Creating the Ideal Skeptics' Handbook
August 2, 2013 2:57 PM   Subscribe

I want to write an article explaining where to find scientific information and how to evaluate scientific research. Which quality sources and articles would you recommend that I recommend? Please suggest material that has helped you become a better researcher. Which resources have helped you weed out the pseudoscience and poor quality information? How do you determine which journals have a high standard and which are either predatory or providers of disinformation? Which forums and communities do you use when working on problems above your knowledge paygrade? If you were to design an ideal skeptic's handbook for finding and evaluating research, what would you add?
posted by Knigel to Science & Nature (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
A firm understanding of The Scientific Method.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:05 PM on August 2, 2013

Do you know about Sense about Science? Lots of ideas and examples there. They also have this "Ask for Evidence USA" initiative if you are in the USA.
posted by Marauding Ennui at 3:06 PM on August 2, 2013

Wikipedia (and the sources it cites or links). If won't necessarily give you a definitve answer to whether a certain medical/therapeutic practice is scientifically valid, but it will probably give you an overview of the debate over whether it's valid (if there is such a debate).


Bad Science.

You asked about forums: there are message boards at The Straight Dope and Snopes (which has a "science" forum).
posted by John Cohen at 3:19 PM on August 2, 2013

Skepticism is all well and good, but one needs to be well read on history, and have, at the very least, a firm grasp on basic mathematical concepts, including probability and statistics, the theory of evolution, basic concepts behind neuroscience, chemistry, physics (the second law of thermodynamics, especially), and at least a couple of economics theories. Bayesian inference and some understanding of logic (philosophical and Mathematica,) would help, too.

If you have skepticism without an education, you end up being an anti vaxxer or worrying about chemtrails or the new world order.
posted by empath at 3:25 PM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

Empath, I also think that's important. What I'm trying to do is create a resource for the average person and students. Not everyone can afford a higher education, so I would like to provide a resource that will help people critically think about science. If I am talking to an anti-vaxxer, for example, I would like to provide something that may nudge them towards better ways of evaluating information.
posted by Knigel at 3:46 PM on August 2, 2013

Well here is the problem that you're going to have to overcome-- you essentially have to make an argument from authority, because you can't really make the case without giving them a complete education on the subject.
posted by empath at 4:03 PM on August 2, 2013

How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic: "a handy one-stop shop for all the material you should need to rebut the more common anti-global warming science arguments constantly echoed across the internet. In what I hope is an improvement on the original categorization, they have been divided and subdivided along 4 separate lines: Stages of Denial, Scientific Topics, Types of Argument, Levels of Sophistication."
posted by Rhaomi at 4:22 PM on August 2, 2013

Empath, I disagree. There is a whole gradient of scientific knowledge. Some people are more receptive than others. Given the popularity of science, there are many people who take the time to educate themselves and are always looking for resources.

Scientific literacy is like language literacy. People don't suddenly understand English. On their route to learning English, they encounter many resources and some of those resources are useful for their current understanding.

I'm somebody who became passionate about science before I took formal education in it seriously. I often had questions, but did not always have the resources available. I often did not know where to look.

Now that I've gained more understanding and accumulated useful sources, I would like to pay it forward and help others on their journey.

This is turning into a derail. I'm not looking for a cynical "it can't be done". I already know it can. I'm simply looking for more sources. If you have any, that would be much more useful for me than telling me the challenges that I already know exist.
posted by Knigel at 4:33 PM on August 2, 2013

Sorry, turns out I have one more after looking through old bookmarks:

What is Pseudoscience?
posted by Ouisch at 5:33 PM on August 2, 2013

Patience is the key.

Read the new stuff. Think it is cool. Then wait and see if it stands up.
posted by srboisvert at 7:02 PM on August 2, 2013

While much longer than an article, Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World should definitely be on the list. And James Burke The day the universe changed is also very good. While the second isn't really a skeptics guide, it is a very accessible and well written book on the impact of science and actual understanding of the world leads to new things so it more shows the value of science.
posted by bartonlong at 7:30 PM on August 2, 2013

I am highly skeptical of 99% of TED/TEDx talks, but I thought this letter from them to the broader TEDx community was a good start.
posted by angst at 8:15 PM on August 2, 2013

Michael Shermer's Baloney Detection Kit is very accessible and speaks to a lot of different audiences. He also has a lot of other resources on his website:
posted by gubenuj at 8:46 PM on August 2, 2013

Science is a process. If you first don't understand what's a "theory" or "hypothesis", how to perform reproducible experiments, let alone how these things relate to each other, it's impossible to "think critically about science".

posted by humboldt32 at 10:38 AM on August 3, 2013

« Older I need help explaining death and religion to my...   |   MtF in Texas seeking transition resources Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.