Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Skepticism and your lying brain

I blogged about Wang and Aamodt's 'public service announcement' to the effect that "your brain lies to you" the other day. Steven Novella, the ├╝ber-skeptic, blogged about the same article and interestingly related it to scientific skepticism. Novella argues, among other things, that it is important to try to counteract source amnesia and that we must take care not to entrench myths when debunking them:
In terms of skeptical activism, knowledge of this aspect of human memory can help skeptics frame their message. We do not, for example, want to mention a myth that is not already generally known for the purpose of refuting it. We also need to be conscious of how we state things. Rather than saying that the claim that people use 10% of their brain is a myth, we should say first that people use 100% of their brain - first establish the framework of the positive true statement.

Also we need to emphasize teaching the tools of how to think, rather than just telling people what to think. Along these lines we need to teach people how we know what we know in science, not just the current findings of science. If you teach the process of arriving at a conclusion, that automatically gives them a framework to help remember information correctly and also gives them the ability to reproduce the argument and re-arrive at the correct conclusion - rather than just having to remember it correctly by rote.

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