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thought inoculation

I was pondering the subject of intellectual inoculation this morning. Primarily, which is the inoculation: To be able to read factual scientific evidence with piles of data behind it and still ignore it because it goes against your religious/political point of view? Or to be able to reject any mode of thinking that goes against your ideology even if you’ve seen substantive and reproducible evidence to go against it? Or to be able to read rhetorically persuasive writing and see through the BS and reach reasoned and logical conclusions.

I’ve written before about how, in the last few years, I’ve gone from being a fairly religious (and certainly religiously active) young earth creationist to a skeptic and an atheist. I didn’t have anybody in my life “preaching” science and atheism to me, but as I had doubts about my religion and religious upbringing, I started to read work from both (many?) sides of the science/religion debate, and ultimately found the scientific world view to be compelling and true. During that time I also had religious friends who did some of the same reading, but stuck to their religious world view. I’ve also had some friends who are occupying a middle ground of doubt. It’s easy to dismiss the true believers as not giving the evidence a fair shake, but I think that at least some of them read with as open a mind as they could based on their history. So what is the inoculation?

To me, their “evidence” for God is weak and ridiculous when natural explanations are readily available and more in-line with the evidence. To me, they’re being close-minded. For them, that scientific evidence is ignoring a whole realm of emotional reality which, though untestable, is real to them to such a degree that by my not accepting it I’m the one being close-minded.

We all want our loved ones to share at least a fairly high percentage of our ideals, so while much of my family would like my children to be religious and are interested in promoting that world view in them and how they think, I want them to be Skeptics. I want them to have the tools to analyze evidence and information and make informed decisions. I don’t want them to be cold calculating robots, but in addition to having compassion and human understanding (rooted in philosophically sound thought as well as emotional intelligence) I do want them to be able to use proper logic and reason and know the tricks our minds can play on us when we desperately want to believe in something.

To that end… I’m looking for a Skeptic parent’s bookshelf. Not just the Demon Haunted World books for the adults, but books that can be read at bed time to your toddler, through YA, that promote critical, scientific, free thinking.

Thoughts? Suggestions?



  1. Keith wrote:

    I guess Dan Barker has some books out for what you might be looking for. I haven’t yet looked although it seems that I am in a similar boat as you. However, my wife also is not a believer anymore. I don’t particularly care for Dan Barker from what I have heard when he talks but it may be an idea you are looking for.

    Friday, August 6, 2010 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  2. Charles wrote:

    Thanks, I have tried one Dan Barker book for kids:
    Maybe Yes, Maybe No: A Guide for Young Skeptics.
    And it was pretty decent (production values left something to be desired, but the content was good enough).

    I’ve also read, and passed on to my son, How Do You Know It’s True? by Hy Ruchlis which I thought was really good (like a Demon Haunted World for 8-14 year olds).

    Daniel Loxton’s Evolution is pretty good as well (obviously on the single subject)

    Dale Mcgowan’s two parenting books (Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising FreeThinkers) were both good for ME, and I did find a couple recommendations in them. “In The Beginning” does a good job of looking at creation myths from around the world (telling them in story format).

    I also encouraged my eldest to read the This I Believe books so he can look inside how other people believe or don’t.

    The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook is a graphic novel (that was recommended by Boing Boing I think_ and had a nice science theme.

    From TV and entertainment standpoint I like the Sid The Science Kid & Dinosaur Train shows on PBS (both Henson productions… and Sid I think does a great job with promoting scientific thinking and investigation).

    This Week in Science (podcast of radio show) had an interview with the author of The Prometheus Project: Trapped and it had some good scientific thinking lessons worked into a story both of my son’s enjoyed.

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

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