Critical Thinking

Death of History

It is said that if we ignore history, we will repeat it. How can we follow this quintessential maxim if we allow people to erase or rewrite history?

Recently, Charlottesville City in Virginia, voted to tear down a statue of Robert E. Lee at a cost of $300,000. Once councilman claimed it was “delusional”  to believe anything different than the “Confederate states had as their primary aim the preservation of a way of life in which enslaved humans.”

No, Councilman, your statement is a rewrite of history.

There were those who wanted to preserve slavery, but Lee was not one of them, he wrote before the war (as quoted by H.W. Crocker III): “In this enlightened age…slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil…” and “emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influence of Christianity than from the storms and contests of fiery controversy.”  Lee would also free his inherited slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation and argue for the South to abolish slavery during the war. Lee was loyal to Virginia, and when it seceded he went “to her defence” but still hoped that “wisdom and patriotism of the nation will yet save it.”

He believed in the United States of America, but also the right that every state understood when they joined the Union: The right to leave. To consider Lee a symbol of racism or slavery is what is delusional. Ignoring history also makes it easy to avoid the question that few every want to ask:

Was there not a better way to end slavery and preserve the Union that didn’t result in the deaths of at least 620,000 Americans (and maybe as many as 850,000)? Continue reading

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Orwell’s Revenge

After President Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, made an odd comment about “alternative facts,” others quickly noted the similarity to the concept of “newspeak” in George Orwell’s classic, dystopian novel 1984. Newspeak was the language used to control and shape the thoughts of people. To be fair, terms like “fake news” and “alt-right” are also Orwellian, as well as how many in the media and Washington (from both sides) try to manipulate people and thoughts. Thanks to all of this, Orwell’s book, along with similar classics like A Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451, went to the top of bestseller lists.

And that made me laugh.

These are books on how governments, politicians and the media manipulate, control and monitor (Big Brother) the thoughts, beliefs and actions of the people.

Do the politicians and media really want the people reading these books? Do they want you to realize, that on a daily basis, that they have become what the Orwells of the world warned us about?

They may just have opened Pandora’s Box and there’s no closing that.

P.S. I had wondered if people even read these books in school anymore; perhaps these sales show they have not. It is also amusing to see the media and politicians lecturing us on truth, such as Dan Rather, who got himself in trouble for pushing “fake but accurate” news (talk about Orwellian). The media and politics are riddled with truthtwisters – perhaps Orwell will help more people realize this.

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America: Miracle or the Titanic?

So I ran across The 5000 Year Leap, subtitled A Miracle That Changed the World: Principles of Freedom 101, at a book sale. Here, in one volume, is an accessible volume on the principles that went into writing the U.S. Constitution. The chapter I opened today reads:

3rd Principle: The Most Promising Method of Securing a Virtuous and Morally Stable People is to Elect Virtuous Leaders

Isn’t that a novel idea?

Continue reading

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What the Vikings Can Teach Us

We’re all taught that Columbus “discovered” the New World in 1492, with the caveat that the Vikings arrived centuries earlier circa 1000 A.D. This is always added as a bit of a footnote, as if it’s not all that important. Sure, it didn’t have the impact of the Spanish-backed Columbus voyages, but the Viking voyages have always been begrudgingly admitted to existing. Even before ruins were found in the 1960s, the Viking Sagas and other accounts were largely written off as myth. Even after the finds, the story went like this, “Yes, they came here, probably over a couple centuries, but these infamous explorers never did much of anything.” Doesn’t really make much sense, does it? Why the reluctance to give the Vikings their due? In light of the discovery of a new Viking site in Canada, perhaps our prejudices in studying our own history need re-examined. Continue reading

Categories: Ancient America, Ancient Sites, Critical Thinking, Native Americans | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Every Generation’s Legacy

Think not forever of yourselves, O chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground. – Peacemaker, Founder of the Iroquois Confederacy

In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion…Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation. – The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations: The Great Binding Law

There are a variety of quotes like these, often rewritten as some variation of, “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation…” These quotes are often used in discussion of environmental issues, but they are a fundamental concept of foresight that should be applied to much of our thinking. This is something our politicians rarely do — they’re only concerned in what they can say or do (or appear to do) to get them through the next election cycle.

Continue reading

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Opening Our Eyes in 2016

I’ve written on how 19th Century author George MacDonald fathered the fantasy genre that has become such a staple of literature. Beyond that, MacDonald was also a controversial figure in his day, and even now. Why? Because he wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Biographer Michael R. Phillips writes:

In his later writings MacDonald strongly attacks the mentality that cares more for providing its own position than for discerning the truth. He would prefer to find himself in the wrong, and thereby learn a new facet of truth, than win an argument…he would not even formulate an opinion until he sees the question more clearly…[he wouldn’t]…put forward an opinion prematurely until the light of truth had been shed upon it.

Here, on the first day of the new year, perhaps this is what we should keep in our minds and on lists of resolutions. A commitment to test what we read, what we are told and what the powers that be claim is so. In an election year this is even more important, because the professional politicians and their dutiful followers have already spent months weaving their deceptions. We need to be like MacDonald who had

…a mind not afraid to doubt and ask questions. It was a mind not hiding behind doors, but knocking on them. His eyes were wide open, alert to any entrance of truth.

So in 2016, let’s open our eyes, stop hiding and start knocking.

Categories: Critical Thinking, What You Can Do | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Finding Sexism in Fiction…A Modern Witch Hunt?

There seems to be a trend of searching through books and find reasons to label them sexist. For example, The Lord of the Rings is sexist because there aren’t enough women characters and the ones that are there aren’t doing enough important things. This leads me to ask:

What is the proper woman character quota for novelists? Is the role of someone like Eowyn fighting the Nazgul not important? If a book or film is overwhelming centered on women, is that sexist?

See the overreach of certain critics? We also can suspect that some are looking to push an agenda by convoluting whatever they can. Take a recent criticism of the new show Supergirl in which it was called “sexist” because of her name (girl) and the fact she seem concerned by such things as relationships with men. The show itself smartly ridicules the problem with the name and shouldn’t the world’s most powerful women be allowed to pick the relationship she wants? When we are oft told to be acceptable of everything, only to be told certain relationships are not okay, is this a red flag for someone’s agenda-driven, rather than a thoughtful, piece? The ultimate irony is that apparently a woman who can do anything is not woman enough.

Continue reading

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What Tesla Really Taught Us

A mass in movement resists change of direction. So does the world oppose a new idea. It takes time to make up the minds to its value and importance. Ignorance, prejudice and inertia or the old retard its early progress. It is discredited by insincere exponents and selfish exploiters. It is attacked and condemned by its enemies. Eventually, though, all barriers are thrown down, and it spreads like fire.

So wrote Nikola Tesla. He, better than anyone, knew how the entrenched responded to new ideas. Sometimes it is not only old ideas that die hard. New ideas, regardless how flawed they are, can also spread like fire by those who know how to control the microphone: Control the conversation. Cast opponents has doubters or uneducated. Pretend “everyone” agrees and that there “is no debate.” Create a narrative.

These, however, are the red flags of irrationality, extremists, special interests and propagandists. They prey on people’s tendency to trust “authority,” or the appearance of such. Get enough people on the television saying the same thing — even if it’s only really one side and scripted — and soon people start to unconsciously believe it. Sophisticated brainwashing it is, or is it all that sophisticated? It truly is surprising how many are lulled into a state of cognitive dissonance: Believing something that is completely contrary to another thing, one you believe true (or is true).

These are important considerations in our time. Not only because we are entering another political season, but the overload of information encourages people not to think deeply on any and all issues. Funny how too much or too little information can lead to the same state. At least everyone can have a voice, but not every voice is thoughtful and reasoned. So who can lead an awakening against those who wish to stamp out Truth?

You. Detecting nonsense should be a primary skill we all wield. And in the end — perhaps not today or tomorrow — Truth will prevail.

tes

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Detecting Nonsense

In 1988, Stephen Hawking’s runaway bestseller A Brief History of Time made history in making astrophysics accessible to everyone. Relativity, black holes and multi-dimensional physics were no longer some ivory tower subject. He would follow the book up with others, but none had the same effect. Then came the The Grand Design in 2010 which claimed science had banished God. In the process, the eminent scientist apparently left the world of science and entered scientism. Oxford mathematician John C. Lennox details this fall in God and Stephen Hawking.

Hawking begins his argument by claiming philosophy is dead and suggesting science is the root of all knowledge – itself a philosophical statement. Other scientists before him – like Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins – have also fallen into this trap. So enamored by the promise and power and science, they have made it a religion. Ironic for professing atheists. Nevertheless, Hawking also seems now very willing to abandon science.

Lennox goes into much more detail, but Hawking contradicts himself in “asserting that the universe is created from nothing and from something – not a very promising start.” Then he says the universe creates itself. Then gravity somehow explains the universe’s existence as if it was a Creator. Lennox concludes, “…the main conclusion of the book turns out not simply to be a self-contradiction…but to be a triple self-contradiction.”

It appears that Hawking, so bent to justify his belief in no God, has abandoned his previously astute scientific understanding no matter how ridiculous. His “science” and reasoning in this latest book has been criticized by many. To be fair, this scientism of his and other scientist “celebrities” like him, has been challenged by even those who share his beliefs on God. All belief systems have those who tumble into irrationality. And as Lennox writes, “What this all goes to show is that nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists.”

So what’s the point? We shouldn’t be taking claims from “authorities” blindly. In today’s 24/7 news cycle especially, where sound bites take the place of true discussion, we need not be quick to nod our heads in agreement. Whether scientists, politicians or “experts,” we need to think, reason and test. Even authorities err, experts disagree and much ado can be made about nothing. Hawking’s earlier books are still some of the best. But this one? It’s a shame that Hawking has abandoned the science he once championed, but it serves as a lesson for all of us.

Nonsense is constantly trying to overwhelm us, but we don’t have to let it win.

hw

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Everyone Lost Yesterday

Many upset, others happy. Some don’t care.

The truth is that everyone lost.

We’ve allowed the Supreme Court to (once again) step outside its power. The Constitution instructs it to determine the constitutionality of laws, not write them. The Constitution does not speak on marriage — does not list it as a “right” — so the court shouldn’t have even heard the case — if they were following the law. They could have argued that since marriage for many is a religious ceremony, defined by religious beliefs, that the government has no business meddling with it (as the First Amendment forbids).

The Constitution was written to define and limit the federal government’s power, not engage in social engineering. “Marriage equality” is a nice-sounding catchphrase (and an obfuscating one), but it’s not the government’s job, or right, to define what that means. Giving them the power to do so was a mistake. Letting a small group of unelected judges to do it is even worse.

Why? Because any time the views of the politicians and their judges change — and they change like the wind — they can redefine marriage or anything else at will. The people, over 300 million, have ceded their democratic control to a tiny minority of people in Washington.

This should trouble everyone, regardless of what you think of the Supreme Court’s decision. It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, or of any other politics, philosophy or religion.

You all lost. We all did.

We let emotion supersede reason and the law be ignored. We have given power to the few — the very reason we created this nation was to not have that dangerous situation. Notice that the dissenting judges didn’t base their decision on opposition to “marriage equality,” but on what the Constitution does or does not state. Wrote Justice Samuel Alito:

…not what States should do about same-sex marriage but whether the Constitution answers that question for them. It does not. The Constitution leaves that question to be decided by the people of each State. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact – and the furthest extension one can even imagine – of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.

So I guess if you think a couple of politician-appointed judges are needed to sanction or bless your beliefs, and unconstitutionally redefine the law in the process, then yesterday was a good day.

Most people, when they stop to think about it, probably want to decide for themselves and for the government to follow the rule of law.

When the law becomes an option, we are all in danger.

cons

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