Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills [TTC Video]

Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills [TTC Video]
Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills [TTC Video] by Steven Novella
Course No 9344 | WMV, WMV3, 640x480 | WMA, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 9.03GB

What should you think? Who should you believe? Could you be deceiving yourself? These are questions that all critical thinkers of any age must constantly ask themselves. There is no more important skill in today's world than being able to think about, understand, and act on information in a way that is both effective and responsible. Critical thinking transforms you from a passive member of society into an active participant in the ideas and issues of the day. It empowers you to better understand nearly every single aspect of everyday life, from health and nutrition to science and technology to philosophical and spiritual belief systems.

What's more: At no point in human history have we had access to so much information, with such relative ease, as we do in the 21st century. Information is literally everywhere around you; in newspapers and magazines, on the radio and television, and across the Internet. But as the amount of information out there increases, so too does the amount of misinformation. So it's more important than ever before to become a better critical thinker—someone who can analyze and construct arguments and arrive at more sound, more informed opinions. And the key to success lies in

  • understanding the neuroscience behind how our thinking works—and goes wrong;
  • mastering the fundamental skills behind logic, reasoning, and argumentation;
  • avoiding common pitfalls and errors in thinking, such as logical fallacies and biases; and
  • knowing how to distinguish good science from pseudoscience.

All this and more you can find in the 24 rewarding lectures of Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills. Dr. Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine—an academic neurologist, award-winning instructor, and public educator—equips you with the knowledge and techniques you need to become a savvier, sharper critical thinker in your professional and personal life. By immersing yourself in the science of cognitive biases and critical thinking, and by learning how to think about thinking (a practice known as metacognition), you'll gain concrete lessons for doing so more critically, more intelligently, and more successfully than ever before.

Explore the Inner Workings of Critical Thinking

Our brains, according to Dr. Novella, are our greatest strength as critical thinkers. But they can also be the source of many weaknesses and impairments in critical thought. In Your Deceptive Mind, you'll take a closer look at the neuroscientific details of critical thinking and how the (often unfamiliar) ways in which our brains are hardwired can distract and prevent us from getting to the truth of a particular matter:

  • The neuroscience of critical thinking: Approach the act of thinking not as some abstract concept but as an action rooted deep within your brain. In clear, easy-to-understand language, Dr. Novella takes you deep inside this powerful organ to examine how you form beliefs, perceive your surroundings, and remember events.
  • Biases and problems in critical thinking: The key to success as a critical thinker lies in understanding the range of biases and problems that can stand in the way of reason and truth. You'll encounter—and learn how to deftly sidestep—fallacies such as retrofitting of evidence, collective wish fulfillment, reliance on "factoids,"and ad hominem arguments.
  • Science and pseudoscience: Knowing how to separate science (the foundation of critical thought) from pseudoscience is of the utmost importance to any well-rounded critical thinker. Here, you'll investigate common examples of pseudoscience that surround us every day—from the denial of established evidence to the belief in grand conspiracies.

Along the way, you'll sample a range of illuminating case studies, experiments, and observations from nutrition, science, technology, mass culture, and even politics; all of which vividly illustrate the core components of (and threats to) responsible critical thinking. These include

  • how purported sightings of UFOs, ghosts, and Bigfoot are, in reality, plagued by a host of cognitive flaws that also reveal secrets about how we all make sense of unexplainable events;
  • how functional MRI scans have demonstrated that different parts of our brain work together to construct an aggregate consciousness and sense of reality;
  • how a 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds so easily incited mass hysteria in listeners and actually convinced them that an alien invasion was at hand; and
  • how reactions to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy illustrate the inherent tendency in human beings to fall into the cognitive trap of grand conspiracies.

Unpack the Critical Thinker's Toolbox

Throughout Your Deceptive Mind, Professor Novella provides you with a critical thinker's toolbox that you can use to better assess the quality of information or to make a more informed decision.

  • The smaller the scientific study, the greater you should be concerned about the potential for statistical noise. Larger scientific studies are often needed for the random effects to average out so that a more reliable answer can be arrived at.
  • While it's important to remember that emotions have an influence on an individual's thought processes, it's dangerous to completely deny them when analyzing information or trying to make an informed decision.
  • Learn to be comfortable with the uncertainty of the world. The truth is that there is no single guarantee of legitimacy when it comes to scientific information, only solid indicators of legitimacy.
  • Be particularly on guard when dealing with controversial subjects frequently covered in the media. The more controversial a topic, the greater the chances are that information about that topic is skewed in one direction or another.

These invaluable tips, techniques, and strategies are only a few of what you'll find in these lectures.

And that's not all. Your Deceptive Mind's greatest strength lies in Professor Novella's delivery and engagement with the material. In addition to being a master teacher, he is an expert on critical thinking and its intersection with science. President and cofounder of the New England Skeptical Society and the host of its award-winning show, The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, Professor Novella has dedicated himself to increasing the public's ability to use critical thinking skills to better navigate the mass of information (and misinformation) in today's highly mediated world.

And the world is only going to get more and more saturated with information. So take the initiative and become better prepared to make sense of it all with this intriguing and rewarding course. While these lectures can't read the news or make decisions for you, they'll undoubtedly give you the concrete knowledge for doing so more intelligently.

Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition [TTC Video]

Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition [TTC Video]
Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition [TTC Video] by Teofilo F Ruiz
Course No 893 | AVI, XviD, 336x224 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | 4.1GB

Western civilization is closely associated with reason and science, and with exceptional accomplishment in art, architecture, music, and literature. Yet it has also been characterized by widespread belief in the supernatural and the irrational—with mystics who have visions of the divine, and with entire movements of people who wait in fervent anticipation of the apocalypse.

In addition, Western culture has been the setting for repeated acts of barbarism: persecutions of certain groups such as Jews, or accused heretics and witches.

Why has this been the case?

This two-part series invites you to consider what might be called the "underbelly" of Western society, a complex mixture of deeply embedded beliefs and unsettling social forces that has given rise to our greatest saints and our most shameful acts. The "terror of history," according to Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz, is a deeply held belief—dating from the ancient Greeks to Nietzsche and beyond—that the world is essentially about disorder and emptiness, and that human beings live constantly on the edge of doom.

We see history as terrifying, so we try to escape it. One strategy is to withdraw through transcendental experiences. Another, unfortunately, is to shift our fears onto scapegoats such as lepers, nonconformists, and other outsiders whom we choose to blame for "the catastrophe of our existence," as Professor Ruiz puts it.

The Renaissance as a Time of Magic and Astrology

This course explores the concept of the terror of history through a study of mysticism, heresy, apocalyptic movements, and the witch hunting craze in Europe between 1000 and 1700. You will examine new sources and think in new ways about events in the centuries from the late medieval period to early modern Europe.

You will be introduced to texts with which you may not be familiar, such as the Zohar, the Book of Splendor, the text of Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism. Or the Malleus Maleficarum, The Hammer of Witches, a handbook for identifying, interrogating, and trying witches.

You will view the Renaissance not from the perspective that it was the beginning of modernity but that it was a time when many among the educated were fascinated by alchemy and magic, when the Pope depended on his astrologer, when the learned considered the Corpus Hermeticum—a mixture of magic and astrology believed to date from the time of Moses—to be a more valuable text than Plato's Symposium.

You will consider how social, economic, political, and religious climates—especially during times of change and stress—exerted tremendous influence on the prevalence of irrational attitudes and persecutions. For example, between 1000 and 1700, periods of economic trouble were highly correlated with a rise in apocalyptic fervor. Similarly, religious wars coincided with the persecution of witches.

This course is presented by a teacher who displays both exceptional mastery over, and endless enthusiasm for, his subject matter. Professor Ruiz has been named one of four Outstanding Teachers of the Year in the United States by the Carnegie Foundation.

Particularly valuable is his willingness to add his own perspective, both professional and personal, to his lectures. Whether discussing aspects of ancient mystical practices that were common in Cuba during his boyhood, or offering an opinion on whether witchcraft has ever truly existed, Professor Ruiz makes clear that history is a living thing.

Why Witches and Heretics Were Persecuted

Much of The Terror of History has to do with the concept of the "other"—those who are seen by society as different—often by virtue of their sex, economic status, or beliefs—and are frequently persecuted.

These lectures examine the concept of otherness in a variety of ways and examine how certain groups came to be seen as other. Often, this involved the creation of boundaries, either real or imaginary, between people.

For example, the enclosure movement of the 15th century fenced peasants off their land, and the Reformation created a new religious boundary between Catholic and Protestant. This made it easier to accuse those who were poor, or of the wrong faith, of being heretics or witches.

The witch craze provides a way to view the concept of other as women's history. Misogynistic attitudes and a growing antipathy toward the poor created a kind of profiling of witches. A witch was identified as someone who was a woman, past childbearing age, poor, lived on the edge of town, and often had certain kinds of esoteric knowledge, such as the use of herbal medicines. In Essex, England, 278 of 291 people accused of witchcraft were women, and all were over 40 years old.

You will also consider how authority—frequently an alliance of secular government and the church—used others for its benefit. The Inquisition and witchhunting were a means to create a sense of community and identity for the populations of emerging nations and to enforce orthodoxy.

Methods of execution, such as hanging, drowning, and burning at the stake, provided multiple benefits: spectacle and entertainment, a sense of shared public purpose, and powerful lessons about the fate of those who deviated from accepted norms.

Have we outgrown the terror of history? Is it behind us?

Professor Ruiz suggests that Western culture can be seen as a pendulum swinging between periods of rational thinking and periods of superstition and irrationality. If we look at the 20th century, it was certainly a time of enormous scientific and technological achievements. On the other hand, it was also the most violent century in history.

The pendulum swings. And the terror of history continues.

Wonders of the National Parks: A Geology of North America [TTC Video]

Wonders of the National Parks: A Geology of North America [TTC Video]
Wonders of the National Parks: A Geology of North America by Ford Cochran
Course No 1707 | MP4, AVC, 870 kbps, 856x480 | AAC, 135 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 7.89GB

In 1872, a wondrous region called Yellowstone was set aside as the world’s first national park, giving adventurous travelers access to a geologist’s paradise that seethes with pent-up volcanic forces. As more and more national parks were created—not just in the United States but also in Canada and Mexico—geologists were revolutionizing their field, piecing together a detailed understanding of how the world works. National parks have made these magnificent reminders of the awe-inspiring power of our planet accessible to everyone. Today, there is no better education in the remarkable forces that formed our world than a tour of the national parks of North America. These parks capture a special place in our hearts and draw millions of tourists each year.

From Yellowstone’s bubbling, steaming landscape to the great slabs of granite along Acadia’s shores, each park contributes its own chapter to the story of Earth. Most visitors get only a superficial view of these sites, guided by the informational signposts or tour books, but there is so much more to be discovered. Our national parks offer profound lessons for anyone who loves history, geology, and nature. This course provides in-depth insights, intriguing perspectives, and riveting little-known facts about these treasured places that you won’t find simply by driving through them. And the next time you do drive or hike through a national park, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the forces—geological, historical, and otherwise—that shaped it.

You will learn how our majestic parks provide dramatic evidence of geological processes such as:

  • Colliding continents: From Maine’s Acadia National Park to the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, the rolling Appalachians are the eroded remnants of once-mighty peaks formed in the collision of ancient continents.
  • Glaciation: The magnificent valley that welcomes visitors to Yosemite National Park is the work of vanished glaciers that were nearly a mile thick. Glaciers sculpted this region and much of North America in a succession of pulses during Earth’s latest ice age.
  • Uplift and erosion: Imagine a board lifting into a buzz saw. A similar phenomenon produced the Grand Canyon and other breathtaking chasms in the American West, as the Colorado Plateau rose and fast-flowing rivers sliced through the land.
  • Volcanic Hotspots: Deep beneath Yellowstone National Park is a huge magma chamber that erupted as a supervolcano 640,000 years ago and will explode again. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park hides a tamer, fiery hotspot.

Formed just 16 years after Yellowstone was dedicated as a park, the National Geographic Society has led the way in securing protection for America’s most important natural wonders. With a connection to the national parks that stretches back all the way to the 1800s, the National Geographic Society has maintained an abiding interest in their creation and preservation, sponsoring scientific and exploratory expeditions; featuring the parks in scores of magazine articles, books, and films; and working to raise awareness and support for national parks at home and abroad. Apart from the National Park Service itself, no other organization has compiled as impressive an archive of maps and images, assembled as knowledgeable a staff, or been as committed to educating the public on the subject of these national treasures.

We are proud to join forces with this extraordinary institution to present Wonders of the National Parks: A Geology of North America, a fascinating introduction to geology that forged North America’s national parks. Beautifully illustrated, these 36 half-hour lectures take you to more than a hundred spectacular sites guided by geologist and former college professor Ford Cochran, who is currently the Director of Programming for National Geographic Expeditions. He is a storyteller and an explorer at heart who specializes in interpreting landscapes for a variety of audiences.

No previous background in geology or science is needed to experience the thrill that these lectures offer, just a sense of curiosity as you unravel the mysteries of some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet.

Learn about Every National Park…and More

The scope of this course is truly astonishing. Professor Cochran covers every national park in the United States, together with exceptional state parks, national monuments, historical parks, marine sanctuaries, and other preserves, plus a number of outstanding parks in Canada, Mexico, and beyond. Anyone planning a trip to one or more of these sites, whether a weekend outing or a transcontinental expedition, will find their experiences immeasurably enriched by Professor Cochran’s insightful and entertaining presentation. And just staying at home watching the series is an adventure itself!

As a special bonus, three of National Geographic’s top experts appear in interview segments following many of the lectures. Photojournalist Chris Johns was the first journalist onto Mount Saint Helens after it erupted in 1980, and he recently stepped up from Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic magazine to oversee all editorial content creation at National Geographic. Biologist and wildlife documentary producer John Francis is currently National Geographic’s Vice President for Research, Conservation, and Exploration. And Kaitlin Yarnall is one of the gifted cartographers behind National Geographic’s famous maps, now serving as Executive Editor for Cartography, Art, and Graphics at National Geographic magazine as well as Director of Cartography for the Society. These three creative professionals add their fascinating perspectives to Wonders of the National Parks, rounding out the experience to provide truly enriching lessons.

The Greatest Spectacle on Earth

Many visitors to national parks never go beyond the most accessible sites, but this course shows how to experience the breathtaking diversity of these places in depth. You learn how each park fits into the geological epic of North America—a story of mountain ranges created by the collision of tectonic plates, of oceans rising and drowning the lowlands, of volcanoes raining ash and liquid fire, of glaciers growing to towering heights and scouring the terrain down to the bedrock, of desert sands burying entire regions, of earthquakes transforming the land in an instant, and of the tenacious, erosive power of flowing water. If it sounds like the greatest spectacle on Earth, it is!

Drawing on his wide experience as a field geologist and National Geographic expedition lecturer, Professor Cochran has plenty of recommendations for must-see attractions and activities. Here are just a few:

  • Driving: A National Geographic staffer once told Professor Cochran that Canada’s Icefields Parkway was “the most spectacular drive anywhere.” He took the trip and discovered why. The largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains, it stretches from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park along the Continental Divide.
  • Hiking: Among the many hikes suggested by Professor Cochran, he especially loves the West Rim Trail at Zion National Park. The awe-inspiring views of the sandstone canyons carved by the North Fork of the Virgin River are well worth the walk.
  • For the more adventurous:
  • Canoeing and kayaking: A tranquil river trip takes you through the dramatic badlands of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, retracing a portion of Lewis and Clark’s epic voyage.
  • Rock climbing: One of the oldest rivers on the continent, paradoxically called the New River, has worn a gorge into a uniquely hard form of sandstone that is a nearly perfect rock for climbers, who flock to New River Gorge National River to test their skills.

Remind Yourself: “This Is Real!”

In addition to geology, Wonders of the National Parks also touches on botany, zoology, atmospheric science, and other disciplines as they relate to specific protected areas. The course also explores the role that humans have played in these distinctive landscapes. For example:

  • Gettysburg: Gettysburg National Military Park provides a geology lesson wrapped up in a history lesson. Little Round Top, Cemetery Ridge, and other key sites in the three-day battle owe their existence to the rifting that opened the Atlantic when the supercontinent Pangaea split apart.
  • Gold rush: Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve includes gold formations mined during Alaska’s great gold rush. Just as in California’s gold fields, seafloor subduction and other tectonic forces created the right conditions to concentrate the glittering element in rocks near the surface.
  • John Wesley Powell: One of the founders of the National Geographic Society was John Wesley Powell, who led the first expeditions through the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau, including the Grand Canyon. His vivid reports brought these future parklands to public attention.
  • Ansel Adams: The world’s most revered nature photographer did his most famous work in the parks of the American West. Professor Cochran takes Adams’s classic view of Yosemite Valley and reads it like a book, pointing out the riveting geological story it tells.

With a career at National Geographic spanning more than 20 years, plus his professional training in geology, Professor Cochran is the ideal lecturer for this course: a deeply knowledgeable scientist, an experienced and enthusiastic traveler, and a consummate storyteller who lives and breathes the Society’s mission to “inspire, illuminate, teach.”

You may even be able to detect Professor Cochran’s background in English literature, which he pursued as an undergraduate before falling in love with geology. He often peppers his lessons with quotes and stories, adding an additional dimension of elucidation. For example, in his lectures on Yosemite, he quotes the great author and naturalist John Muir, whose eloquence helped preserve Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in the 1890s. Professor Cochran has a similar way with words, describing one of the Yosemite hikes as follows: “The soaring scale and beauty of the granite landscape from this portion of the John Muir Trail are so extraordinary that, though you’re there and seeing it—actually seeing it—you still have to remind yourself: This is real!”

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