Sunday, August 07, 2016

PHI 210 Week 6 Summer 2016

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We will have two ten-minute breaks: at 7:30 and 9 pm. I will take roll early before the Discussion at 9:45 pm and Dismissal at 10:00 pm.


6.1 Qualities of Explanations

6.2 Practice: Qualities of Explanations

6.3 Scientific Explanations

6.4 Practice: Scientific Explanations

6.5 Statistics and Fallacies

6.6 Practice: Statistics and Fallacies

7.1 Problem Solving

Obama Administration Admits Lie About Iran Deal

Ralph Peters Blasts Obama's 'Chief Propagandist' Ben Rhodes: Stalin Could Have Used This Guy, 3:37

Is the speaker  deceptive?

Obama Spends 7 Minutes Dodging On Whether Iran Will Use $400 Million To Fund Terrorism, 7:40


What five criteria are helpful to judge the quality of explanations?


In classical deductive logic, a consistent theory is one that does not contain a contradiction. The lack of contradiction can be defined in either semantic or syntactic terms. The semantic definition states that a theory is consistent if and only if it has a model, i.e. there exists an interpretation under which all formulas in the theory are true. This is the sense used in traditional Aristotelian logic, although in contemporary mathematical logic the term satisfiable is used instead. The syntactic definition states that a theory is consistent if and only if there is no formula P such that both P and its negation are provable from the axioms of the theory under its associated deductive system.

Consistency is realized in human action. Likewise, in logic, consistency is demonstrated within the action of thought.

HOW TO SHOOT A BASKETBALL CONSISTENTLY! -- Shot Science Basketball, 1:46

Physically moving consistently will assist athletic performance?

Would your thinking improve if you applied consistency to your ideas?

How might your thinking improve? 

Would your thinking improve if you applied consistency to your ideas?

How might your thinking improve? 

Falsifiability or refutability of a statement, hypothesis, or theory is an inherent possibility to prove it to be false. A statement is called falsifiable if it is possible to conceive an observation or an argument which proves the statement in question to be false. In this sense, falsify is synonymous with nullify, meaning not "to commit fraud" but "show to be false". Some philosophers argue that science must be falsifiable.

For example, by the problem of induction, no number of confirming observations can verify a universal generalization, such as All swans are white, yet it is logically possible to falsify it by observing a single black swan. Thus, the term falsifiability is sometimes synonymous to testability. Some statements, such as It will be raining here in one million years, are falsifiable in principle, but not in practice.

The concern with falsifiability gained attention by way of philosopher of science Karl Popper's scientific epistemology "falsificationism". Popper stresses the problem of demarcation—distinguishing the scientific from the unscientific—and makes falsifiability the demarcation criterion, such that what is unfalsifiable is classified as unscientific, and the practice of declaring an unfalsifiable theory to be scientifically true is pseudoscience. This is often epitomized in Wolfgang Pauli famously saying, of an argument that fails to be scientific because it cannot be falsified by experiment, "it is not only not right, it is not even wrong!"

An idea must be falsifiable in order to be scientific. 

The falsifiability or refutability of a statement, hypothesis, or theory is an inherent possibility to prove it to be false. If it can be false it is more likely to be a scientifically credible idea.

Falsifiability and Scientific Thinking Explained, 3:50

How does this example explain falsifiability?

How can the witness find a shell that looks like something among so many random shells?

What does it looks like to you?

When you state a vague, unfalsifiable hypothesis, anything you find can be considered "significant."

Falsifiable (good) prediction: I'll find a face in a specific place that looks like Washington.

Do you grasp the difference between unfalsifiable and falsifiable?

A hypothesis that can come out false is good. It's falsifiable. That's good science.

From Here's a unique way to demonstrate one of the most important principles of the scientific method: falsifiability. Having trouble understanding this term? I hope you find this helpful. Make sure to visit The Psych Files podcast for more unique ways of looking at science and psychology.

The takeaway here should help you understand falsifiability. 

Karl Popper and Falsification.avi, 4:35, Sound

Sir Karl Raimund Popper CH FBA FRS[5] (28 July 1902 – 17 September 1994) was an Austrian-British philosopher and professor.[6][7][8] He is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century.[9][10][11]

Popper is known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method, in favour of empirical falsification: A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified, meaning that it can and should be scrutinized by decisive experiments. He used the black swan fallacy to discuss falsification. If the outcome of an experiment contradicts the theory, one should refrain from ad hoc manoeuvres that evade the contradiction merely by making it less falsifiable. Popper is also known for his opposition to the classical justificationist account of knowledge, which he replaced with critical rationalism, namely "the first non-justificational philosophy of criticism in the history of philosophy."[12]

In political discourse, he is known for his vigorous defence of liberal democracy and the principles of social criticism that he came to believe made a flourishing "open society" possible. His political philosophy embraces ideas from all major democratic political ideologies and attempts to reconcile them: socialism/social democracy, libertarianism/classical liberalism and conservatism.[13]

What is this thing called Science? Chapter 5 - Falsification A Review of Karl Popper and
Falsification. Part II:


An advocate of "falsification" (an alternative to inductivism).

Popper did not believe that what makes science special is the facts.

Scientific theories are falsifiable.

If a theory has a fault, it is falsified, and must be eliminated.

Sometimes, simple observation can falsify a statement.

To be a scientific hypothesis it must be falsifiable: examples.

 The only thing that makes a law or a theory informative is if logically possible observations can be ruled out.

What makes one theory better than another?

We learn from our mistakes.

Scientific theories are falsifiable.

If a theory is more falsifiable than it is a superior theory.

The more the theory claims the more that it can be shown to be false.

Vigorous testing of a theory makes it superior.

Theories should be clearly stated and precise.


Explanations have broad predictive power--they explain a great deal. More is explained with compelling evidence even if the nature of knowledge is somewhat incomplete and tentative.


Simplicity is the state or quality of being simple. It usually relates to the burden which a thing puts on someone trying to explain or understand it. Something which is easy to understand or explain is simple, in contrast to something complicated. Alternatively, as Herbert A. Simon suggested, something is simple or complex depending on the way we choose to describe it... In some uses, simplicity can be used to imply beauty, purity, or clarity. Simplicity may also be used in a negative connotation to denote a deficit or insufficiency of nuance or complexity of a thing, relative to what is supposed to be required.

The concept of simplicity has been related to in the field of epistemology. According to Occam's razor, all other things being equal, the simplest theory is the most likely to be true. In the context of human lifestyle, simplicity can denote freedom from hardship, effort or confusion. Specifically, it can refer to a simple living style.

Occam's razor (also written as Ockham's razor, and lex parsimoniae in Latin, which means law of parsimony) is a problem-solving principle attributed to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian. The principle can be interpreted as stating Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

In science, Occam's razor is used as a heuristic technique (discovery tool) to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models, rather than as an arbiter between published models.[1][2] In the scientific method, Occam's razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result; the preference for simplicity in the scientific method is based on the falsifiability criterion. For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there may be an extremely large, perhaps even incomprehensible, number of possible and more complex alternatives, because one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypotheses to prevent them from being falsified; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are more testable.[3][4][5]

Contact: Occam's Razor, 2:34

In your own words, what is Occam's razor?

The takeaway here should be an understanding of Occam's razor.

Simplicity is a theme in the Christian religion. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God is infinitely simple. The Roman Catholic and Anglican religious orders of Franciscans also strive after simplicity. Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) practice the Testimony of Simplicity, which is the simplifying of one's life in order to focus on things that are most important and disregard or avoid things that are least important.

In the philosophy of science, simplicity is a meta-scientific criterion by which to evaluate competing theories. In this field, a distinction is often made between two senses of simplicity: syntactic simplicity (the number and complexity of hypotheses), and ontological simplicity (the number and complexity of things postulated). These two aspects of simplicity are often referred to as elegance and parsimony respectively.

the science of simplicity, 2:24

In business and promotions simplicity is helpful.

Complex technology must be simple to use to help people.

How does the science of simplicity help people?

Do you understand the technology behind all the products you use? Consider iPhones, computers, and other electronic devises. Do you understand them all?

The takeaway is to understand the science of simplicity and how it applies to business products.

Complex technology must be simple to use in order to help people. 


Causality (also referred to as causation is the relation between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a physical consequence of the first.
In common usage, causality is also the relation between a set of factors (causes) and a phenomenon (the effect). Anything that affects an effect is a factor of that effect. A direct factor is a factor that affects an effect directly, that is, without any intervening factors. (Intervening factors are sometimes called "intermediate factors".) The connection between a cause(s) and an effect in this way can also be referred to as a causal nexus.

Causes and effects are typically related to changes, events, or processes; such causes are Aristotle's moving causes. The word 'cause' is also used to mean 'explanation' or 'answer to a why question', including Aristotle's material, final, and formal causes; then the 'cause' is the explanans while the 'effect' is the explanandum. In this case, there are various recognizable kinds of 'cause'; candidates include objects, processes, properties, variables, facts, and states of affairs; failure to recognize that different kinds of 'cause' are being considered can lead to debate.

The philosophical treatment on the subject of causality extends over millennia. In the Western philosophical tradition, discussion stretches back at least to Aristotle, and the topic remains a staple in contemporary philosophy.

Causality (also referred to as 'causation',[1] or 'cause and effect') is the agency or efficacy that connects one process (the cause) with another (the effect), where the first is understood to be partly responsible for the second, and the second is dependent on the first. In general, a process has many causes, which are said to be causal factors for it, and all lie in its past. An effect can in turn be a cause of many other effects, which all lie in its future.

Causality is an abstraction that indicates how the world progresses, so basic a concept that it is more apt as an explanation of other concepts of progression than as something to be explained by others more basic. The concept is like those of agency and efficacy. For this reason, a leap of intuition may be needed to grasp it.[2] Accordingly, causality is built into the conceptual structure of ordinary language.[3]

In Aristotelian philosophy, the word 'cause' is also used to mean 'explanation' or 'answer to a why question', including Aristotle's material, formal, efficient, and final "causes"; then the "cause" is the explanans for the explanandum. In this case, failure to recognize that different kinds of "cause" are being considered can lead to futile debate. Of Aristotle's four explanatory modes, the one nearest to the concerns of the present article is the "efficient" one.

The topic remains a staple in contemporary philosophy.

David Hume's view on cause and effect, 2:06

According to Hume, can we identify causes?

Bryan Magee is the host,who in this video explains Hume's observation that A causes B cannot be verified in principle.The man listening to the exposition is John Passmore. Both are philosophers.

The takeaway is that according to Hume the statement that action "A" causes "B" can not be verified.

The problem is the danger of mixing up causality with correlation.

The danger of mixing up causality and correlation: Ionica Smeets at TEDxDelft, 5:57

Ionica Smeets (@ionicasmeets) is joining TEDxDelft Never Grow Up: A mathematician and science journalist with plenty of media experience. Using her vast knowledge and enthusiasm, she can explain everything about her favorite topics in science and statistics. She does it well on paper and face-to-face: She writes blogs, columns and books and is also asked to appear as a speaker, live, on television and on radio shows.

Since 2006, Ionica has taken on the Internet with interesting and fun mathematics together with PhD Partner in Crime Jeanine Daems on the website She and Jeanine now write a bi-weekly column in the Volkskrant about mathematics and the website also resulted in a book titled 'I Was Never Good At Math' (Ik was altijd heel slecht in wiskunde) in 2011. Ionica appears on De Wereld Draait Door to talk about mathematics; trying to explain the most complicated things and developments in the field of mathematics to the host Matthijs van Nieuwkerk and the audience. Even for the most mathematically challenged, it's educative and entertaining to listen to. In 2012 she became a reporter for KRO in a series called 'De Rekenkamer' investigating the financial aspects of giving blood and illegal minor immigrants.

Together with Bas Haring she wrote 'Vallende Kwartjes' which are essays in which scientific processes and concepts are explained with straight-forward, easy-to-get examples and stories. The science journalist has an eye for this sort of thing; defying and destroying the idea that science is boring and/or cannot be explained well. In collaboration with Govert Schilling (amongst others) she also makes YouTube videos for the channel Science 101 (Wetenschap 101) where scientific and mathematic concepts are explained clearly in under 101 seconds!

She's charming, adds good natured comments and jokes to her writing and her live appearances (when Matthijs van Nieuwkerk asked her how she celebrated Pi Day, she answered 'by drinking Pina Colada's). What more could be asked for in a TEDxDelft performer? In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations).

How does ice cream cause drownings? Should we ban ice cream?

What role does weather play in drownings?

Why do married men live longer than unmarried men?

Men who are better prepared for life live longer.

What effect does leaving a light on have?

Short sightedness is genetic.

Is there a link between academic achievement and self-esteem?

High achievement causes good self-esteem.

Why and how must be determined to find causation.

Correlation is not causation.

The why and the how of events must be determined to find causation.

Has Science Refuted Aristotelian Causality? (#AskFrBarron), 3:00

Every day I welcome questions through Facebook and Twitter (using the #AskFrBarron hashtag) and through our blog at Stay tuned for new answers each week!

Has science refuted Aristotelian Causality?

Can the church use rational arguments, such as Aristotle, to find causality?

This is a classic argument about the existence of God in philosophy:

whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Any thought or theology can be tested for its truthfulness. 

Science is Impossible without Causality - Frank Turek, PhD, 1:28

Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

The very foundation of science relies on the causal principle (that whatever begins to exist has a cause).

It is impossible to do science without the laws of causality. Sadly, many atheists think it makes sense that something can pop into existence uncaused out of nothing.

If an atheist makes this outrageous claim then they have no reason but to believe that it's possible a lion can suddenly pop into existence uncaused out of nothing. This is quite simply irrational and unscientific.

Does the universe seem to work rationally?

Will a hippopotamus appear out of nowhere and defecate?

All things, such as the universe, have a cause. 

Junk Science Episode 10: Correlation / Causation, 2:26

How do you link data?

Why do we hear so many odd pairings between things?

What is the difference between science and junk science?

When two data points sync up, it’s seems intuitive that they might be related, but in science that is far from the case.

What examples can you provide to show correlation is not causation?

6.1 Practice: Qualities of Explanations

Explaining an Epidemic

In the news recently has been the Zika virus but in the past how have epidemics been identified and explained?

The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump: John Snow and the Mystery of Cholera by Sandra Hempel University of California Press (2007), Hardcover, 331 pages

In 1831, an unknown, horrifying, and deadly disease from Asia swept across continental Europe and North America, killing millions and throwing the medical profession into confusion. A killer with little respect for class or wealth, cholera ravaged the squalid streets of Soho and rocked the great centers of Victorian power. In this gripping book,

Sandra Hempel tells the story of John Snow, a reclusive doctor without money or social position, who--alone and unrecognized--had the genius to look beyond the conventional wisdom of his day and uncover the truth behind the pandemic.

She describes how Snow discovered that cholera was spread through drinking water and how this subsequently laid the foundations for the modern, scientific investigation of today's fatal plagues.

A dramatic account with a colorful cast of characters, The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump features diversions into fascinating facets of medical and social history, such as Snow's tending of Queen Victoria in childbirth, Dutch microbiologist Leeuwenhoek's deliberate breeding of lice in his socks, Dickensian children's farms, and riotous nineteenth-century anesthesia parties. An afterword discusses the new threat of infectious diseases--including malaria, yellow fever, and cholera--with today's Ebola.

Nonetheless, in society we have difficulty wading through the glut of information to find reliable information.

What role does the media play in misinformation?

Who owns the media? What biases, as a result of ownership, will the media have?

As a review, what type of news stories should we expect about Ebola? About Zika? What biases will the news have?

The news has two huge biases: pro-corporation and pro-government, generally the party in power. 

Will Ebola Outbreak Reach The U.S.? 2:36

Ebola Virus Risk

Will actual, truthful information about the extent of Ebola be widely available on standard news shows? Where would you find accurate information?

Instead of through the news reliable information about Ebola could be found from a leaked intelligence source.

It shows that despite assurances from medical and government sources, because of their biases, the threat was greater than easily and publicly available. 

Ebola Tested Across the Nation; Government Suppresses Info

A leaked intelligence analysis from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reveals the exact numbers of illegal immigrants entering and attempting to enter the U.S. from more than 75 different countries.

Among the significant revelations are that individuals from nations currently suffering from the world’s largest Ebola outbreak have been caught attempting to sneak across the porous U.S. border into the interior of the United States. At least 71 individuals from the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak have either turned themselves in or been caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by U.S. authorities between January 2014 and July 2014.

6.2 Scientific Explanations

Historically, what was the great leap forward towards explaining and understanding reliable explanations?

Early Christian leaders such as Clement of Alexandria (150–215) and Basil of Caesarea (330–379) encouraged future generations to view the Greek wisdom as "handmaidens to theology" and science was considered a means to more accurate understanding of the Bible and of God.

Augustine of Hippo (354–430) who contributed great philosophical wealth to the Latin Middle Ages, advocated the study of science and was wary of philosophies that disagreed with the Bible, such as astrology and the Greek belief that the world had no beginning.

This Christian accommodation with Greek science "laid a foundation for the later widespread, intensive study of natural philosophy during the Late Middle Ages." However, the division of Latin-speaking Western Europe from the Greek-speaking East, followed by barbarian invasions, the Plague of Justinian, and the Islamic invasion, resulted in the West largely losing access to Greek wisdom.

The West has been characterized by advances in science and medicine that has far outstripped the remainder of the world. The historical reasons for this are examined below.

Science Basics

Turning Points in History - Scientific Revolution, 3:56

After thousands of years of attributing all cause and effect to "magic" scientists decide to try a different method.

As a result of scientific advance in the West what other transforming events have resulted?

Revolution and Enlightenment, 1550–1800

The Scientific Revolution gave rise to a intellectual movement—the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thought provided the philosophical foundations for the American Revolution. Britain lost its colonies in North America to the newly formed United States, while Spain and Portugal held onto their profitable Latin American colonies.

The Scientific Revolution

Sixteenth-century Europeans began to question the scientific assumptions of the ancient authorities and to develop new theories about the universe. Nicholas Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo Galilei revolutionized astronomy.

Kepler Galileo

Copernicus claimed that the sun, not the earth, was at the center of the universe—an idea considered heresy by the Catholic Church.

Equally revolutionary were Isaac Newton's explanations of gravity and the movement of the planets.
There were breakthroughs in medicine and chemistry, and numerous women contributed to the body of scientific research. The new view of the universe affected Western philosophy.

The Frenchman Rene Descartes, the first rationalist, declared that matter could be independently investigated by reason.

Francis Bacon, an English philosopher, developed the scientific method—a system for collecting and analyzing evidence.


The Enlightenment

The Scientific Revolution gave rise to the Enlightenment, an eighteenth-century movement that stressed the role of philosophy and reason in improving society. Enlightenment intellectuals, known as philosophes, were chiefly social reformers from the nobility and the middle class. They often met in the salons of the upper classes to discuss the ideas of such giants as Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Diderot. In the economic sphere, Adam Smith put forth the doctrine of laissez-faire economics. The later Enlightenment produced social thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and an early advocate of women's rights, Mary Wollstonecraft. Salon gatherings, along with the growth of book and magazine publishing, helped spread Enlightenment ideas among a broad audience. Most Europeans were still Christians. However, the desire for a more spiritual experience inspired new religious movements, such as the Methodism of John Wesley.

The Impact of the Enlightenment

The Enlightenment influenced both art and politics. The baroque and neoclassical styles of art endured, while a more delicate style, called rococo, emerged. The works of Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mozart represented one of the greatest periods in European music. Novels attracted a middle-class audience. The Enlightenment interested the absolutist rulers of Europe. However, only one, Joseph II of Austria, attempted far-reaching reforms based on Enlightenment ideas; they were largely a failure. The reforms of Catherine the Great of Russia and Frederick the Great of Prussia were far more limited. Territorial disputes in Europe and in the colonial empires of Britain and France produced the War of Austrian Succession, followed by the Seven Years' War. In the end, France lost India and most of North America, and Britain emerged as the world's greatest colonial power.
Colonial Empires and the American Revolution

In the sixteenth century, Portugal came to control Brazil, while Spain established an empire in the Western Hemisphere that included parts of North America and most of Latin America. Portugal and Spain held onto their Latin American colonies for over 300 years. During that time, they profited richly by exporting Latin American gold, silver, and other natural resources and farm products. Spanish and Portuguese officials and Christian missionaries played important roles in Latin American societies. In North America, British control over its colonies began to unravel over issues of taxation. Multiple crises led the Americans to declare their independence in 1776 and to fight Britain until its defeat in 1783. The Articles of Confederation that formed the United States were soon replaced with a Constitution, which created a stronger central government. The Bill of Rights added important freedoms derived from the natural rights expressed by the philosophes.

The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment Compared, 7:50

What are the similarities and differences between the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment?

The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment were similar in so many ways that it's easy to confound the two movements. In this lecture, I use a graphic organizer to go over the similarities and differences between the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, noting how the Scientific Revolution influenced the Enlightenment and how the Enlightenment expanded the scope by applying scientific principles to the organization of society.

Takeaways are that the Scientific Revolution influenced the Enlightenment. Also, the Enlightenment expanded the scope of inquiry by applying scientific principles to the organization of society.

Judeo-Christian society led to greater toleration, liberal, constitutional governments protecting individual liberty and restrictions placed on government power.  

Christian leaders promoted liberty, science, medical advances, and investigation.

The division of Latin-speaking Western Europe from the Greek-speaking East, followed by barbarian invasions, the Plague of Justinian, and the Islamic invasion, resulted in the West largely losing access to Greek wisdom.

Does Science Argue for or against God? 5:43

Today, a critical question to ask, now that we live in a post-Christian society, is to wonder if science argues for or against God?

Is God dead?

What criteria does Sagan provide to consider the existence of extraterrestrial life?

What has S.E.T.I. concluded?

How many parameters are needed for a planet to support life?

What can account for life on planet Earth?

Are we the result of random forces?

What are the four fundamental forces?

What have scientists and atheists said about the existence of life on Earth?

Why are we here? Literally. The latest science says we shouldn’t be. It says that the chance life exists at all is less than zero. So, is science the greatest threat to the idea of Intelligent Design or is science its greatest advocate? Best-selling author and lecturer, Eric Metaxas, poses this intriguing question and comes up with a very unexpected and challenging answer. The text of this course was adapted from a Wall Street Journal piece written by Eric Metaxas on December 25, 2014. You can support PragerU by clicking Free videos are great, but to continue producing high-quality content, contributions -- even small ones -- are greater. Do you shop on Amazon? Now you can feel even better about it! Click and a percentage of every Amazon purchase will be donated to PragerU. Same great products. Same low price. Charity made simple.

 Science can provide reasons for the existence of God. Odds against life on earth are astonishing and yet here we are.

In the remainder of the world what might happen if Islamists conquered most of Europe?

What happened in the non-Christian West? 

Renown Astrophysicist Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson explains what went wrong with Islam, 5:55

What will happen in "Christian" Europe as backward looking people migrate there?

Historian Bernard Lewis - The Islamisation of Europe, 4:50

Bernard Lewis is a British-American historian specializing in oriental studies. He is also known as a public intellectual and political commentator. Lewis is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Lewis' expertise is in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West.

In What Went Wrong?, Bernard Lewis writes of the key role of the Middle East in the rise of science in the Middle Ages, before things went wrong: And then, approximately from the end of the Middle Ages, there was a dramatic change. In Europe, the scientific movement advanced enormously in the era of the Renaissance, the Discoveries, the technological revolution, and the vast changes, both intellectual and material, that preceded, accompanied, and followed them.

In the Muslim world, independent inquiry virtually came to an end, and science was for the most part reduced to the veneration of a corpus of approved knowledge. There were some practical innovations — thus, for example, incubators were invented in Egypt, vaccination against smallpox in Turkey. These were, however, not seen as belonging to the realm of science, but as practical devices, and we know of them primarily from Western travelers.

Another example of the widening gap may be seen in the fate of the great observatory built in Galata, in Istanbul, in 1577. This was due to the initiative of Taqi al-Din (ca. 1526-1585), a major figure in Muslim scientific history and the author of several books on astronomy, optics, and mechanical clocks. Born in Syria or Egypt (the sources differ), he studied in Cairo, and after a career as jurist and theologian he went to Istanbul, where in 1571 he was appointed munejjim-bash, astronomer (and astrologer) in chief to the Sultan Selim II. A few years later her persuaded the Sultan Murad III to allow him to build an observatory, comparable in its technical equipment and its specialist personnel with that of his celebrated contemporary, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. But there the comparison ends.

Tycho Brahe's observatory and the work accomplished in it opened the way to a vast new development of astronomical science. Taqi al-Din's observatory was razed to the ground by a squad of Janissaries, by order of the sultan, on the recommendation of Chief Mufti. This observatory had many predecessors in the lands of Islam; it had no successors until the age of modernization.

The relationship between Christendom and Islam in the sciences was now reversed. Those who had been disciples now became teachers; those who had been masters became pupils, often reluctant and resentful pupils. They were willing enough to accept the products of infidel science in warfare and medicine, where they could make the difference between victory and defeat, between life and death. But the underlying philosophy and the sociopolitical context of these scientific achievements proved more difficult to accept or even recognize.

Niall Ferguson - How the West was lost, 5:37

Is the era of Western domination and progress over?

Are the peripheral countries dragging down the world?

How can the West measure up?

What limits non-Western nations?

What does Ferguson mean by the six killer apps?

What do we need in Washington?

Is the present leadership, leading?

The real problem is that the West under performs; we need new leadership, an application of the six killer apps, and perform as the Judeo-Christian West formerly did. 

Just why, beginning around 1500, did a few small polities on the western end of the Eurasian landmass come to dominate the rest of the world?” One of the most intriguing questions is why the West suddenly dominated the World after the 1500s which is the crucial question Niall Ferguson addresses in his work, Civilization. He artfully dissects reasons why the West dramatically increased its power and strength over the rest of the world. At present, he says, we are experiencing “the end of 500 years of Western predominance,” and he foresees the possibility of a clash between the declining and rising forces. He wonders “whether the weaker will tip over from weakness to outright collapse.”

For his work here, there are six civilizations: Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, and Western (following Melko and Eisenstadt, p. 3). These entities are remarkably resilient despite outside influences and extensive interactions between cultures.

Yet, beginning around 1500, something remarkable happened that has not occurred like anything before or since. The West exploded. In 1500, the West accounted for only 10 percent of the land and 16 percent of the world's population. By 1913, Western nations controlled nearly three fifths of all territory and population and a staggering 79 percent of global economic output (p. 5). "The rise of the United States saw the gap between West and East widen still further. By 1990 the average American was seventy-three times richer than the average Chinese" (p. 5). Both the models of governance and economics were Western, whether the civilization was Eastern or Western.

Imperialism does not explain Western dominance. The Ottoman, Safavid, and Ming dynasties existed at the same time while the West and non-Western empires practiced various forms of imperialism thus this does not account for the West's dominance. An important factor to consider are institutions: consider the test cases of Germany, China, and Korea. In each case, if you impose communist institutions on a culture, people suffer; on the other hand, if Western capitalism flourishes, the very same culture flourishes and prospers.

According to Jared Diamond, the monolithic Chinese empire stifled competition whereas in Europe competition bred excellence and advances. According to Ferguson, this is an "appealing" but not a "sufficient" explanation (p. 12).

According to Ferguson, there are six "mainsprings of global power": 1) competition; 2) science; 3) property rights; 4) medicine; 5) the consumer society; and 6) the work ethic. He calls these the "killer apps" (p. 12) of Western dominance.

Property Rights

Property rights are key. Locke argues that if even seven people are gathered together and their beliefs coincide; they constitute a church. Therefore, all beliefs should be tolerated and through the reasonableness of Christianity some may see the truth (p. 113). In the tolerant example provided, in North America, the United States grew in liberty and expanded. In South America though, the area was characterized by "division, instability, and underdevelopment. . . . " (p. 115) "conflict, poverty, and inequality (p. 119). Ferguson addresses the issue of difference. At root is the issue of land. In his early career as a South American Washington, the Liberator Simon Bolivar failed to appeal to non-whites and they rallied to the royalist cause. It was only after two unsuccessful attempts at forming a Republic that Bolivar developed a strategy to unite all people of color. In his efforts he found unlikely supporters among Irish and British freedom fighters. 7,000 U.K. supporters were attracted with promises of freedom and land (p. 121).

Three difficulties plagued Bolivar even after he successfully repulsed royalist forces. South Americans had had no practical experience running their own affairs as the American colonists had enjoyed for decades before their Revolution. Peninsulares had so controlled governance that the creoles had little experience (p. 123). At one point, Bolivar is quoted by Ferguson as stating that the American experiment could never work in Latin America. He states that there is little in common between the English American and the Spanish American (p. 124). Bolivar's vision was not a land-owning Republic with the rule of law but a life-long dictatorship of Bolivar.

The second problem was the unequal distribution of land. A creole elite, merely 10,000 people, 1.1% of the people, owned nearly all the land (p. 124). In 1910, on the eve of the Mexican revolution, only 2.4% of the rural population owned any land (p. 124). In contrast, in 1900, the rural population in the United States owned 75% of the land. Throughout the British Empire the same general statistic of land ownership remains consistent. Up the present, it continues to be one of the primary distinctions between British-influenced areas and Latin America.

Finally, racial antagonism and division doomed Latin America from unity (p. 125). Creoles resented former slaves and vice versa. The indigenous peoples made up a larger component of Latin America than in North America and they were not integrated, or displaced as in North America, into Latin American governance.

Bolivar's grand vision disintegrated into factional disputations and the unity achieved by the United States never occurred. Bolivar depressingly but accurately described the future of Latin America and it was bleak. "The newly independent states began their lives without a tradition of representative government, with a profoundly unequal distribution of land and with racial cleavages that closely approximated to that economic inequality" (p. 127). Unfortunately, when Hugo Chavez celebrates his connection to Bolivar, the dictatorial, sham democracy, and his nationalizing pursuits, Chavez is on sound historical grounds. Bolivar did not create a republic and he was no Washington.


Those contemplating the evils of imperialism might consider the advance in medicine assisting the world's people's to live longer. For example, in 1800 the average life expectancy was 28.5 years, and in 2001, Western medicine lengthened life expectancy globally to 66.6 (p. 146). During the colonialist period life expectancy increased during occupation and has declined in the post-colonial period (p. 147).

One of the most dangerous books ever was Rousseau's insistence in The Social Contract that the Noble Savage should not be restrained and he advocated for the General Will. Edmund Burke had early on seen the danger in the French Revolution and consequently wrote against it. "Revolutions devour their own children" (p. 153). Tocqueville pointed out how France was not America: "in sum, they chose Rousseau over Locke" (p. 154).


One of the most intriguing aspects of China's rise according to Ferguson is the simultaneous popularity of Christianity (pp. 277-88). The Chinese authorities have long been wary of religious movements but Christianity is making significant inroads among the population. According to one scholar, the Communists looked into why the West was pre-eminent, and various reasons were advanced: guns, politics, economics, "but in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful" (p. 287). Christianity and transcendence leads society to understand tolerance, equality, environmental protection, among the leading ideas advanced by the West. "The XIVth Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Part was presented with a report specifying three requirements for sustainable economic growth: property rights as a foundation, the law as a safeguard and morality as a support" (p. 288). It is the West that has lost faith in itself.

To illustrate his points in the conclusion, Ferguson invokes "The Course of Empire" which is a five-part series of paintings created by Thomas Cole in 1833-36 ( Paul Kennedy (The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 by Paul M. Kennedy, develops this American concern, that the Republic is at an end and Ferguson deals with current ideas about the decline and fall of civilization. Kennedy identified "imperial overstretch" as the issue to contend with (p. 298). Then there is Green theorist Jared Diamond's Collapse to consider as well (Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond: Ferguson disagrees with Diamond's long-term, catastrophic Green collapse; in contrast, Ferguson states civilizations can collapse over night.

This is the most alarming aspect of Ferguson's work: civilizations, as in nature, are complex systems which can collapse quickly and virtually overnight. He illustrates this point with numerous examples from the Roman Empire to the fall of Great Britain. Civilizations collapse.

Contra Diamond, Ferguson maintains that "The civilizational supercycle of birth, growth, and eventual death is a misrepresentation of the historical process (p. 299)." Civilizations are complex systems (p. 299) and "to understand complexity, it is helpful to examine how natural scientists use the concept" (p. 300). Ferguson employs a useful analogy, "To use the jargon of modern physics, a forest before a fire is in a state of `self-organized criticality'" (p. 300). It is teetering on the edge of disaster but no one knows the size nor distribution the fires. Consider how a smallish event, the subprime mortgage crisis in the U.S. led to a worldwide economic phenomenon (p. 301; or, in the case of a large conflict-ridden Empire, the Soviet Union, persisted for decades but then with no warning or insight by any pundits collapsed in six months (p. 303). Supporting Ferguson's point, the Ottoman Empire likewise flourished for centuries but then collapsed quickly with the beginning of the Turkish Republic.

Most importantly, the story of the West and the rest is explained by Ferguson's six killer apps: "mainsprings of global power" (pp. 305-306). Once the killer apps are downloaded, as in the case of Japan, other economies took off as well. India, once its abysmal socialist experiment ended, invoked free-market principles and benefited tremendously as a result.

According to Ferguson, "the financial crisis that began in the summer of 2007 should therefore be understood as an accelerator of an already well-established trend of relative Western decline" (p. 308). The financial situation of the United States is blinking red and according to Ferguson a relatively minor impetus could plunge the entire system into an immediate tailspin. Our debt is held in foreign hands, primarily China, and other nations such as Japan could pull themselves out of a crisis since they have held onto their own liabilities.

China will consume more, import more, invest more abroad, and innovate more (p. 316). Just as crucial is what could go wrong for China and there are four hypotheses. China could decline as Japan did although before the last two decades Japan was predicted by some to surpass the U.S. Second, China may be plagued with social unrest. A third possibility is that the middle class may demand a bigger piece of the political pie. And finally, China's aggression may drive neighbors into the hands of the U.S.

As Ferguson pointed out earlier, civilizations collapse quickly and although the West no long maintains a monopoly on advantageous cultural developments there is an endurable package of Western ways of being.

"This Western package still seems to offer human societies the best available set of economic, social and political institutions--the ones most likely to unleash the individual human creativity capable of solving the problems the twenty-first century world faces" (p. 324). It is this package that has done the best job of finding and highlighting talent. "The big question is whether or not we are still able to recognize the superiority of that package" (p. 324).

The Western texts that should be most instructive and promoted in the schools are:

The King James Bible
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations and Moral Sentiments
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Isaac Newton, Principia
Charles Darwin, Origin of Species
Abraham Lincoln
Winston Churchill

“The biggest threat to Western civilization is posed not by other civilizations, but by our own pusillanimity — and by the historical ignorance that feeds it” (p. 325). Ferguson calls for a return to traditional education, since “at its core, a civilization is the texts that are taught in its schools, learned by its students and recollected in times of tribulation” (p. 324) — by which he means Great Books, and especially Shakespeare. The greatest dangers facing us are probably not “the rise of China, Islam or CO2 emissions,” he writes, but “our own loss of faith in the civilization we inherited from our ancestors” (p. 325).

"Can the West endure any democracy achieved by enemies who in no way resemble them?"

Orhan Pamuk

Niall Ferguson holds in own in a BBC debate, 8:11

Who is more convincing: Ferguson or Sardar? What evidence does each present?

NewsStoryOfTheDay Niall Ferguson, author of Civilization, will help us examine the role of the West in the revolution in the Arab world - and explain what history can tell us about why certain cultures appear to dominate the world at certain times.

Secularization, Religious Resurgence, and Multiple Modernities, 2:10

As modernity has advanced across the world, some people are surprised that in most societies faith not been relegated to the private sphere or altogether abandoned. Investigate the manner in which cultures modernize in unique ways, many of which accommodate or even promote religious belief and practice.

What is secularization?

Secularization or secularisation is the transformation of a society from close identification with religious values and institutions toward nonreligious (or irreligious) values and secular institutions. The secularization thesis refers to the belief that as societies progress, particularly through modernization and rationalization, religion loses its authority in all aspects of social life and governance

Are religions everywhere in decline, or are they resurging?

In Europe, does modernization and secularization go hand in hand?

Modernization theory is a theory used to explain the process of modernization within societies. Modernization refers to a model of a progressive transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The theory looks at the internal factors of a country while assuming that, with assistance, "traditional" countries can be brought to development in the same manner more developed countries have. Modernization theory attempts to identify the social variables that contribute to social progress and development of societies, and seeks to explain the process of social evolution.

Is the same true for the United States?

Food for thought: has modernization led to secularization in the Middle East?

The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses."
Four essential elements of the scientific method are iterations, recursions, interleavings, or orderings of the following:

A linearized, pragmatic scheme of the four points above is sometimes offered as a guideline for proceeding:
  1. Define a question
  2. Gather information and resources (observe)
  3. Form an explanatory hypothesis
  4. Test the hypothesis by performing an experiment and collecting data in a reproducible manner
  5. Analyze the data
  6. Interpret the data and draw conclusions that serve as a starting point for new hypothesis
  7. Publish results
  8. Retest (frequently done by other scientists)
Limits of Science

Limits of Science, 2:38

What are the limits of science? What is going on at the frontiers? Two astrophysicists discuss these questions.

Includes Dr. Jennifer Wiseman

Limits of Science, 2:53

Discovered on an archaeological dig near Stonehenge, it is the world's oldest educational film and it is called The Limits of Science. Enjoy!



Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:
  1. What is ultimately there?
  2. What is it like?
A person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysicist or a metaphysician. The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility. A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to each other. Another central branch of metaphysics is cosmology, the study of the origin, fundamental structure, nature, and dynamics of the universe. Some include Epistemology as another central focus of metaphysics but this can be questioned.

Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as natural philosophy. Originally, the term "science" (Latin scientia) simply meant "knowledge". The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy. By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called "science" to distinguish it from philosophy. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence. Some philosophers of science, such as the neo-positivists, say that natural science rejects the study of metaphysics, while other philosophers of science strongly disagree.

Science vs. Pseudoscience

inFact: 5 Ways to Tell Science from Pseudoscience, 3:30

Here are 5 quick ways for you to tell good science from bad science.

6.2 Practice: Scientific Explanations

Full Moon, Weird Things

Michael Shermer, editor in chief of Skeptic magazine

Full moons are traditionally associated with temporal insomnia, insanity (hence the terms lunacy and lunatic) and various "magical phenomena" such as lycanthropy. Psychologists, however, have found that there is no strong evidence for effects on human behavior around the time of a full moon.[6] They find that studies are generally not consistent, with some showing a positive effect and others showing a negative effect. In one instance, 23 December 2000 issue of the British Medical Journal published two studies on dog bite admission to hospitals in England and Australia. The study of the Bradford Royal Infirmary found that dog bites were twice as common during a full moon, whereas the study conducted by the public hospitals in Australia found that they were less likely.

Full moon names

Historically, month names are names of moons (lunations, not necessarily full moons) in lunisolar calendars. Since the introduction of the solar Julian calendar in the Roman Empire, and later the Gregorian calendar worldwide, month names have ceased to be perceived as "moon names". The traditional Old English month names were equated with the names of the Julian calendar from an early time (soon after Christianization, according to the testimony of Bede ca. AD 700).
Some full moons have developed new names in modern times, e.g. the blue moon, and the names "harvest moon" and "hunter's moon" for the full moons of autumn.

A Video Introduction to Skeptic magazine by Michael Shermer, 5:59

Dr. Michael Shermer, the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine and the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, introduces Skeptic magazine.

Urban Legends Debunked

6.3 Statistics and Fallacies

Small Sample Size

Biased Sample

"Sample Response Bias" | Statistics with, 4:28

"Sample Response Bias" | Statistics with ►Watch more at Understand your Statistics homework and ace the test with's awesome hand-picked instructors. More features you'll see on -Full lessons complete with extra examples, downloads, and quizzes -Searchable and jumpable topics to save you time -Ability to ask questions to instructor and other students

Manipulative Survey Questions

10 Step Guide to Questionnaire Design by RCU, 5:44

Gordon Aitken, Managing Director at RCU Ltd, gives a 10 step guide to Questionnaire Design.

Statistics Based on Guesswork

Missing Background Information

6.3 Practice: Statistics and Fallacies

Is a Law Degree a Ticket to Wealth?

Founders' Forum, Part 1 - Is Going to Law School Worth It? - In this Founders' Forum video, LSAT Freedom founders Rob Tauler, Rob Fojo, and Congressman Ron D. DeSantis (before he ran for office) address the question, "Is Going To Law School Worth It?" Having been faced with that decision themselves years ago, and in light of today's economy and circumstances, they provide their insights on an important question for many students about going to law school.

Week 6 Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, you will be able to:
  • Develop skills for overcoming barriers which limit objective and productive critical thinking.
  • Identify the informal fallacies, assumptions, and biases involved in manipulative appeals and abuses of language.
To meet the overall objectives we will cover the following topics in Part 1:
  • Distinguish between good and bad science
  • Interpret scientific information
  • Scientific Method (observation, hypothesis formulation, experimentation, and verification)
  • Usefulness of science
  • Empirical nature of science
  • Operational definitions
  • Determinism
  • Controlled experiments
  • Quasi-experimental design
To meet the overall objectives we will cover the following topics in Part 2:
  • Non-experimental designs
    • Ex post facto
    • Correlational
    • Survey method: Four criteria
    • Case study
  • Role of chance
  • Experimental bias
  • Placebo effect
  • Pseudoscience

Pre-Built Course Content



Pre-Built Course Content


In the 6th Summer of Obama, Let the ______s Do It, 7:49
The southern border is collapsing. Ebola is spreading. Russia is on the rise. U.S. infrastructure is crumbling. The electrical grid is in jeopardy. Can the republic suffer another year of the Obama Administration without help?

Baloney Detection Kit, (Dr. Michael Shermer), 14:40

Richard Dawkins foundation Video by Dr.Michael Shermer (Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine) Discussing a 'Baloney Detection Kit' inspired by Carl Sagan. The video reproduced here in the battle against superstition.

Ebola Panic at the Mexican Border, 13:01

–Ted Broer, biochemist, scientist, author and consumer health advocate, joins David to discuss his concerns about Ebola entering the U.S. through Mexico, and more

Ben Shapiro Blasts CNN for Anti-Israel Bias, 6:52

Indian TV Crew Captures Islamist Hamas Operatives Planting Rocket in Civilian Area, 4:24

Israel Dennis Prager, 5:40

Pamela Geller Speaks at MTA Board Meeting to Ban Free Speech, 2:20

Why Won't Pamela Geller Shut Up?

Bill Maher

SNL: Draw Mo

Geller vs. Juan Williams

Dead Islamists Tell No Tales

One Brave Texan Cop Results in Two Dead Islamists

Suspected IED Near Texas Border

Islamist Describes Weapon of Mosque

Megyn Kelly and 1st Amendment Expert

British Islamist Advocates Death Under Sharia for Geller

Geller: No Government Protection After Islamist Attack

Megyn Kelly vs. Richard Fowler

Anti-free speech mosque to hold Islamist's funeral.

An unidentified “senior law enforcement official” tells the New York Times that, while the FBI had been aware of Garland, Texas jihadist attacker Elton Simpson for nearly a decade, they did not follow his violent, pro-jihad tweets as closely as they could have because “there are so many like him” that the agency is overwhelmed.

More anti-jihad conferences and a selection of anti-jihad cartoons.

Geller on Fox and Friends

Geller and Imam on Hannity

Geller and the First Amendment

Fox News Seeks to Restrict Free Speech

Dershowitz vs. Islamists

Islamic State threatens Pamela Geller.

CNN promotes Sharia over Garland, Geller event.


Killing Free Speech

Second shooter finally identified. Both Islamists have been identified for years by the FBI.

"Good" Islamist Shooter

Short Trento vid