Sunday 29 September 2013

A lesson in critical thinking

The Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research of the Univsersity of Louvain-La-Neuve made a brilliant webpage on critical thinking (in French though) (UPDATE linkfix)

They took a random presentation of a pseudoskeptic, and demonstrate what happens if you to take at least the following steps

For every reference used in the presentation:critical-thinking
  • check if the cited article hasn’t been retracted/corrected
  • check if the ‘conclusion’ used in the presentation actually is the conclusion of the original author
  • check if the reference used is an op-ed or a peer review paper
For every graph used in the presentation
  • check if the source is a scientific paper or not
  • check if the presentation uses the original legend of the graph
  • check if the axis are labelled correctly
  • check if the graph actually supports the message of the presentation
  • check if the graph is not taken out of context
  • when there are several graphs used:
    • check if all graphs use the same units and scale
    • check if all graphs represent the same time period
    • in case of doubt: look for the original data and replot the graph
For every statement made in the presentation
  • check if that statement is referenced
  • check if the statement isn’t taken out of context

For every time-period used in the presentation
  • check if the time-span used is long enough to be speaking about climate instead of noise (so, no conclusions of a one-year time span etc.)

With just a little critical thinking, you stumble upon issues like this:
critical thinking
critical thinking2
critical thinking3
There’s some more slides on the TECLIM-page left as an exercise. Enjoy.