（江介維老師 撰文） ( Jie-Wei Jiang, Editor of AWEC Newsletter, NTU)
Teaching Logic to Students in College of Science
In the semester of 110-1, Academic Writing Education Center (AWEC) initiated a series of intensive courses for the College of Science: Critical Thinking through Logic, Fundamentals of English Writing, and English Poster Presentations for Academic Purposes. The teaching of logic is fundamental to these courses, hence its position as the first course to begin with. As the instructor of this course, I would like to elaborate on how I designed this five-week intensive course and what my students expected to learn and have learned from this course.
Logic is the key to every reasonable argument. With this principle in mind, I mainly focused on illustrating the process of forming an argument, namely how to reason from a premise to reach a conclusion. In this reasoning process, some formal or informal fallacies might sneak in, undermining the validity or soundness of an argument. The main task in hand for students is to identify all the crucial elements for conducting a fair assessment of an argument. Basically, that summarizes the objective of my logic course. Most students are satisfied with the course design, whereas some others hold a more pragmatic expectation—that is, they are eager for acquiring certain logic knowledge that would assist them not only in the domain of academic writing but also in the context of such language tests as GRE or GMAT.
I still clearly remember that a student from my logic course approached me with a writing test item from GMAT, seeking for my help with the “correct” approach to such type of writing. Specifically, the student would like to know how we could exactly use logic to compose an outstanding piece of analytical writing. Allow me, at this moment, to cite the exact passage for the ease of my exposition and your understanding:
Environmentalists warn that humans’ carbon dioxide emissions are endangering the planet. But the Earth naturally emits far more carbon dioxide than we do. In fact, humans’ cumulative carbon dioxide emissions over the whole of human history are just 0.00022 percent of the total amount that has been emitted by volcanoes over geological history. Given that our emissions are such a tiny fraction of natural emissions, there’s no need to worry that our emissions will change the climate.
To judge from the context, the passage is particularly fit or designed for students with content knowledge of certain science subjects—the scientific issue of carbon dioxide emissions, the theoretical assumption of humans’ carbon dioxide emissions, and the reasoning process of trying to convince the reader of a certain stance. This stance, as required in most analytical writing tasks, is meant to be problematized or overthrown by the test writer who could spot something unreasonable or illogical in the text. Indeed, all of these aspects involve the knowledge, assessment, and application of logic.
In this regard, we could have a glimpse of what logic means to learners, especially those science-related majors, who have to propose a myriad of arguments based on various forms of clues, data, evidence, etc. In my logic class, students are exposed to all kinds of scientific statements, some of which are precariously fallacious, demanding students’ critical thinking and logical reasoning capabilities to unravel.
At the end of my logic class, all students are divided into two teams bracing up for a debate that mimics a real-life situation in which every participant agrees on the common ground of logic to express and resolve disagreements. Most of them have undergone the baptism of their first debate in class, memorably. Hopefully, logic will accompany them on their academic journey forward.