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Writing Assignment 1

1191 words - 5 pages

The “Tools for Skeptical Thinking” is a list of principles written by American astrophysicist, astronomer and writer Carl Sagan. This list is meant to help people distinguish a well reasoned argument from a poorly reasoned one. In this list there are six tools that stand out as particularly important for discerning good and bad information. These six tools allow people to make more informed decisions about the scientific information that they consume. These tools are Occam’s razor (a rule which states that if there are two hypothesis are equally well argued then it is best to go with the one that is simplest), confirming information from independent sources, encouraging debate from knowledgeable participants, having multiple hypothesizes, not becoming too attached to one’s own hypothesis, and making sure that every part of a chain argument makes sense. These six tools are particularly important because they stress the importance of objectivity and rationality in analyzing an argument.
The first important tool in Carl Sagan’s “Tools for Skeptical Thinking” is Occam’s razor. Occam’s razor is a theory that says if a person is faces with two equally well reasoned hypotheses then they should choose the one that is the simplest. This tool allows people to cut through unnecessary elements of an argument and determine whether or not the hypothesis is true. The mentality behind this is that the simplest answer is usually the best. For example if a person hears a strange coming from their basement every night they can choose to believe either that there is a person that sneaks into their basement to make noises every night or the hot water heater in their basement is broken and is making the noise instead. In this situation the second answer is the simplest and the most logical.
The second important tool in “Tools for Skeptical Thinking” is the conformation of the facts by an independent or unrelated source. This rule is helpful because it stresses the objectivity and unbiased perspective of those providing the information. This insures that those who are backing specific information are not presenting misinformation for personal gain, and that they do not have a vested interest in either a positive or negative outcome it insures that the information will be more accurate. For example if a toothpaste company claims that their brand of toothpaste is the best at strengthening tooth enamel it is important that the claim be backed up by an independent source. To analyze this claim it is important to know who is making the initial claim whether or not it is someone in the company, a professional dentist hired by the company, or a dentist working independently. Knowing the source of this information will allow the person reading the claim to determine if it is true or false.
The third important tool in Carl Sagan’s “Tools for Skeptical Thinking” is encouraging debate from educated participants, often participants who have different or even opposing points of...

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