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The above words were said by my not-quite-three-year-old son to his slightly bemused mother this morning.

This exchange followed a conversation I had had with my son earlier while getting him dressed which went something like this:

[a noise outside very much like a car door slamming]

Son: What was that noise?

Me: Sounds like mum putting something in the car.

Son: No.

Me: ok, what do you think it was?

Son: Robots.

Me: ah…… Where did the robots come from?

Son: Outside.  [so much for the imagination of the young...]

Me:  What where the robots doing?

Son:  Something with mum’s car.

Me: ok…. Have you seen any robots?

Son: No.

Me: Have you seen mum?

Son: Yes.

Me: What do you think made the noise outside?

Son: Not robots.

At which point said mum returns from outside and receives the triumphant exclamation which titles this post.

Proud at having determined we were not being invaded by robots my son wanted to share his conclusion with his mum.

What exactly is my point with this? Well, other than an amusing story I thought it was illustrative of something I want to teach my son as well as convey to others. We should think about what we see and hear, as well as examine our own narrative about how the world works.

When faced with new information and new explanations we should consider them carefully and ask questions like: How do new facts/hypotheses fit into our existing knowledge? Is it reasonable to posit new entities/explanations for things when existing ones will do?

Future episodes like this will provide ever more opportunities to help my son examine the world around him and come to thoughtful conclusions – which are themselves open to revision with new information. Lessons which are appropriate no matter what age you learn them.

Filed under: Sciblogs, skepticism Tagged: Critical thinking, Education, reason