Date: March 26th, 2022

Guest Skeptic: Professor Melanie Trecek-King Associate professor of biology at Massasoit Community College in Massachusetts. Founder and creator of Thinking Is Power.

Reference: Trecek-King M.A Life Preserver for Staying Afloat in a Sea of Misinformation.  Skeptical Inquirer March/April 2022

Prof Trecek-King

This is an SGEM Xtra episode. I met Melanie through our online interactions on Twitter. She posts excellent tweets about critical thinking. I then discovered her amazing website called Thinking is Power. We also discovered through our social media interactions that were were both Feynman fans.

I asked Melanie to come on the show and discuss her recent article in Skeptical Inquirer and explain the acronym she created called FLOATER.

Melanie explains that FLOATER grew out of James Lett’s “A Field Guide to Critical Thinking” (Lett J. Skeptical Inquirer 1990), in which he summarized the scientific method with the acronym FiLCHeRS (Falsifiability, Logic, Comprehensiveness of evidence, Honesty, Replicability, and Sufficiency of evidence).

The FLOATER acronym stands for Falsifiability, Logic, Objectivity Alternative explanation, Tentative conclusion, Evidence, and Replicability. This was the basis for her article in Skeptical Inquirer. Melanie published her first article in the January/February edition called “Teach Skills, Not Facts”.

Listen to the SGEM Xtra podcast to hear Melanie explains each of the seven tools/rules that make up the FLOATER acronym.

Tool 1: Falsifiability

It must be possible to think of evidence that would prove the claim false. It seems counterintuitive, but the first step in determining if a claim is true is to determine if you can prove it wrong.

Tool 2: Logic

Arguments for the claim must be logical. They can be deductive or  inductive arguments. We should try and not commit logical fallacies when arguing positions.

Tool 3: Objectivity

The evidence for a claim must be evaluated honestly.

Tool 4: Alternative Explanations

Other ways of explaining the observation must be considered. 

Tool 5: Tentative Conclusions

In science, any conclusion can change based on new evidence.

Tool 6: Evidence

The evidence for a claim must be reliable, comprehensive, and sufficient.

Tool 7: Replicability

Evidence for a claim should be able to be repeated. We have a reproducibility crisis in science. 

We ended this SGEM Xtra show with a quote from Marie Curie. I think Melanie is an amazing skeptic and educator. It was an absolute pleasure to have her on the show as the guest skeptic.

The SGEM will be back next episode doing a structured critical appraisal of a recent publication. Trying to cut the knowledge translation window down from over ten years to less than one year using the power of social media. So, patients get the best care, based on the best evidence.

Remember to be skeptical of anything you learn, even if you heard it on the Skeptics’ Guide to Emergency Medicine

Additional Readings:

  • Kahan et al. Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing. Political Psychology. January 2017
  • Kahan DM. Why Smart People Are Vulnerable to Putting Tribe Before Truth. Scientific America. December 2018
  • Trecek-King M. Teach Skills, Not Facts. Skeptical Inquirer. January/February 2022