theory of disease?

    “Ummm Chew. I hate to be the one to point this out to you, but this claim of yours is self-contradictory.”

    What logical fallacy did I commit? If one scientific theory contradicted another, both theories would be tested, one would be proven better, and the other would be tossed out.

    “The Baha’i believe that the fundamental tenets of Islam and Christianity are both correct, as you state, but just incomplete – and that perceived contradictions are just semantical: “Prophet v. god” for example.”

    Which is in direct contradiction to Christianity and Islam and god knows how many other religions. So not all religions can be correct.

    “So the beliefs of that religion stand as a refutation of the bedrock assumption for the fallacious logical construction that Monty then employed:…”

    But they are still only one religion amongst thousands and most of those other religions contradict most of the others. Monty’s statement included ALL religions, not just one.
    Just because the Baha’i say their religion is compatible with all religions does not mean the other religions would agree witt the Baha’i.

  41. Back on topic: My niece and I were watching a Copperfield magic show on TV. I was recording it so I could teach her how the trick worked. It’s the trick where he walks into a fan then “re-materializes” in the midst of the audience. My niece asked how he did it so I asked her, “When was the last time you saw him?”
    She said, “Right as he walked into the fan.”
    “Are you sure? Rewind and find the last time you saw his face.”
    It took her a while to find the switch because she kept rewinding a little at a time thinking it couldn’t have been that far back. But she finally saw where the switch took place. It was about a full minute before he walked into the fan.
    I used this as a springboard to try to teach her about skepticism but her eyes quickly glassed over so I gave up.

  42. All scientific theories are correct (impossible). One scientific theory is correct (unlikely, and if so, which one?), or NONE is correct?

    ——————–

    Well, first off, duh. And second, this is a way to introduce skepticism to young minds. Maybe not the best way, but a way.

    If we have two mutually exclusive theories about a particular phenomena, than at most one of them is correct. But which one?

    In science, there is a way to discover which one. In religion, there is not.

  43. Take Global warming. These are theories (hypothesis, whatever), anthropogenic global warming and the sunspot theory. Fine. Let’s pretend these are mutually exclusive (they aren’t). There are lines of evidence that can be pursued to discover what is going on.

    The Bahai faith directly contradicts the Christian faith. The followers of the Bahai faith can’t really have anything to say about that, its a simple fact that these two groups have different beliefs. There is no line of evidence to discover which is correct. I’m not sure what the point of bringing the Bahai up was?

  44. Hey Mighty Favog….my 5 (now 13)year old also did the Chuckee Cheese birthday. When the big guy appeared, all the other kids gather around and my son ducked under the table and we couldn’t pry him off the table legs. The reason? “There’s an axe murderer in that costume!!”

    But seriously, I never had to teach him religious skepticism. He got it on his own when his Daddy died that year. All the relatives went on and on about Michael being in a better place. He asked me the day of the funeral, “But isn’t being with us the best place for Daddy ?” He’s now a more hardline atheist than I am.

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