Benefits of Collaborative Philosophical Inquiry in Schools

Stephan Millett & Alan Tapper
Centre for Applied Ethics and Philosophy, Curtin University 

If you need to show why doing collaborative philosophical inquiry, or just philosophy, in schools is important, this is a good place to start.

        via EPAT – Abstract below

In the past decade well-designed research studies have shown that the practice of collaborative philosophical inquir y in schools can have marked cognitive and social benefits. Student academic performance improves, and so too does the social dimension of schooling. These findings are timely, as many countries in Asia and the Pacific are now contemplating introducing Philosophy into their curricula.This paper gives a brief history of collaborative philosophical inquiry before surveying the evidence as to its effectiveness.The evidence is canvassed under two categories: schooling and thinking skills; and schooling, socialisation and values. In both categories there is clear evidence that even short-term teaching of collaborative philosophical inquiry has marked positive effects on students.The paper concludes with suggestions for further research and a final claim that the presently-available research evidence is strong enough to warrant implementing collaborative philosophical inquiry as part of a long-term policy.

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1,500 Animal Species Practice Homosexuality

Not natural?  Think again… 

Homosexuality is quite common in the animal kingdom, especially among herding animals. Many animals solve conflicts by practicing same gender sex.

From the middle of October until next summer the Norwegian Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo will host the first exhibition that focuses on homosexuality in the animal kingdom.

“One fundamental premise in social debates has been that homosexuality is unnatural. This premise is wrong. Homosexuality is both common and highly essential in the lives of a number of species,” explains Petter Boeckman, who is the academic advisor for the “Against Nature’s Order?” exhibition. Continue reading

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Conspiracy, Independent Scholarship and the Truth as a Commodity

Great stuff again from The Stone (NYTimes)

Who Wrote Shakespeare?

While it is perfectly obvious to everyone that Ben Jonson wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays, it is less known that Ben Jonson’s plays were written by a teen-age girl in Sunderland, who mysteriously disappeared, leaving no trace of her existence, which is clear proof that she wrote them. The plays of Marlowe were actually written by a chambermaid named Marlene, who faked her own orgasm, and then her own death in a Deptford tavern brawl. Queen Elizabeth, who was obviously a man, conspired to have Shakespeare named as the author of his plays, because how could a man who had only a grammar-school education and spoke Latin and a little Greek possibly have written something as bad as “All’s Well That Ends Well”? It makes no sense. It was obviously an upper-class twit who wished to disguise his identity so that Vanessa Redgrave could get a job in her old age. Continue reading

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The Backfire Effect

When people believe more strongly in something AFTER they have been given information that refutes it….

Good explanation here

And paper by Brendan Nyhan here (pdf).  Abstract below.

An extensive literature addresses citizen ignorance, but very little research focuses on misperceptions. Can these false or unsubstantiated beliefs about politics be corrected? Previous studies have not tested the efficacy of corrections in a realistic format. We conducted four experiments in which subjects read mock news articles that included either a misleading claim from a politician, or a misleading claim and a correction. Results indicate that corrections frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group. We also document several instances of a “backfire effect” in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.

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Logic, Knowledge Systems and World Views

The way of logic – 02 December 1995 – New Scientist

FOR almost two centuries, anthropologists have been studying how non-European cultures understand the world around them. Now philosophers of science are getting in on the act. Armed with intellectual tools and methods that have traditionally been applied to Western science and its understanding of the world, they are turning to the “knowledge systems” of other cultures. Leading the way is Helen Verran, an Australian philosopher of science at the University of Melbourne, who for the past decade has studied the knowledge system of the Yolgnu people of northern Australia.

more at New Scientist 

“The way of logic – 02 December 1995 – New Scientist” (pdf)

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Bayesian Inference (Homo Bayesianis)

Bayesian Inference (and a good explanation of Bayes’ Theorem)
~best to ignore this one if you’re not already in the loop~

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Cognitive Dissonance Explained

By Dilbert, of course…

Wikipedia cognitive dissonance.

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Suing for Being Born

ISRAELI children with birth defects are increasingly suing the medical authorities for ever allowing them to be born. The rise in such “wrongful life” lawsuits, which the medical profession estimates at 600 since the first case in 1987, has prompted an investigation by the Israeli government.  more

The Israeli children who are suing for being born (pdf)

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Philosophy Ideas

Interesting site, interestingly organised. Screen shot below.


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The Changing Climate of Skepticism

Via Embiggen Books

In this excellent talk given by Peter Ellerton (winner of the 2008 Australian Skeptics prize for Critical Thinking) on the Climate Change debate, the viewer is encouraged to examine the way in which the debate is being run and scrutinise their own convictions as to why they may have taken the position they have about Global Warming. Peter provides some very useful thinking tools for navigating this complex terrain.

Peter Ellerton at Embiggen Books from Embiggen Books on Vimeo.

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Animal Actors – Animal Rights, Human Perceptions

Chimpanzees Should Not Be Used in TV or Movies (via Scientific American)

Does the use of chimps in movies distort the conservation message?

By Jason G. Goldman | October 12, 2011 | 3

Lots of people mistake bonobos for chimpanzees, despite the fact that they’re really two different species. But that people are familiar with chimpanzees in the first place is actually somewhat remarkable, given how rare these primates truly are. TheIUCN’s most recent estimate (in 2003) for the global population of wild chimpanzees is only 172,700 to 299,700 individuals. Indeed, all African countries in which chimpanzees reside have laws against their capture and trade as food or as pets. It should be somewhat surprising, then, that its actually legal for individuals or businesses in the United States to purchase and own chimpanzees as pets, for use in entertainment, and for biomedical research. The question of chimpanzee use for biomedical research is fraught, but the irresponsibility of using chimpanzees in movies and commercials seems fairly straightforward. But not everyone seems to agree – they would argue that it is chimpanzees’ appearance in mainstream media that has actually allowed for the increased public awareness of the existence of chimpanzees.

Please see the rest of the blog here

For more information:
Read the open-access paper in PLoS ONE
See the specific videos used in this study here.
Chimps Are Not Pets, a website by Dr. Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
The Jane Goodall Institute
My review of an excellent book, Bonobo Handshake
Extinction Countdown: Should Captive-Bred Chimpanzees Have Full Endangered Species Act Protection?

“Use of ‘entertainment’ chimpanzees in commercials distorts public perception regarding their conservation status,” Kara K. Schroepfer, Alexandra G. Rosati, Tanya Chartrand & Brian Hare. PLoS ONE, Oct. 12, 2011. 10.1371/journal.pone.0026048

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Pick your Cognitive Bias

Another brilliant Dilbert

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Imagining the Tenth Dimension

Excellent intellectual exercise

Continue reading

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A Wonderful Piece of Pseudoscience in Advertising

Well worth reading the whole lot. The language is absolute nonsense.

“By strengthening the body’s own natural energy and innate intelligence, the QLink allows it to recognise and differentiate between which external energies are healthy, and which are not. The body thrives on natural energies but is thrown off balance by many man-made energies. “

A cure for Jetlag (pdf)

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Reasons for Reason

Via MICHAEL P. LYNCH NYTimes The Stone

Rick Perry’s recent vocal dismissals of evolution, and his confident assertion that “God is how we got here” reflect an obvious divide in our culture. In one sense, that divide is just over the facts: Some of us believe God created human beings just as they are now, others of us don’t. But underneath this divide is a deeper one. Really divisive disagreements are typically not just over the facts. They are also about the best way to support our views of the facts. Call this a disagreement in epistemic principle. Our epistemic principles tell us what is rational to believe, what sources of information to trust. Continue reading

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Atheism as a ‘Null Hypothesis’

An interesting take on the subject by QualiaSoup…

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Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory

Great paper on Reasoning

Why Do Humans Reason? (pdf)

Abstract and authors below…

Abstract: Reasoning is generally seen as a means to improve knowledge and make better decisions. However, much evidence shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests that the function of reasoning should be rethought. Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. Reasoning so conceived is adaptive given the exceptional dependence of humans on communication and their vulnerability to misinformation. A wide range of evidence in the psychology of reasoning and decision making can be reinterpreted and better explained in the light of this hypothesis. Poor performance in standard reasoning tasks is explained by the lack of argumentative context. When the same problems are placed in a proper argumentative setting, people turn out to be skilled arguers. Skilled arguers, however, are not after the truth but after arguments supporting their views. This explains the notorious confirmation bias. This bias is apparent not only when people are actually arguing, but also when they are reasoning proactively from the perspective of having to defend their opinions. Reasoning so motivated can distort evaluations and attitudes and allow erroneous beliefs to persist. Proactively used reasoning also favors decisions that are easy to justify but not necessarily better. In all these instances traditionally described as failures or flaws, reasoning does exactly what can be expected of an argumentative device: Look for arguments that support a given conclusion, and, ceteris paribus, favor conclusions for which arguments can be found.  Continue reading

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Tips on Writing a Philosophy Paper/Essay

A nice overview from  Douglas W. Portmore

Tips on writing a philosophy paper (pdf)

The full text is below… Continue reading

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How Science Works in Action

Faster-than-light neutrinos show science in action

Making a very good point about when to believe evidence.

     via Scientific American

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 24 hours, you’ve probably heard about the neutrinos that turned up at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy a few nanoseconds earlier than they were supposed to, in a feat that would have required them to travel faster than the speed of light. Continue reading

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Ability to Think Scientifically Declines as Kids Grow Up

Young children think like researchers but lose the feel for the scientific method as they age

       via Scientific American

If your brownies came out too crispy on top but undercooked in the center, it would make sense to bake the next batch at a lower temperature, for more time or in a different pan—but not to make all three changes at once. Realizing that you can best tell which variable matters by altering only one at a time is a cardinal principle of scientific inquiry. Continue reading

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