Saturday, March 16, 2013


OMNI CRITICAL THINKING NEWSLETTER #3, March 16, 2013, Compiled by Dick Bennett for a Culture of Peace.    (#1 July 5, 2011; #2 October 18, 2012).  Only three newsletters on CT?   Many of OMNI's newsletters call into question the myths and practices of the US.

My blog:  The War Department and Peace Heroes

 Nothing in this newsletter pertains directly to the Pentagon,  the US military-corporate-congressional Complex, militarism, imperialism, and that is an indirect point.  The immense misuse and abuse of resources and power by the military should elicit frequent books using principles and methods of critical thinking, but they are rare.  Books examining the Pentagon are rare (but read Carroll's magnificent House of War, 2006).  I am aware of only one magazine devoted to studying the Pentagon.  Thus we have seen its power increase and increase until its expenditures are neither countable or accounted for, and the US empire has expanded to over 1000 bases around the world in some 100 countries .

Contents of #1

Critical Thinking for Media Analysis
Fox Propaganda Techniques
Bin Laden and Black/White Thinking
Historical Analogy
Global Warming Disinformation and Denial
  Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason

Contents of #2
The Only Physicist in Congress
Natural and Unnatural Thinking
Fallacies and Ideologies
20 Logical Fallacies
Importance of Dissent
Books Reviewed in Skeptical Inquirer (Nov. Dec. 2012) (the contents of every number devoted to CT) :
  David McRaney, You Are Not So Smart,,,and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself.  
  Jan Harold Brunvand, Encyclopedia of Urban Legends. 
  William Gardner, Handling Truth.a

Contents #3
Henschel and Krueger, Fayetteville Free Thinkers
Krueger’s CT Course at NWACC
Jordan, The Enlightenment
Sanders, Commercial and Political Deception
Skeptical Inquirer
Pigliucci, How People Think About Politics, Defending Our Beliefs
Elder and Paul, book Critical Thinking
Gordin, Pseudoscience
Catania, Economic Cons, Frauds, Scams

Here is the link to all the newsletters in OMNI’s web site:

Fayetteville Freethinkers
"Test all things; hold fast what is good." 1 Thess. 5:21
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Freethought Radio

In April 2010, the Fayetteville Freethinkers teamed up with local freethinker groups and the Northwest Arkansas Coalition of Reason -- an arm of the United Coalition of Reason -- to bring a pro-freethinker billboard to Northwest Arkansas. It sat prominently alongside I-540 just north of Springdale through most of April and the first week of May. We also had signs on local buses. This generated lots of media coverage and interest in our groups. Read more about this in our forum here.
While the people in this picture include freethinkers from various NWA freethinker groups, realize that the 30 people above represent less than 7% of the freethinkers just on our Fayetteville Freethinker email list!
Fayetteville Freethinker Essentials

  • (Updated 1/26/13)
We are the Fayetteville Freethinkers, a loose knit skeptical club formed in Fayetteville Arkansas in 1998.
Our Fayetteville Freethinker meetings are held regularly (with few exceptions) on the last Saturday of each month at the Fayetteville library, at 2:00 pm (except for July and December). Our next meeting will be on Saturday, February 23. Information about upcoming and past meetings (including summaries and links) is posted in our forum here.
We had 70 attend our January meeting.
To get on or off of our email list and receive notices for meetings and other events, simply send a request to We are also on Facebook so feel free to join us there as well.
Here is a little of what has happened at recent meetings:
o        At our August meeting the Fayetteville Freethinkers presented our local University of Arkansas freethinker group (Secular Student Alliance affiliate) the gift of two six foot banners that will come in handy at their events:
o        We conducted a three part Psychic Test with a reward of $10,000 as outlined here. Participants were to attempt to remote view and identify two things hidden in a sealed case: a word written on a card, and a distinct object of some sort. We had nine participants, five at the meeting, four attempts were sent in via email. There were six attempts to get the word and the written and verified submissions were as follows: "bicycle, goat, prevarication, fast, trout, Bullshit!" As was revealed to the audience when the case was opened by a library volunteer, the word on the card was: "Girls"
We had eight attempts to discern the object in the case. The eight submissions, written and verified, were: "Bible, bell, Bologna, shower head, magic wand, apple, White Knight (chess piece), toy car."
As was revealed to the audience when the case was opened, the object was a: "Shoe."
The audience was told there would be a clue, and the clue was at that point revealed to be that the conductor of the meeting had been walking around without his right shoe (because it was in the case!). 
We also made available our telekinesis test: a ping pong ball under a glass dome. Move the ball one inch, receive $5,000. All attempts failed.
o        We also announced our standing offer of the reward of a home in Fayetteville to anyone who can bring in Bigfoot. The legal details of this reward are posted in our forum here. Since no one brought "Bigfoot" to our April meeting, this reward (value approx. $80,000) is still available.
o        Our resident astrophysicist Felix gave a presentation explaining why those fine geocentrist folks over at Galileo Was Wrongare in fact incorrect. The earth is not fixed and immovable at the center of the universe. We also watched this video which takes you on a 13.7 billion light year visual trip from earth, to as far as we have ever seen, and back (in six minutes).
o        We talked about the Billboard display (see picture above). To read about how this campaign went and learn and the local freethought groups involved see the new Northwest Arkansas Coalition of Reason website.
o        Another freethinker group in the area is FreethoughtNWA. Check out their website. They have lots of news of interest to freethinkers.
o        An entire meeting has been recorded and it has been uploaded for you to view online. Thanks to Juju!
o        Doug Krueger gave a presentation entitled "What Must We Do to be Saved?" He addressed the question: Does the Bible clearly and unequivocally tell us what someone must do in order to be saved? The slides for his presentation can be downloaded here.
o        Felix gave a presentation describing what was going on in these beautiful pictures of the sun. Check out these awesome pictures too.
Information regarding our past meetings and future meetings can be read in our forum. Feel free to join the discussions in our forum.
To get on or off of our email list (one or two notices per month) just send us an email. We have no formal membership and do not keep track of names. To provide a suggestion or feedback about our literature, website, or to inquire about giving a presentation at one of our meetings... send us a note at If you have an idea for a presentation please remember to mention two things when you inquire: a little about the topic you would like to present on, and how long you estimate it will take. Powerpoint and sound is provided. Every email is carefully read and responded to by a trained Fayetteville Freethinker.

Random Freethinker Quote
" and knowledge are related as the two scales of a balance; when the one goes up, the other goes down." --Arthur Schopenauer

To get on our email list, send a request to:

Here's a short description, from my syllabus.
The critical thinking course is designed to help students hone their skills in assessing the evidence for the truth of a claim.  These skills will require the use of basic logical rules and have students judging source reliability, interpreting testimony, finding hidden assumptions, tracing unforeseen consequences, and looking at many other factors.  Students practice their critical thinking skills in class by applying them to a wide range of topics, including politics, the media, popular culture, and entertainment. The class also addresses common hindrances to successful critical thinking.  Special attention is given to translating what is learned into general strategies, specific rules, and the use of critical thinking in students' own real world educational and professional settings.

The Enlightenment Vision: Science, Reason, and the Promise of a Better Future

The Enlightenment Vision: Science, Reason, and the Promise of a Better Future (Hardback)  by Stuart Jordan.   Prometheus, 2013.

It evaluates the process that society has made since the Enlightenment and offers a cautiously optimistic vision for the future. In the 17th and 18th centuries, a major cultural shift took place in western Europe. Leading thinkers began to emphasize the use of reason to tackle the challenges of life. Instead of religion, intellectuals put their faith in science and humanistic ethics in the hope of improving the secular lives of people everywhere. Today we call this development the Enlightenment. This thought-provoking analysis evaluates the progress that global society has made since the Enlightenment, beginning by exploring the features of present-day society that are direct results of the Enlightenment’s discoveries - technology, modern medicine, science, and democratic institutions. It then goes on to discuss some of the problems produced in the wake of these advances - overpopulation, nuclear proliferation, and climate change. Despite these and other daunting challenges, this book concludes on a cautiously optimistic note, predicting Enlightenment's vision of a better life for all will be achieved.

All We Have to Fear:  Psychiatry's Transformation of Natural Anxieties into Mental Disorders

Allan V. Horwitz, PhD and Jerome C. Wakefield, DSW, PhD
ISBN13: 9780199793754ISBN10: 0199793751Hardcover, 320 pages
·                                 May 2012,  Description
·                                 Features
·                                 Reviews
·                                 Product Details
·                                 Author Information
·                                 Table of Contents


Thirty years ago, it was estimated that less than five percent of the population had an anxiety disorder. Today, some estimates are over fifty percent, a tenfold increase. Is this dramatic rise evidence of a real medical epidemic?

In All We Have to Fear, Allan Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield argue that psychiatry itself has largely generated this "epidemic" by inflating many natural fears into psychiatric disorders, leading to the over-diagnosis of anxiety disorders and the over-prescription of anxiety-reducing drugs. American psychiatry currently identifies disordered anxiety as irrational anxiety disproportionate to a real threat. Horwitz and Wakefield argue, to the contrary, that it can be a perfectly normal part of our nature to fear things that are not at all dangerous--from heights to negative judgments by others to scenes that remind us of past threats (as in some forms of PTSD). Indeed, this book argues strongly against the tendency to call any distressing condition a "mental disorder." To counter this trend, the authors provide an innovative and nuanced way to distinguish between anxiety conditions that are psychiatric disorders and likely require medical treatment and those that are not--the latter including anxieties that seem irrational but are the natural products of evolution. The authors show that many commonly diagnosed "irrational" fears--such as a fear of snakes, strangers, or social evaluation--have evolved over time in response to situations that posed serious risks to humans in the past, but are no longer dangerous today. 

Drawing on a wide range of disciplines including psychiatry, evolutionary psychology, sociology, anthropology, and history, the book illuminates the nature of anxiety in America, making a major contribution to our understanding of mental health.


·                      Offers a fundamental, yet constructive, critique of psychiatric diagnostic criteria while at the same time recognizing the existence of genuine mental disorders
·                      Uniquely combines perspectives from a wide range of disciplines that include psychiatry, evolutionary psychology, sociology, anthropology, and history
·                      Avoids both the sweeping dismissal of psychiatry found in many current attacks on definitions of mental disorder and the widespread acceptance of calling any distressing condition as a "mental disorder"
·                      Appeals to academics, clinicians, and the lay reader


"Finally, a book about anxiety disorders that is based on a deep understanding of normal anxiety! I wish every mental health clinician would read it. Its spectacularly clear prose reveals the landscape of normal anxiety like an airplane's radar reveals the ground beneath the fog." -- Randolph M. Nesse, MD, Department of Psychiatry, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 
"The area of anxiety disorders has needed a thorough review and a shake-up for a long time. In this bold and thought-provoking work, Allan Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield have relied mainly on the insights from the evolutionary theory to provide a critical and powerful analysis of the modern concept of anxiety disorders. Regardless of whether or to what extent one agrees with them, their book rightly challenges the prevailing notions and is likely to perturb current thinking about fear, anxiety and anxiety disorders. It will certainly add more substance to much-needed discussions and debates about the nature of these conditions, psychiatric diagnoses, and an often-imperceptible boundary between normality and psychopathology." -- Vladan Starcevic, MD, PHD, Department of Psychiatry, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Australia 
"About the Author(s)
Allan V. Horwitz is Board of Governors Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University. His books include The Social Control of Mental Illness and Creating Mental Illness. He is the recipient of the Pearlin Award for lifetime Achievement in the Sociology of Mental Health from the American Sociological Association.
Jerome C. Wakefield is University Professor, Professor of Social Work, and Professor of Psychiatry at New York University. He is the author, with Allan V. Horwitz, of The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder--named Best Psychology Book of 2007 by the Association of American Publishers.

Scott R. Sanders, “Language Versus Lies,” The Progressive magazine (Dec. 2012/Jan. 2013).   This article is a good summary of what you know (deceptive language techniques--euphemism, labels, etc.--, connection of commercial and political deception), a good intro. for a young person. -- Dick

Skeptical Inquirer is about critical thinking from first to last page.  The editorial of the Jan-Feb no. is all about CT, and the article "Indignation Is Not Righteous" analyzes (sub-title) "The Twin Fallacies of Appeal to Righteous Indignation and Appeal to Sanctity."  Also articles on end of world claims, alleged repressed memory, and much more, including many appreciations of Paul Kurtz, who died recently.  --Dick

See chapter “Right, Left, Up, Down: on Politics” and ending of book on defensive tactics we employ when faced with evidence that counters our beliefs.   –Dick

The Miniature Guide  to The Foundation for Critical Thinking   LIMITED DOWNLOAD COPY
By Dr. Richard Paul  and  Dr. Linda Elder
Critical Thinking ConCepts and Tools LIMITED DOWNLOAD COPY
Why A Critical Thinking Mini-Guide?
This miniature guide focuses on of the essence of critical thinking concepts and
tools distilled into pocket size. For faculty it provides a shared concept of critical
thinking. For students it is a critical thinking supplement to any textbook for any
course. Faculty can use it to design instruction, assignments, and tests in any subject.
Students can use it to improve their learning in any content area.
Its generic skills apply to all subjects.  For example, critical thinkers are clear as to the purpose at hand and the question at issue. They question information, conclusions, and points of view. They strive to be clear, accurate, precise, and relevant. They seek to think beneath the surface, to be logical, and fair.  They apply these skills to their reading and writing as well as to their speaking and listening.  They apply them in history, science, math, philosophy, and the arts; in
professional and personal life.
When this guide is used as a supplement to the textbook in multiple courses,
students begin to perceive the usefulness of critical thinking in every domain of
learning. And if their instructors provide examples of the application of the subject
to daily life, students begin to see that education is a tool for improving the quality
of their lives.
If you are a student using this mini-guide, get in the habit of carrying it with
you to every class. Consult it frequently in analyzing and synthesizing what you are learning. Aim for deep internalization of the principles you find in it—until using them becomes second nature.
If successful, this guide will serve faculty, students, and the educational program
Richard Paul, Linda Elder
Center for Critical Thinking Foundation for Critical Thinking   LIMITED DOWNLOAD COPY
The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools
Fourth Edition     © 2006 Foundation for Critical Thinking

30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living:

A Guide for Improving Every Aspect of Your Life 

30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living
30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living

including: Table of Contents, overviews and selected pages.
Sample_30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living
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Author: Linda Elder and Richard Paul
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 89

Critical thinking is at once simple and complex. Though there are many layers to critical thinking, and you can always deepen your understanding of it, there are some basic ideas in critical thinking that, if taken seriously, can almost immediately improve the quality of your life. This book offers 30 such ideas. You can focus on one idea per day or one idea per week. And each idea is immediately applicable to your life. This book is for anyone interested in improving the quality of their lives by improving the quality of their thinking.

The 30 Days Book is a revised and updated version of the original 25 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living.


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106B 30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living

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30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living

There is nothing we do as humans that does not involve our thinking. Our thinking tells us what to believe, what to reject, what is important, what is unimportant, what is true, what is false, who are our friends, who are our enemies, how we should spend our time, what jobs we should pursue, where we should live, who we should marry, how we should parent. Everything we know, believe, want, fear, and hope for, our thinking tells us.
It follows, then, that the quality of our thinking is the primary determinant of the quality of our lives. It has implications for how we go about doing, literally, everything we do.
Therefore, learning to think at the highest level of quality, or to think critically, is too important to leave to chance. Critical thinking is the disciplined art of ensuring that you use the best thinking you are capable of using in any set of circumstances. Through developed critical capacities, you can take command of the thinking that is commanding you.
Becoming a critical thinker requires that you learn to observe, monitor, analyze, assess, and reconstruct thinking of many sorts in many dimensions of human life. It requires the building of important habits of mind. It has implications for every act that takes place in your mind. It requires a special form of dedication and perseverance, honesty and integrity. It can be done only if taken seriously and pursued throughout a lifetime.
This book will show you how to use your mind to improve your mind. Each of the ideas in it can help you take command of the mind that is controlling your thoughts, emotions, desires and behavior.
Our hope is not in a miracle transformation, but in laying a foundation for your future intellectual and emotional growth. We are merely scratching the surface of deep and complex topics. We do not provide a quick fix, but rather places to begin. When you begin to take your intellectual growth seriously, you begin to see payoffs in every part of your life.
But first, you must wake your mind up. You must begin to understand your mind. You must begin to see when it is causing you problems. You must begin to see when it is causing others problems. You must learn how to trap it when it tries to hide from itself (using one of the many forms of self-deception of which it is naturally skilled). You must discover some of the trash and nonsense you have unknowingly taken in during years of passive absorption - to which all of us are subject. This book will show you how to begin.

More on What People Say About the 30 Days Book…

William James, the father of psychology in America, once said, "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."

Every thing we do involves thinking. Our quality of life depends on the quality of our thinking. But for the most part, very few people are taught how to engage in clear thinking. If our thinking is flawed, it follows that we will experience problems in life.

According to Linda Elder and Richard Paul, the authors, "Many of our regrettable actions emerge from faulty reasoning." Yet very few people really question the quality of their thinking. It is human nature to believe that what we think is right.

"Humans are prejudiced. We stereotype one another. We are often hypocritical." And we often engage in thinking which justifies behavior that includes stealing, killing and torture. "In short, we naturally think that our thinking is fully justified."

This book first shows us how we engage in thinking which is faulty. Next the authors show us that our thinking controls our emotions and our decisions - which of course leads to our circumstances. If you wish to change your circumstances, you must change your way of thinking.

Then we are given the basics of critical thinking: Clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, significance and fairness.

The first portion of the book deals with shinning a light on how we actually think and the resulting problems from the way we think. Then the authors give us the foundation for understanding and developing our ability to apply critical thinking to our daily lives.

After the introduction, the book contains 30 lessons for developing our critical thinking. The suggestion is that you read and work through a lesson per day. After you have completed the 30 day program, the authors suggest you start over and instead of doing a lesson per day, do the same lessons on a weekly basis.

The book is well written and the lessons about how we think, or more importantly the mistakes we make in our thinking are very insightful. The daily lessons are a great way to methodically improve your thinking. As the authors point out, even the highly skilled at critical thinking make mistakes at times. So those who are novices should not be too hard on themselves but should engage in the lessons first on a daily basis and then on a weekly basis. Learning to master your thinking is a life long process.

At the end of the lessons is an excellent suggested reading list. The appendix contains a glossary of terms which is very helpful.

This is an excellent book for those wanting to improve the quality of their lives. Trying to improve your life without working on the root issue will not yield sustainable results.

I highly recommend this book for any serious student of life and learning.
 -John Chancellor
 In their book, Critical Thinking, A guide for improving Every Aspect of Your Life, Doctors Linda Elder and Richard Paul provide nothing less than a psychological GPS system for mental clarity.  If you're serious about living according to your true intentions, then you must develop a capacity for critically thinking about what you think.  At first blush, "thinking about what you think" may sound like a Zen Koan--don't be intimidated.  With practical, incremental guidelines for challenging destructive, self-deceptive habits, beliefs, and vague thinking, you will be experiencing your world in vivid, HD clarity in just 30 days.  If you've ever dreamt about being more effective, more balanced, and more content with life--follow this step-by-step program.  It's amazing!
Dr. Joe Luciani, Bestselling Author of Self-Coaching: The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression
It is ironic and in many ways tragic that you can go through 12 years of undergraduate education, 4 years of college, and 4-6 years of graduate school, and still never learn how to think. Educators mouth the words 'critical thinking', but in my 35 years as a college professor, writer, and public intellectual I have found that almost no one knows how to think. They may know what to think if they are good at memorization, but the all important skill of learning how to think is still a lost art. This makes the work of Linda Elder and Richard Paul vital to the progress of our democratic society, and 30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living with Critical Thinking is their best guide yet on teaching people how to think, not just about Big Ideas, but about everything in life. Buy this book, change your life, and in the process make the world a safer and saner place to live." 
Dr. Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, author of Why People Believe Weird Things

Critical thinking, the skill so ably taught in this book, is the solution to much of our emotional pain. Our minds are literally creating our lives. And often our minds sabotage us with faulty, distorted thinking. The result: bad choices and emotional disorders. If you want to change your life, it starts with changing HOW you think – this book will give you the tools.
 Dr. Matthew McKay, author of Mind and Emotions 

The University of Chicago Press Books

Cloth $29.00ISBN: 9780226304427Published September 2012
E-book $7.00 to $17.50About E-booksISBN: 9780226304434Published September 2012


The Pseudoscience Wars


The Pseudoscience Wars
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304 pages | 1 halftone | 6 x 9 | © 2012
Properly analyzed, the collective mythological and religious writings of humanity reveal that around 1500 BC, a comet swept perilously close to Earth, triggering widespread natural disasters and threatening the destruction of all life before settling into solar orbit as Venus, our nearest planetary neighbor.

Sound implausible? Well, from 1950 until the late 1970s, a huge number of people begged to differ, as they devoured Immanuel Velikovsky’s major best-seller, Worlds in Collision, insisting that perhaps this polymathic thinker held the key to a new science and a new history. Scientists, on the other hand, assaulted Velikovsky’s book, his followers, and his press mercilessly from the get-go. In The Pseudoscience Wars, Michael D. Gordin resurrects the largely forgotten figure of Velikovsky and uses his strange career and surprisingly influential writings to explore the changing definitions of the line that separates legitimate scientific inquiry from what is deemed bunk, and to show how vital this question remains to us today. Drawing on a wealth of previously unpublished material from Velikovsky’s personal archives, Gordin presents a behind-the-scenes history of the writer’s career, from his initial burst of success through his growing influence on the counterculture, heated public battles with such luminaries as Carl Sagan, and eventual eclipse. Along the way, he offers fascinating glimpses into the histories and effects of other fringe doctrines, including creationism, Lysenkoism, parapsychology, and more—all of which have surprising connections to Velikovsky’s theories.

Science today is hardly universally secure, and scientists seem themselves beset by critics, denialists, and those they label “pseudoscientists”—as seen all too clearly in battles over evolution and climate change. The Pseudoscience Wars simultaneously reveals the surprising Cold War roots of our contemporary dilemma and points readers to a different approach to drawing the line between knowledge and nonsense.

·                                 REVIEW QUOTES
·                                 CONTENTS
Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American , author of The Believing Brain
"What is the difference between science and pseudoscience? As the publisher ofSkeptic magazine and the 'Skeptic columnist for Scientific American I am frequently asked this question. Believe it or not, it'a a hard question to answer. Michael Gordin's The Pseudoscience Wars is the best single volume I have come across in my vast reading on the topic. He clearly and succinctly captures all sides on the debate, is rigorous in his research and fair to both believers and skeptics, and his narrative reconstruction of the Velikovsky affair makes for gripping reading. The Pseudoscience Wars is destined to become a classic in science literature."

Also rev. in Skeptical Inquirer (March-April 2013) by David Morrison, “The Parameters of Pseudoscience.”    Gordin closely examines Velikovsky, and in considerable detail “several twentieth-century examples of pseudoscience.”

CHERYL CATANIA, “Economic Fraud:  How Cons and Criminals Scam the Public.”  Skeptical Inquiry (March-April 2013).  Private investigators with FBI are developing protections, but the best protection is “skeptical skills.”


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