Saturday, June 12, 2010

Don't Believe Everything You Think

Don’t Believe Everything You Think, written by Thomas Kida, examines the six basic mistakes we make in thinking. This was a very well written book which combines the wit of a storyteller and the critical thinking of a skeptic. Kida uses a great mixture of personal stories, experimentations, and hypothetical situations to help explain to the reader why we think the way we do and how we can become better thinkers. The book is able to help the reader become a more informed decision maker by covering a multitude of different topics that range from ghosts, to the stock market, to whether or not it’s going to rain on Sunday. The main point the Kida tries to make throughout the book is that we the readers need to be more skeptical and think more like scientists. We can not fall into the trap of anecdotal evidence and believing things with out any hard evidence.

There were many interesting topics and chapters in this book; however my favorite would have to be the third chapter, thinking like a scientist. Being a biochemistry major I have always thought of myself as someone who thinks like a scientist. After reading this chapter and thinking more about what Kida was saving, I was amazed by how many people including myself give into ideas without having any scientific evidence. I am sure that we have all done it, our friends tell us a story about this great remedy or this great new idea, and the first thing that comes to mind is wow that’s great. Because we are hearing it from someone we trust like a friend or family member we are more likely to believe them, than to go out and look at the evidence. Although after reading I have to admit that I do fall into these traps eventually, I think this was my favorite part because I am proud of the fact that more times than not I think exactly like a scientist. I can be a very skeptical person who wants some prove before I believe something, so I related really well to this chapter and what it was talking about.

When I think about this book, I think all Americans, especially people who make decisions like politicians, should read this book. In the book there were numerous occasions which the government was given money to one of the ideas which had no real statistical or scientific backing, only anecdotal evidence. I think this is a serious problem that needs to be looked into. With the state of the current economy and the government always looking for budget cuts, these are the types of programs that should be getting cut. People giving government money should be even more skeptical, and require even more sound evidence any common person deciding whether or not to believe something. Things like the CIA spending $20 million dollars on a stargate program seems ill-advised and wasteful. This book can help to teach people how to make sound judgments. I think this book and its ideas can help solve some of this countries problems, and if nothing else save it from wasting money on useless programs. There are far better things our government could be doing with that money.

In our class we’ve covered a lot about pseudoscience. Kida refers to pseudoscience as, “claims presented so that they appear scientific even though they lack sufficient supporting evidence and plausibility.” Personally I like the term junk science. As we learned in class, we all hold many pseudoscientific beliefs. However, I found it very interesting taking what I learned about pseudoscience in class and looking at it from another perspective through the book. Kida allows the readers to understand why. You get a feeling for why people have these pseudoscientific beliefs. Also, he is able to give people the knowledge to recognize these pseudoscientific beliefs so they don’t fall victim to believing in them. The class was able to teach me what pseudoscience is, but this book was able to teach me how not to think like a pseudoscientist but a scientist.

I decided to make a video asking people if and why they believed some different myths. I found it interesting to hear everyone's responses, obviously not all my friends think like a scientist!


References:
Don't Believe Everything You Think by Thomas E. Kida
Snopes.com

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