• Early reviews of “Critical Thinking, Science, & Pseudoscience” are in!

    Lack & Rousseau - CTSP cover
     My latest book – Critical Thinking, Science, & Pseudoscience: Why You Can’t Trust Your Brain – is coming closer and closer to it’s publication date of March 28! Co-written with Jacques Rousseau (University of Cape Town philosopher extraordinaire), it is based largely around the critical thinking courses that Jacques and I have been teaching at our respective universities. The book is designed to teach the reader how to separate sense from nonsense, how to think critically about claims both large and small, and how to be a better consumer of information in general.
    Although it’s being mostly advertised towards the academic market, we have purposefully written it to be highly readable, entertaining, and great for anyone wanting to sharpen (or build from scratch) their critical faculties. From the back cover:

    This unique text for undergraduate courses teaches students to apply critical thinking skills across all academic disciplines by examining popular pseudoscientific claims through a multidisciplinary lens. Rather than merely focusing on critical thinking, the text incorporates the perspectives of psychology, biology, physics, medicine, and other disciplines to reinforce different categories of rational explanation. Accessible and engaging, it describes what critical thinking is, why it is important, and how to learn and apply skills that promote it. The text also examines why critical thinking can be difficult to engage in and explores the psychological and social reasons why people are drawn to and find credence in extraordinary claims.

    From alien abductions and psychic phenomena to strange creatures and unsupported alternative medical treatments, the text uses examples from a wide range of pseudoscientific fields and brings evidence from diverse disciplines to critically examine erroneous claims. Particularly timely is the text’s examination of how, using the narrative of today’s “culture wars,” religion and culture impact science. The authors focus on how the human brain, rife with natural biases, does not process information in a rational fashion, and the social factors that prevent individuals from gaining an unbiased, critical perspective on information. Authored by a psychologist and a philosopher who have extensive experience teaching and writing on critical thinking and skeptical inquiry, this work will help students to strengthen their skills in reasoning and debate, become intelligent consumers of research, and make well-informed choices as citizens.

    Michael ShermerWe have gotten some early reviews in, and people certainly seem to like it. For instance, Michael Shermer (Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and Presidential Fellow at Chapman University) said:
    This is the best collection of ideas on critical thinking and skepticism between two covers ever published. Lack and Rousseau have put together the ideal textbook for students who need to learn how to think, which is to say every student in America. I plan to assign the book to my Skepticism 101 course at Chapman University and recommend that every professor teaching critical thinking courses at all colleges and universities do the same. Well written, comprehensive, and engaging. Bravo!
    Elizabeth LoftusPast president of the Association for Psychological Science, one of the foremost memory researchers in the world, and Distinguished Professor at the University of California – Irvine Elizabeth Loftus wrote:
    What’s wrong with believing in pseudoscientific claims and why do so many people do it?  Lack & Rousseau take us on a fascinating excursion into these questions and convincingly show us how junk science harms our wallets and our health. Importantly, they teach us tips for spotting true claims and false ones, good arguments and bad ones. They raise awareness about our “mental furniture” –  a valuable contribution to any reader who cares about truth.
    Carol TavrisCarol Tavris is a social psychologist, Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. She is the coauthor of the wildly popular (and highly influential on me) textbook Psychology and trade book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). After reading our book she wrote that:
    Teachers and students will find this comprehensive, well-written textbook to be a helpful resource that illuminates the principles and applications of critical thinking–a skill that is crucial in our world of bombast, hype, and misinformation.
    Russell BlackfordFinally, we have Russell Blackford, noted author (most recently of The Mystery of Moral Authority and Humanity Enhanced) and philosopher. He’s a Conjoint Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle, a Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Evolution and Technology, a regular op.ed. columnist with Free Inquiry, and a Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism.
    An entertaining introduction to clear thinking, science, and the lure of pseudoscience. Lack and Rousseau clearly explain the principles of logical reasoning, together with the human tendencies that all-too-often undermine it. They show how easily motivated reasoning can prevail over clarity and logic; better, they offer tools to think more critically, whether in science, policy, or our everyday choices.
    For those instructors interested in using this in their class, we have also constructed full lecture slides for the book and an instructor’s guide with sample assignments, recommended videos, and more. Feel free to let our publishers know if you’d like to be considered for an adoption copy.
    The book is scheduled to be released at the end of March 2016, but you can go ahead and preorder your copy now!

    Category: FeaturedPseudosciencePsychologySecularismSkepticismTeaching


    Article by: Caleb Lack

    Caleb Lack is the author of "Great Plains Skeptic" on SIN, as well as a clinical psychologist, professor, and researcher. His website contains many more exciting details, visit it at www.caleblack.com
    • An Ardent Skeptic

      As my husband and I had the great good fortune of being included on the proofreading team for this book, I would like to state that every one of the reviews for this book by Shermer, Loftus, Tavris, and Blackford are spot on in their assessment of the value of “Critical Thinking, Science, and Pseudoscience” as a teaching tool for critical thinking concepts. I would also like to add my own praise for the book as an important read for everyone who wishes to hone their critical thinking skills. The book is written in a way that makes it easy to understand the importance of critical thinking and how to apply critical thinking skills when processing the information we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

      My most sincere congratulations to Caleb and Jacques for having written such an excellent book!

      • Thank you, Ardent! The book is certainly better for having had you and Armchair go over it 🙂

        • An Ardent Skeptic

          Armchair has just pre-ordered two copies of your book – one for us and one for a friend. You forgot to mention in your post that your book makes a great gift. 😉

          • Hey, thanks! And don’t worry, I’m sure in the next hundred posts talking about the book I’ll mention it’s gift-worthiness at least once 😀

            • An Ardent Skeptic

              So what you’re saying is you will likely be writing as many posts about the book as there are pages in the book. 😉

              (All kidding aside, I hope you do keep promoting the book on a regular basis. It should be read by everyone. When is the translation work beginning?)

            • I’m planning on a post per week for it, for the next three years.

              Not sure about translations! Going to have to sell big first, then others will want it 🙂

      • Indeed – thanks very much for the help!

    • hey Caleb, will this be available in electronic version? 🙂

    • Shatterface

      Writing books about pseudoscience means you’ll never be short of material:


      Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.


      • ….what.

        • Shatterface

          There was an even worse paper on the homosociality of carbon fibre a few months back.

    • sombodysdad

      It would be great if the people who read this book apply its ideas to the position they hold. For example if all alleged skeptics applied their skepticism to evolutionism then evolutionism would be pulled from public schools’ science classrooms.

      • Using the term “evolutionism” (and not referring to the mistaken 19th century viewpoint called that) strongly implies that you are some sort of creationist or intelligent design advocate. Given that there is not any good, empirical evidence for either position, your “skepticism” of the fact that organisms evolve over time due to natural selection mechanisms implies that you are not being actually skeptical, but instead dogmatically holding onto a belief, or being a cynic. You may want to refresh your understanding of the two terms: