Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Thinking Toolbox

Disclaimer: In spite of the extreme tardiness of this review (Gomen! Gomenasai! – I’m sorry, very sorry!), The Thinking Toolbox by Nathaniel Bluedorn & Hans Bluedorn was given to me through Mind & Media as a gift from the publisher who donated the books for reviewers.

The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-Five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills by Nathaniel Bluedorn & Hans Bluedorn
This is a Christian logic book for anyone, but especially targeted for children. Since I don’t have children or students, I have not seen their reactions to it, but according to my fellow reviewers, children love this book and learn a lot from it. The book attempts to impart tools, such as "how to list reasons to believe something," "how to analyze opposing viewpoints," "examining evidence and sources," "brainstorming," and "the scientific method."

It definitely is possible for adults to benefit from this book as well as children; there's a bit about the logic behind not passing on chain e-mails that comes to mind! I didn’t learn a great deal from it personally, but it was still an amusing read. I found their brand of humor quite agreeable, even though (or maybe because?) it could get a bit silly at times. One good example is this exercise, in which the reader was supposed to select the most appropriate response:

HANS: I’m worried about these two lessons. ‘When It’s Dumb to Argue’ and ‘When Not to Use Logic’ are very similar. They almost say the same thing.

a. NATHANIEL: That’s not logical. There is a vast difference between the philosophical ramifications of arguing and the appropriate use of logic. I defy the proposition that argument is equal to logical strains of thought.

b. NATHANIEL: Ah, don’t worry… no one will notice.

c. NATHANIEL: Maybe we could end the second lesson with a witty exercise admitting the lessons are similar. People won’t mind.”

He was right, I didn’t mind… not that I’m precisely people, mind you, but, um, close enough? (=

They also get bonus points for quoting Wodehouse in an exercise (From Right Ho, Jeeves: “Her conversation, to my mind, was of a nature calculated to excite the liveliest suspicions. Well, I mean to say, when a girl suddenly asks you out of a blue sky if you don’t sometimes feel that the stars are God’s daisy chain, you begin to think a bit”). Anyone who does that has to be cool, and if someone’s cool I will like their book. (= Ok, maybe not… (Heheh, I know that’s wrong ‘cuz I’ve been reading this book that talks about logic and stuff. Yeah. [I apologize to anyone reading this who doesn’t know me – a bit of my sense of humor doesn’t come across quite right without my tone of voice. And without having seen a certain episode of Fruitsbasket.])

I was slightly bothered that they talk about researching, finding out what your opponent thinks about topics, and sometimes finding out that your opponent is right; but then some of their views didn’t seem very researched – they were such standard conservative Christian views. Not that all conservative Christian views are wrong – I’m a pretty conservative Christian myself – but my astronomy class (at a Christian university, taught by a Christian professor) showed me that some of the stock arguments for things like a young earth don’t really address all the evidence. By the way, did you know that many interpretations of the word “day” in Genesis 1 existed long before the theory of evolution came on the scene (contrary to the argument that other interpretations are bad interpretations caused by people trying to twist Scripture to suit their scientific views)?

It took me a while to read (although not this long – I didn’t write the review right away, either! Gomen!), just because there’re only so many lessons and exercises that a person can read in one sitting and it wasn’t a book I just couldn’t wait to get back to. On the other hand, nonfiction rarely has me reading into the wee hours of the night, so that isn’t saying much. It’s still quite good, and I was pleasantly surprised by how many lessons I could read in one sitting. I especially enjoyed the last chapter, in which you have to solve a mystery using the clues given. Not all of them were clues that directly related to the mystery as such – for example, “The name of the thief begins with the same letter as the name of the captial city of the African nation of Botswana.” Some of the clues were repetitive, but that was because it was designed as a game, with one team starting with the last clue and working backwards and one team starting with the first clue and working forwards. They may have been wrong about a detail in one of the clues – evidently, according to one website, if you hide from killer bees by submerging yourself in water, the bees will wait for you to come up for air. ::sigh:: I guess the Bluedorn brothers don’t know everything, after all. For shame.

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