Inoculation Theory suggests that teaching critical thinking to children will enable them to become resistant to religion and other non-rational beliefs.

Specifically, by showing children examples of poor thinking and nonsense beliefs they can become immune from more harmful belief systems.

What are the ten best examples of nonsense beliefs we should be showing our children?

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It depends on the child.
  • There's no such thing as a "lucky hat" which helps you do well on your exams. (correlation does not necesarily imply causation)
  • Just cause magnet therapy worked for your friend doesn't mean its globally effective (annecdotal evidence)
  • Just cause most people think it's stupid to wear hats and gloves when it's -30º outside...doesn't make it so. (majority opinion does not equal true)
  • Just cause your uncle is a very smart man when it comes to people and running a business, doesn't mean he's a qualified expert in his climate change denial or creationism (picking the best sources of information)
  • Just because the three Chinese people you know happen to all be left handed, doesn't mean Chinese people are all left handed (projecting a global claim from a small sample)
  • Just cause people have believed for a long time that the Earth was round...doesn't mean it was (truth by merit of tradition)
  • If one of your premises is wrong, then your conclusion is not justified and may be wrong
  • The major fallacies: non-sequitur, red-herring, strawman, argument form ignorance, special pleading, etc.
  • Intellectual integrity (being impecable with your investigation and the standards by which you accept favourable and unfavourable information and how that affects your conclusion)
  • Knowing when to say "I don't know"

Should probably list the most important fallacies as two of them are extremely important (including the one pope mentioned below). Some of these may repeat the list of ten lessons in critical thinking:

attacking the person instead of their arguement

changing a persons argument to make it easier to critique

using our ignorance about a topic to justify an unproven argument

diverting attention away from the actual arguement (especially not answering the question)

using personal "deeply held beliefs" or "a strong feeling inside" as evidence of truth

triggering a persons emotion to agree rather than presenting evidnece

appealing to faith, tradition, authority, experts instead of presenting a valid argument

focusing on the negative side effect of if one arguemnt is right or wrong to somehow prove the opposite

misleading arguments based on audiences ignorance, sentiment, weaknesses in stead of presenting a valid argument

accepting arguments that support your theroy and dismissing the rest (as well as supressing evidnece)

claiming that no "real" member of a group would do what some members of the group has done (or any other quality of that person/group)

claiming a lack of information or evidence somehow proves it does not exist at all

taking advantage of the different meanings of a term to confuse things

claiming we cannot accept a scenario because this might be the first downward step of others to come which would lead to calamity

confusing abstract ideas as though they have a necesary causal relationship with reality

allowing only a yes or no (or black and white) answer

using x to prove y because y proves x because x proves y because y proves x ...

setting up a question so that the answer must be x

Authority = Truth

When catholics take part in communion thay say they are drinking the blood and eating the flesh of their prophet.

Correct me if I am wrong but I think they actually mean this literally. They do this because they are told they will live forever.

No-one lives forever. Their is a thriving industry based on death and we simply cannot point to a single person ever living ‘forever’. And that is regardless of all the people doing this communion ritual.

This communion thing is in fact ritualistic cannibalism and vampirism - which can be found in times gone by in many cultures around the world. Cannibalism itself, it turns out, is very bad for your health.

Cannibalism was not necessarily about the eating of food. More often it was about revenge. People would eat part of the body of an enemy. It was a ritual aimed at strengthening the tribe or demeaning the enemy or more probably striking fear into them.

In the catholic case they appear to want to absorb some of the characteristics of the deceased. This is simply utter nonsense. You don’t absorb the genetic characteristics or learned skill of a person or their social or moral values by eating their flesh.

This is gruesome indeed, but a total fallacy that should be pointed out to children.

Rather than teaching specific nonsense beliefs as nonsense beliefs, which in turn is essentially an argument from authority, and, will only rarely be directly recognizable in vivo, I would focus on critical thinking itself as a tool.

How to use logic and reasoning, and, how to recognize when others are not....would be very useful, and, typically, is never addressed in normal education as early as it would need to, to become incorporated into a child's thinking.

IE: By the time a kid takes a course in logic, he is in college, and, he can apply it to the test questions in class, but will not typically apply it to everyday life, as its only context, at that point IS the class.

Even a kid recognizing that he has two basic layers of conscious processing going on, so he can TELL if he is operating in primary or secondary layers, and be conscious of the difference in expected results, due to it...would be a giant step forward.

And so forth.

HOW to think is more important to teach them than WHAT to think...if we want them to be armed for battles of wits, BS filtration, and understanding WHY THEY believe what they do...because they critically examined it.

Total agreement TJ. College only accelerated my learning because I had finally discovered how to investigate and how to learn instead of being on a steady diet of spoon fed ideas.

So how do we get children to question?

Somehow my kids questioned a lot. Maybe because I tried not to dispense words from authority, but tried instead to help them figure out for themselves some answers. That takes some insight into where they are developmentally, and it's surely more difficult for a teacher of 30 pupils to interact that way with every kid.

Hmm, we have no scripture to make them study regularly, either.

Teach them to think critically in a fun way and then build it up.

An extremely useful approach to teaching is to get the students to practice, quiz and challenge each other with you as the teacher budding in if a major mistake has been made or if they start calling each other hardcore insults or throwing things at one another (don't think this doesn't happen in University classes!)

Ask the kids to write down something thats incredible that they believe. Then put them in groups of three and have one student read their claim and get the others to challenge it for the claim (by premises, logical conclusion, evidence, lack of fallacies). Nothing motivates them more than a which case you give a prize to the students who managed to fend off the criticism and convince the other students they were well as convince the teacher afterwards.

That's one of the ways to get them questioning things. You can also make fallicious claims and play the devils advocate getting all the students to dissect your argument.

You can also introduce one fallacy every week.

There are several good videos/documentaries on critical thinking

You can also just tell the kids to find something a celebrity said, that you can properly challenge (where the celebrity cannot possibly back up the claim or it is obviously flawed).

...and so on...


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