Category Archives: Books

Kids’ Book on Critical Thinking

OMG, this is so awesome! Atheist and skeptic blogger The Barefoot Bum points out a nice list of logical fallacies on No sooner do I visit the page than I see a notice mentioning that this list is actually taken from a book they’ve published, entitled The Fallacy Detective (amazon), which is a textbook on logic for children.

Lessons on logic and critical thinking aimed at educating children is exactly what I’ve been wanting to find for use with my own kids, for a while now. I didn’t actually have much hope of finding such a thing, so was planning on drumming up some lessons of my own (like I’d find time for that). This looks like just the sort of thing that I need.

The book uses straightforward explanations and comic strips (including Dilbert and Peanuts) to illustrate various logical fallacies in common use, and follows up with exercises in which the child must decide whether statements are fallacious, and if so, which fallacies are being used. Judging from the sample chapter, the book’s text is also set attractively, using Adobe’s Caslon Pro font, and using software that knows how to make good use of fonts (using appropriate “fi” ligatures and the like, so the hook of the f isn’t mashed together with the dot of the i). It’s not an example of great typography (for instance, paragraph indentation following a block quote or other figure isn’t really desirable), but at least it’s not a glaring example of bad typography, as the vast majority of modern printed books tend to be.

Of course, some concerns are raised by the fact that the book’s page explicitly states, We wrote this book to meet the needs of Christian parents who want a do-able text for introducing logic and critical thinking to their children. Especially considering that one of my primary motivations for wanting to teach critical thinking to my children is to avoid the various fallacies and pseudo-logic that tend to be used in defense of Evangelical Christian faith. According to one of the reviews on Amazon, the book does apparently put a fairly Christ-oriented spin on things, saying such things as, Logic is the science of thinking the way God thinks – the way Jesus taught us to think. Another review states, This book is loaded with Christian overtones, Bible verses, and other religious dogma. This being the basic foundation upon which the book is built, I suppose it’s also likely that it will misapply a few examples to support the authors’ preexisting biases.

Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and anyway the fact that we expose our children to such video material as Superbook, The Flying House, Veggie Tales and even Davey and Golliath proves that we don’t exactly go out of our way to prevent exposing our kids to religious dogma. And, while it presents something of a nuisance for me to have to possibly go in and “adjust” the way some of the material is presented, yet at the same time I welcome a book on spotting logical fallacies that’s aimed at the Christian homeschool community, a thing that is clearly in dire need, especially in the realms of Scientific Creationism and various Christian-culture political propoganda, such as is used to dismiss global warming concerns (seen “Jesus Camp”?).

Provided the core material itself is basically accurate and informative—and I see little reason to believe that it isn’t—it should be perfect for adapting for our own needs. Even if it turns out to be of little use, I’m dying of curiosity to see what’s in it, so either way, I’m running to drop it into my Amazon cart, for my next batch of purchases.

The Golden Compass

So, I read The Golden Compass last week. I would invite any Christians who have been convinced by current propoganda that it is designed to convince everyone of the truths of atheistic thought, to do the same. It’s simply not there.

I can’t comment on the rest of the series—indeed, I’m told that God dies in the second book, or something, so perhaps the series, as a whole, promotes anti-religious thought. However, there was very, very little—if any—in the actual book, The Golden Compass.

To be honest, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the book, though I suspect it probably makes a good movie (plan to take the kids to see it soon). I do kind of want to see what happens next, though, so I’ll probably read the rest of the series anyway. I suspect that it may improve as it goes along. It’s not on a literary par with C.S. Lewis, though, that’s for sure.

The whole current fuss in the Christian community over this book is just ridiculous. It’s Harry Potter all over again, only with even less basis. Heh, I remember one anti-Potter site I was directed to a couple years ago decrying Potter’s flagrant rebellion against his guardian Aunt and Uncle. Yeah… sneaking out to get some food while you’ve been punished with a week locked in your room without food, and crying foul when your guardians heap absurd insults to your parents… I’m pretty sure those are justified, to any sane human being.

There were two things that drew me to the Potter series… the second was that, once I checked it out, it was damn good writing. The degree to which the abusiveness of his Aunt and Uncle were exaggerated to the point of hilarity, reminded me a good deal of Roald Dahl, particularly James and the Giant Peach. And, there was a lot in them for adults to enjoy, as well as for older children. AFAICT, Pullman has nothing on Rowling, at least when it comes to writing kids’ books.

But the first thing that drew me to it, of course, was all the mindless hype surrounding it in the Christian (my) community. While I was a Christian, I certainly was capable of thinking for myself, and had definitely learned to spot mindless hyperbole by that point, so I was curious as to whether there was any basis for the accusations. There was little, of course: the only thing that could really be said against it was that, of course, it featured sorcery. If you’re going to cry foul for that, though, you’d better through out your Narnia as well, as it featured sorcery plentifully—in fact, one sorceror was a friend of Aslan’s, so what do you do with that?

Did you know?

Albus Dumbledore is a homosexual. Guess that pretty much nails the coffin shut as far as fundamentalist Christians are concerned… Plus, all the many people who apparently can’t distinguish between homosexuality and pedophilia are going to raise all sorts of questions about what Dumbledore’s real interests in Harry Potter might have been.

Note that this information isn’t revealed in the Harry Potter books themselves, though it sheds a new light on some information in the final book. It’s simply one of those factoids that the author kept tucked away in her brain, and used to keep her world consistent. The article notes that when she found a reference in one of the movie scripts to a past, female love interest of Dumbledore’s, she sent a note to the director to set things straight.