HONR 2000Z Riders on the Storm: Critical Thinking and the Four Horsemen of Modern Atheism

(B) Bachelors
Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
(UDEN) Farquhar - Dean's Office
3 credits

This class presents the key concepts of scientific/hypothetico-deductive reasoning and develops the student’s critical thinking skills, particularly in applying the guiding principles that distinguish the investigative style of a trained scientist from the style of naïve human reasoning. It emphasizes the nature of both styles of investigation and teaches the specific principles of the former. The key concepts and topics of the course are: the principle of parsimony, falsifiability, the nature of empirical questions, standards of evidence, the value and limits of intuition, the means by which science attempts to curtail the influence of scientists’ biases, and the cognitive psychology of these biases. These topics are all applied to a discussion of religion and atheism. Specifically, each topic is introduced through and applied to those positions that are defended (and those attacked) in the books of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. This course satisfies general education requirements in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Honors students only. (Description Last Updated: Winter 2013 (201330))

Learning Outcomes

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of Occam¿s razor and its value in evaluating competing hypotheses.
  2. Discuss Popperian philosophy of science and its relation to confirmation bias.
  3. Distinguish empirical questions from non-empirical questions of fact and from matters of opinion and, where possible, frame unresolved issues as empirical questions.
  4. Describe the value of predictive validity as a unique means of ascertaining the validity of a theory or worldview.
  5. Describe specific benefits and detriments of standard human intuition compared to trained scientific inquiry.
  6. Identify, with reference to the guiding principles of scientific inquiry, logical flaws inherent to many of the alleged ¿proofs¿ of the existence or non-existence of supernatural phenomena.
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