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Carl Sagan And Skeptical Thinking Essay

1204 words - 5 pages

Among the tools for skeptical thinking provided by Sagan’s essay are: facts confirmation, authority can be wrong, comparing your hypothesis objectively to others, quantify, chain of argument, and always try to falsify the hypothesis.
The foundation of science is built on trust. It is constructed on the fact that scientists using research and precise testing to based data on. Scientific testing uses analytical and statistical methods accurately and respectfully to obtain results (Committee on Science, 2009). Methods include: conducting experiments that will isolate cause and effect on the phenomena being studied, observing and formulating physical laws, and using accurate quantitative measurements (Dr. Richard, Paul ;Dr. Elder, Linda, 2006). It is essential to always apply critical and skeptical thinking when approaching science and to detect when trust is violated.
In his essay “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” Carl Sagan suggests that there is great danger in losing one’s critical thinking skills (Sagan, 1997). According to The Foundation for Critical Thinking critical thinking is the method of using rational analysis to improve thinking in a self-directed process (Defining Critical Thinking, 2011). Sagan presents a set of tools called the “baloney detection kit”. His kit of skeptical thinking relies on examined and explored arguments along with methods differentiating between facts and falsehood that can assist in recognizing the truth.
The first tool is finding the evidence from independent sources (4). Data we receive is not free of biases, opinions, and distorted information. People have personal beliefs and ideology; as a result biases can influence actual facts. A message travels from sender to receiver in an eight step process called the model of communication (Bovée & Thill, 2012). Part of the communication process consists of decoding a message by the receiver. The decoding process includes applying skeptical thinking to the message by analyzing it according the receiver’s own experience and reason. Evidence should be supported by more than one source in order to prove a claim. A good example will be religion versus science controversy regarding the creation of our world. Science has offered evolutionary ideas that are backed with scientific evidence from many fields including biology, geology, and anthropology. On the other hand religion has offered a theory based on only one source -the bible, and in particular the book of Genesis. The bible does not provide scientific information and explanations on millions of years of evolution but instead provides a six day creation story.
The second tool that I think is extremely significant is checking the “authority” behind the claim (4). Scientists could be experts in their field of study however no individual should be announced an authority. A validity of a claim must be judged by other scientists in the same field that are considered experts. A single expert could fake scientific...

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