“How do we know what is true?” Narrated by Stephen Fry

A short Humanist animation about how we learn what’s true through the use of evidence and science.

A super-simple guide to humanism, narrated by Stephen Fry for the British Humanist Association. (via Open Culture)

Watch other videos in the ‘That’s Humanism!’ series →

TED-Ed: Myths and misconceptions about evolution

How does evolution really work? Actually, not how some of our common evolutionary metaphors would have us believe. For instance, it’s species, not individual organisms, that adapt to produce evolution, and genes don’t “want” to be passed on — a gene can’t want anything at all!

Daniel Dennett
Use your words

Daniel Dennett’s seven tools for critical thinking

Cognitive scientist and philosopher Daniel Dennett is one of America’s foremost thinkers. In this Guardian extract from his new book (Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Critical Thinking), he reveals some of the lessons life has taught him.

  1. Use your mistakes: When you make a mistake, you should learn to take a deep breath, grit your teeth and then examine your own recollections of the mistake as ruthlessly and as dispassionately as you can manage. Try to acquire the weird practice of savouring your mistakes, delighting in uncovering the strange quirks that led you astray.
  2. Respect your opponent: Here Dennett quotes Anatol Rapoport‘s rules to composing a successful critical commentary:
    1. Attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
    2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
    3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.
    4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
  3. The “surely” klaxon.
  4. Answer rhetorical questions: Whenever you see a rhetorical question, try – silently, to yourself – to give it an unobvious answer. If you find a good one, surprise your interlocutor by answering the question.
  5. Employ Occam’s razor.
  6. Don’t waste your time on rubbish: In order not to waste your time and try our patience, make sure you concentrate on the best stuff you can find, the flagship examples extolled by the leaders of the field, the prize-winning entries, not the dregs.
  7. Beware of deepities.

I hadn’t heard of deepities before, but I will have fun looking out for them in the future!

A deepity is a proposition that seems both important and true – and profound – but that achieves this effect by being ambiguous. On one reading, it is manifestly false, but it would be earth-shaking if it were true; on the other reading, it is true but trivial. The unwary listener picks up the glimmer of truth from the second reading, and the devastating importance from the first reading, and thinks, Wow! That’s a deepity.

Here is an example (better sit down: this is heavy stuff): Love is just a word.
Daniel Dennett’s seven tools for thinking

Humans and other animals

How to start your own religion

John Howell starts his article for Thought Catalog by proving that he doesn’t really understand atheism or religion:

“If you’re one of the growing number of young adults who identify as “other” when asked about religious affiliation, this is for you. Unlike those who claim to be atheists, you are honest enough with yourselves to realize that as a human being you are hardwired to be religious, but at the same time you don’t like the standard choices on the menu.”

It’s such a bad piece I’m not even going to deconstruct it, however there are the ingredients in here of a good idea.