Critical Thinking

Want to ‘save’ Science? Then Follow the Evidence, not the Consensus

Science has run into some problems as of late and the organized March for Science didn’t address these.  In fact, it turned out to be mostly about politics, and set an example of how to not do science.

The central issue is that people are being taught not to question what science tells us, or what is being passed off as science. The celebrity scientists of our day encourage STEM programs, wax on how amazing science is, and how important it is for you to study it.

But don’t question it. Anytime someone yells “the consensus says,” you should stop and shake your head in agreement.

This isn’t science. It’s pseudoscience at best, brainwashing into conformity at worst.

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Categories: Critical Thinking, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Instruments of Tyranny

In the November 1970 issue of National Geographic, an article entitled “Behold the Computer Revolution,” has Peter T. White breathlessly writing on the coming changes computers would bring.  Among them are paying your bills by computer, a “truly theft-proof” credit card, the impending arrival of home computer use, and many more examples how the computer would touch every corner of our lives. This was about a decade before computers started entering homes, and over two decades before the internet would morph into the world wide web. And then White shares this from a Professor Alan F. Westin:

Man has progressed over the centuries from the status of a subject ruler to that of a citizen in a constitutional state. We must be careful to avert a situation in which the press of government for systematic information and the powerful technology of computers reverse this historical process…making us ‘subjects’ again.

Perhaps what we need now is a kind of writ of ‘habeas data’ — commanding government and powerful private organizations to produce the data they have collected and are using to make judgements about an individual, and to justify their using it.

Now, forty-eight years later, we have fallen into the very scenario that Westin warns about. It happened little by little, yet largely out in the open. How many major data breeches at banks and retailers, how many shady government data collection schemes, or how many social media abuse revelations, must continue to happen before people realize that technology is no longer their tool to control?

How long until we realize that it is being used to control them? To spy on them? To shape their beliefs?

If you read my last post, you can’t help to agree that Distraction is our greatest downfall. It is what politicians have long used to cling to power and shape our world. Corporations and social movements use it to mold your thoughts. Be happy with who you are — only if that “who” is on the approved list. Do what you want — only if that “what” is on this other list. And computers have been used with frightening efficiency by social engineers and by those who subvert democratic processes.

In 1970, some warned that “the computer’s potential for good, and the danger inherent in its misuse, exceed our ability to imagine. Wouldn’t that be the worst it could do — to become an instrument of tyranny, propelling mankind into a new dark age?”

And decades before that, Orwell, Huxley and Bradbury warned us in their fiction. Some people have listened.

Many more have not.

Categories: Critical Thinking, Modern History | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Hate Homer?

I was listening to this podcast concerning how students aren’t ready for college. In particular, what they have read in their educational or personal lives is rather deficient. Instead of offering the best of the best for them to read, colleges instead replace classics with forgettable, trendy books.

So while colleges are falling down on their job of broadening minds and overcoming prejudices — through the abandoning of classical education — what about the student or not going to college? What about the person who doesn’t care about reading the classics or doesn’t think it’s necessary?

As educator and writer Susan Wise Bauer writes, “A classical education is valuable [even] for people who hate Homer.” In her book The Well-Trained Mind, she describes the frustration of employers who are expected to prepare people for life in the world. Many graduates of high school “can’t write, don’t read well, can’t think through a problem.”

Bauer writes that, “A well-trained mind is a necessity” no matter your path in life, and even though a “classical education is not intended to teach all subjects comprehensively,” it is designed to teach us how to learn.

But it goes further than that. There’s something deeply fascinating about reading books that have often endured for centuries. They reveal our past and our history. It allows us to join what Mortimer J. Adler named the “Great Conversation” which is the “ongoing conversation of great minds down through the ages.”

And there is the rub: Perhaps at no time in history have we had such a widespread hubris in society. We think those who came before us can’t possibly have anything to teach us.

The truth is that we wouldn’t be here without them. They experienced far more great events — and terrible disasters — than we can imagine. Our civilization is built on their millennia of knowledge. We mistakenly believe many of our contemporary issues are new — rarely are they.

Schooling, at all levels, can be very important in achieving your purpose. Increasingly, though, secondary education has lost its way, forgotten its purpose. These institutions that were built on an idea that stretches back to the Middle Ages — Western Civilization’s contribution of the university — is in terrible trouble. However that all may play out, realize this:

Your education, your mind, and where you take them, is solely up to you. “Being smart” is not based on the decision of others, but what you decide to be. Be part of the Great Conversation and rise above fast-food-internet “knowledge.” See beyond the selfish views that act like we are the first to walk the Earth. The voices of our ancestors left many lessons for us. One in particular stands out.

When they forgot what truly mattered in their lives, they lost it all.

Categories: Books, Critical Thinking | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Have to be a Scientist to Understand?

Molecular biologist Douglas Axe, whose credentials include U.C. Berkeley, Caltech and Cambridge, has written quite the clarion call for us to return to sound science in Undeniable. As the subtitle How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed indicates, a central focus is the debate on the successes, or failures, of Darwinian biology to explain life as we know it. Indeed, Axe brings some detailed and technical science to bear on this topic, but he is using that discussion to explain how science is not unreachable or unknowable by the masses. We need not blindly follow experts or celebrity scientists unquestionably. To do this, we first must rid ourselves of flawed views of science.

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Is Masculinity “toxic”?

The past few weeks has seen the endless parade of deviants being outed in Hollywood and government. This nuking of the swamp is long overdue and hopefully marks permanent change, but in-depth discussion of all that has occurred is lacking. I know this is a bit off-topic for me, but for those who are interested, what follows are some reflections on what has been debated in the media.

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Categories: Critical Thinking, Nature | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Where are the Smartest Kids in the World?

We all agree education is important; that our kids deserve the best learning; that our teachers should be the best at their job — then we have this tendency to walk away and let our government take the reigns. They roll out one “education program” after another — effectively experimenting on our children every few years — while spending loads of money.

Then we all get angry, argue and complain when we find out our children aren’t measuring up to other nations or aren’t prepared for life.

Amanda Ripley takes on this “Twenty-first Century mystery” of why, in a country that spends untold millions on education, still falls short.  In her essential book, The Smartest Kids in the World (and how they got that way), she dives deep into American education as she follows three students as they attend schools overseas. What is one major difference Ripley finds?

Teaching is treated as a top-tier profession. Teachers are educated and expected to perform accordingly.
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Categories: Books, Critical Thinking | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Eclipses and Cosmic Purpose

Hundreds of moons, planets and other bodies in the Solar System, and  only ours — Earth and the Moon — have perfect solar eclipses.  Astronomers have long noted this strange phenomenon, and the unlikely parameters that cause it. Not only that, but they happen to occur in a time in Earth’s history where they can be observed.  Astronomer John Gribben writes:

Just now the Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun, but the Sun is 400 times farther away than the Moon, so that they look the same size on the sky. At the present moment of cosmic time, during an eclipse, the disc of the Moon almost exactly covers the disc of the Sun. In the past the Moon would have looked much bigger and would have completely obscured the Sun during eclipses; in the future, the Moon will look much smaller from Earth and a ring of sunlight will be visible even during an eclipse. Nobody has been able to think of a reason why intelligent beings capable of noticing this oddity should have evolved on Earth just at the time that the coincidence was there to be noticed. It worries me, but most people seem to accept it as just one of those things.

Even if we brush this off as coincidence, as some have tried to do, there is another layer to this. Many of the interconnected factors that allow the eclipse to occur, also allow life to exist on Earth. Continue reading

Categories: Critical Thinking, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cult of PC

Adherents to the cult of political correctness continues to plague writers and filmmakers. Often, before a film or book even is released, trolls come out of the dark recesses of the internet to create fake outrage over films they often haven’t seen, or books they haven’t read.

When trailers were shown for The Great Wall, self-appointed diversity police immediately complained that the “white” star in a Chinese film, must have been indicative of a “white savior” story. In other words, the white man was going to save the poor Asian masses.

These claims were fishy from the start: This was a Chinese film, filmed in China, by a Chinese director, with a cast made up of nearly all Chinese actors. Additionally, the open-minded Chinese government is very picky on what is shown in its theaters. Perhaps, most importantly, is that it was clearly a fantasy film and didn’t pretend to be otherwise. Continue reading

Categories: Critical Thinking, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Some are More Equal than Others

After seeing this video on judging people equally, I was reminded of this famous quote from George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm:

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Animal Farm, both allegory and satire, was published in 1945 as a commentary on the totalitarian communist regime of Stalin. Yet it is still very much relevant today in that people seem to unwittingly allow ideas of inequality and fake tolerance into their thinking. We tolerate unless it offends us. We are inclusive if we agree with the included. We preach equality, but judge differently.

It is easy to caught up in causes, movements and emotion. These are the times we should be most on guard, for this is when others can take advantage of us. When we aren’t thinking clearly, and chaos is around us, we should stop and clear our mind. As Orwell wrote:

In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

And so is defending truth.

Categories: Critical Thinking, Fiction | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Categories: Critical Thinking, History | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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