Here’s a novel idea: A tutorial on critical thinking based on Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. For those who have not read it, Dawkins’ book argues that science has replaced religion as a better explanation for everything and that belief in any sort of god is not only not necessary, it is nothing more than a delusion. Given the critical beating this book has received, this exercise would seem to be a bit of kicking a quite dead dog. But the Intelligent Community is using The God Delusion as an exercise in critical thinking. Utilizing a little guidebook and a series of MP3 downloads, the tutor takes you through 213 fallacies which are flagged in Dawkins’ book.
I don’t know who the "Intelligent Community" is or what they are about. Since these are MP3 downloads, I couldn’t play them backwards for hidden messages though one never knows about subliminal messages encoded in digital material. (I point this out, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, for all you tinfoil hat wearers.) That they selected Dawkins’ notorious tome for their little exercise in reason makes me a bit suspicious. They seem to support (gasp!) "intelligent design" (Horrors! Hide the kids from the crypto-creationists!). Hey, fair is fair, I say. Dawkins has co-opted science for his own theological agenda. Besides, a fallacy is a fallacy whether uttered by a "faith-head" or a distinguished professor of biology.
Fallacies happen, almost like dandelions in the spring. They mean you haven’t proven your point, so you can stop doing your end zone dance because the refs flagged the play. You could just as easily use any work of non-fiction, though Dawkins seems to commit more fallacies per page than a politician on a roll, and he does so at the high school level, making this work accessible. I also appreciate the pedagogical use of a book that claims objectivity, evidence, and the certainty of reason.
I’m going to check this out more thoroughly, but at first glance, this exercise in critical thinking looks like ten bucks well spent. There’s some interesting stuff at the end of the guide book that I want to explore further, but they’ve highlighted many of the same spots I’ve marked in my copy of The God Delusion and more.
There is a further benefit to this exercise. Immunization works by exposing someone to harmless bits of the real thing so that the body builds up an immune response toward it. The God Delusion and this companion tutor would be a useful tool for teaching critical thinking at the high school level and would help immunize kids to pseudo-scientific atheism before the full-on exposure in college.
You can find The God Delusion tutor here.