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Skepticism 101: How to Think like a Scientist | [The Great Courses]

Skepticism 101: How to Think like a Scientist

Despite our best efforts, we're all vulnerable to believing things without using logic or having proper evidence—and it doesn't matter how educated or well read we are.
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Publisher's Summary

Despite our best efforts, we're all vulnerable to believing things without using logic or having proper evidence—and it doesn't matter how educated or well read we are.

But there is a method for avoiding such pitfalls of human nature, and it's called skepticism. By using rational inquiry and seeing subjects from a scientific perspective, we can approach even the most sensitive claims with clear eyes to ultimately arrive at the truth.

During 18 lectures that will surprise, challenge, and entertain you, you will learn how to think, not just what to think—and you'll come to understand why extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

You'll discover how skepticism can help differentiate between real science and pseudoscience, as well as between "scientific" history and pseudohistory—distinctions that have serious educational and political implications.

Fascinating case studies illustrate how you can apply the methods of skepticism to detect specious claims and faulty logic in any scenario you encounter such as:

  • The methodology employed by Holocaust deniers
  • Arguments made by proponents of creationism
  • The biology of near-death experiences and the sensed-presence effect
  • Psychic abilities and other "paranormal" phenomena.

As you learn how our brains work to form beliefs, you'll examine the classic fallacies of thought that lead us to experience mistakes in thinking and to form bad arguments in favor of our beliefs.

Is there a God? Is there life after death? Is there a basis for morality without God? Skepticism 101 doesn't shy away from controversial questions, nor does it give final answers. What it offers are methods and hard evidence for rationally evaluating various claims and positions, and an opportunity to understand why you believe what you believe.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2013 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2013 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    Elizabeth MIDVALE, UT, United States 11-11-13
    Elizabeth MIDVALE, UT, United States 11-11-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A good start to critical thinking"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Skepticism 101: How to Think like a Scientist to be better than the print version?

    I've never seen the print version.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked each section delving more in depth with a good amount of background information.


    What about Professor Michael Shermer’s performance did you like?

    At the end he refers those more interested in the subject to checkout the magazine and even contact him with questions, which I've done and he responds. Even with the dumb stuff .


    What did you learn from Skepticism 101: How to Think like a Scientist that you would use in your daily life?

    I'm still going to get nailed with my own cognitive biases but it's always good to remind yourself that they exist which is a good way to minimize the effect.


    Any additional comments?

    I've read some of the books he mentions, Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World was amazing and my first introduction to his baloney detection. This started out a bit of a rehash on those themes so I expected to not learn a whole lot of new information. A few sections in and the material was much more expanded upon with more background. I'm a fan of VS Ramachandran and Oliver Sacks so if you like those books I think this is a good diversion whilst waiting for their next. I would love to see volume 2 eventually.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ang Docklands, Australia 11-11-13
    Ang Docklands, Australia 11-11-13
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    "The first Audible book that makes taking notes"
    What other book might you compare Skepticism 101: How to Think like a Scientist to and why?

    Dan Ariely's book, shares few similar stories


    What about Professor Michael Shermer’s performance did you like?

    Quite well, and he promoted his company/organization few times


    What did you learn from Skepticism 101: How to Think like a Scientist that you would use in your daily life?

    You will need to note down a list, and remember them, try to keep use them all the time to overcome biases, useful


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Prairie Prairie du Sac, WI 09-14-13
    Prairie Prairie du Sac, WI 09-14-13 Member Since 2003
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    "One Truely Great Course"

    Wow was this a great lecture! Shermer is an interesting speaker and I found it hard to stop listening. This course should be on the list of required freshmen courses for all college students. As a skeptic in training myself, this course helped equip me with some important new tools that I know I'll be able to use at home in everyday life and in business.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles San Diego, CA, United States 03-19-14
    Charles San Diego, CA, United States 03-19-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Fantastic - Should be required to be human."

    We need a 4th branch of government -
    Executive, Legislative, Judicial, and Skeptic!
    None of the first three get to decide or suggest anything unless it passes through the Critical Thinking branch first.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Motes Tampa 02-10-14
    Sam Motes Tampa 02-10-14 Member Since 2011

    Audible obsessed lifelong learner.

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    "Don't be deceived, this is a great listen"

    I had a true since of déjà vu moment while listening to this course by Shermer until I realized he was the author of "The Believing Brain" which I read a few months ago and this course was covering much of the same ground with many of the same stories. Shermer attacks reasons for bad thinking such as via confirmation bias, availability bias, the hind sight fallacy, and others that challenge our ability to think logically like a Scientist. The Feynman quote that went something along the lines of first you must not be deceived and you are the easiest to deceive summed up the premise of the course very well.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saud United States 01-12-14
    Saud United States 01-12-14 Member Since 2007

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Useful until presumptuous"

    If it wasn't for the professor's incessant jabs on religion, this would have gotten a better rating from me.

    8 of 15 people found this review helpful
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