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How Do You Know It's True? Paperback – August 1, 1991
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About the Author
Hy Ruchlis (1913-1992) was a physicist, teacher, and writer known for his scientific books aimed at younger readers. Ruchlis was a graduate of Brooklyn College and Columbia University, and went on to teach both at the secondary and college levels. He is the author of Clear Thinking, How Do You Know It’s True? and How A Rock Came To Be In A Fence On A Road Near A Town.
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Traveling with Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy, Scooby entertained me through many Saturday mornings with (yes, often poorly told) stories of ghosts and goblins that only seemed to be.
But he also conveyed that all important message that things often aren't as they seem.
In other words a healthy skepticism is perhaps just as important in understanding the world as any traditional academic skill. In this regard this book is a wonderful introduction to skepticism for kids reading it as one of their first few books on science or perhaps even one of their first few books at all.
Told in easy to understand language the book simply describes the difference between a superstition and a scientific fact. It provides helpful clues to kids about where maybe they should stop and take a second look before leaping.
In these regards I think the book also provides helpful life guidance. With their natural inquisitiveness and sense of wonder the beliefs of the young feature most prominently in the future of our society.
I'd like to think, someday down the road, when faced down by some bright kid who's read this book or watched Scooby some dubious claimant may be forced to say:
"I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you kid."
Even if you didn't like my last joke get your kid this book.
The book discusses common examples of fairy tale thinking such as astrology. It discusses concepts like probability in order to explain how some things that may appear supernatural are easily explainable. It does address superstition but doesnt touch religion which was important to me as my wife is somewhat religious. I actually think that this book did make an impression on her. She is quick to question superstitions and the supernatural and attempts to explain them away. Im really proud of her.
The first section of the book is quite ranty in tone, which I didn't really care for. Astrology will fall down all by itself when subjected to scrutiny; there's no need to yell about it. I felt that the tone detracted from the objective stance I hoped for, and even made the author seem a bit insecure about his position.
My real complaint, however, is about the second section, when Ruchlis tries to describe how Renaissance science got rid of older, incorrect ideas about a flat Earth and geocentric universe. He must not have checked his facts too well, because this science teacher believes the long-discredited Myth of the Flat Earth. (You can look it up on Wikipedia for a good summary.) Aristotle accepted the idea of a spherical earth, and Eratosthenes measured its circumference in 240 BC. Throughout the classical and medieval eras, educated people knew that the Earth is a sphere, and they had a good idea of how large it is. Ruchlis also, in my opinion, does not do a good job of describing the debate over the geocentric vs. heliocentric models of the solar system (for one thing, geocentrists did not believe that God had created the universe solely for us, nor that Earth was the most important thing in it--and Ruchlis fails to note that the Pope was quite sympathetic to Galileo until Galileo publicly insulted him in his written debate).
I did quite appreciate the last section, where Ruchlis reminds us that we stand on the shoulders of giants. I will still have my daughter read this book--but we'll be discussing the errors it contains! I suppose it does serve as a great lesson on how we always have to be careful about making mistakes and examining our thinking.
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***************************This book is GARBAGE!
Because this (so-called) Professor of Science is the author of some 27 prior books
supposedly dealing with the...Read more