Critical Thinking

Finding Wisdom

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle

It is a dangerous trend that critical thinking and the application of knowledge — wisdom — is a lost art. Deep thought is replaced be emotionalism, individuality replaced by tribalism. We are quick to react, slow to learn. We spurn our responsibility to younger generations — creating a sibling society shaped by peers rather than elders. We ignore the lessons of history in willful historical amnesia. We allow falsehoods into our thinking. Ryan Michler writes in Sovereignty:

One phrase that gets tossed around a lot these days is “my truth.”…the reality is that there is no “my truth.” There is only “the truth.” You might have a theory. You might have a perspective. You might have an assumption. But unless you’re operating in objective reality, your opinion is just that — an opinion…Words are powerful. If you’re distorting the meaning of a word or phrase to fit your narrative, you’re likely limiting your perspective and your own sovereignty…[we] must strive to recognize, understand, and act according to objective truth — as in truth that is not subject to interpretation.

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Myths Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson Told Me

Scientists enjoy telling stories. They tell stories about, among other things, the quest to understand the universe — stories that sometimes have implications for belief or disbelief in God…

Too, often, these stories are false.

This is how science historian Michael Newton Keas beings his engaging and enlightening book, Unbelievable: 7 Myths About the History and Future of Science and Religion.

Unfortunately, he his right.

What he is referring to is when celebrity scientists stop talking about science and interject their personal beliefs under the guise of science. If those beliefs aren’t friendly to religion, they have a habit of promoting the false religion-is-at-war-with-science narrative with a variety of myths. The war between science and religion  is a modern fable, not surprisingly promoted by those who don’t think highly of religion.

This is a shame, really, because we need popularizes of science, but when some scientists become celebrities, they can fall off their intellectual foundation rather quickly. When Neil DeGrasse Tyson turns Giordano Bruno into a martyr for science in his show Cosmos, much of the story is fiction. When Carl Sagan made claims to the effect that the cosmos is all that there is or always will be, he wasn’t making a scientific statement, but a personal, philosophical one. When Sam Harris claims the church had been “torturing scholars” for “speculating about the nature of the stars,” it simply isn’t true.

It’s not hard to review history, as Dr. Keas shows, and see there is no widespread hatred of science from religion. In fact, he details some of the ways “theistic religion nurtured the development of modern science from its start.” He also reveals the irony of these celebrity thinkers replacing religion with their own naturalistic philosophy and materialistic magic.

I’ve studied a lot of history and science over many years, so I have seen elsewhere the history Keas lays out.  Such as there is far more to the Galileo story — he isn’t the poster child of a war between the church and science. The Dark Ages weren’t so dark — the Renaissance didn’t appear out of nowhere. Nor were most of our ancestors really confused about the shape of our planet — most thought it was a sphere and didn’t need Columbus to prove it (he didn’t think it was flat either).

Do the celebrities purposefully spread their myths? I hope not, but the history isn’t hard to find and they keep repeating their myths anyway.

The takeaway from Keas book is we should learn to recognize when our experts, celebrity or otherwise, switch from teaching to evangelizing. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, unless you are passing it off for something it isn’t. And don’t for a moment think you aren’t capable of testing and questioning those who portend to speak for all of science and history.

They don’t own all the keys to our past and our universe. We all do.

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Waking Up

“Washington doesn’t represent the American people anymore, because the bureaucrats and elected officials in Washington pursue their own self-serving agendas rather than doing what is objectively right for the country…Congress [has] only one problem that they’re serious about solving — and that’s getting reelected.”

Those are strong words from Congressman Ken Buck. In his book Drain the Swamp, he gives an insider’s look into the rampant corruption in Congress. From outright ignoring the Constitution, to dead laws that never die, passing laws through intimidation, to purposefully creating problems so they can cash in.

It’s troubling how easily people are distracted by the smoke and mirrors, the staged drama, and the promise of money, from our government. If only more would look behind the curtain. Buck writes:

“The federal government is supposed to be small. Its power is supposed to limited. The United States is supposed to be a union of largely sovereign states…Our founder’s default position was to keep power as far from Washington as possible.”

The scary truth is that they don’t want you to know this. Why? Then they lose the power they gave themselves.  The power we turned a blind eye to.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” Ronald Reagan warned.  “We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.”

What will you choose to do?

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Free Speech Under Assault

One of my maxims is:

If you cannot defend the right of free speech for the person you disagree with the most, you don’t believe in free speech.

As this article from The Economist relates, free speech is under attack around the world. It’s not surprising to see this in dictatorial countries, but suppression of free speech is alive and well in democracies. Most disturbing is how it is tolerated — encouraged even — in the American university. The purpose of universities is twofold: Preserve and pass on knowledge and history to one generation to the next; and promote the free exchange of ideas and foster new knowledge. Instead:

Free speech is hard won and easily lost…[even] in mature democracies, support for free speech is ebbing, especially among the young, and outright hostility to it is growing. Nowhere is this more striking than in universities in the United States…and an incredible 10% approved of using violence to silence [speech].

I have been following the Death of the University, which itself is a sad situation of this great institution of western culture. Just as bad is the trend of silencing speech — often by the very people who claim to be for it.

This trend must be stopped dead in its tracks.

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Ancient Aliens? No, our Ancestors Weren’t Dumb.

Ancient Aliens is one of those infuriating shows to those who have studied ancient history. The premise of the show is that the ancients weren’t smart enough to build structures like the pyramids. So, in one of the most disconnected lines of reasoning ever, they must have had help from aliens.

The fact is, the ancients were smart. They had the same brains we have. The more we learn about them, the more we have realized this.

Because something is difficult to do, doesn’t make it impossible. We are so enamored with our electronic technology, we forget that humans used math and brain power, combined with physical strength, for many millennia.

To listen to some of the “experts” on Ancient Aliens, it’s as if they haven’t been to these sites, or if they have, they had blindfolds on. One of the funniest moments is when one is showing how perfect a block has been carved (supposedly beyond the ability of the ancients), but the camera shows his square revealing the block is far from perfect. That’s only one of many head-scratching moments revealed in this documentary, Ancient Aliens Debunked.

To be certain, there are many mysteries to be solved from ancient times. Much has been lost and every day we learn something new. The ancients left us much to learn in their structures, stories, and myths. Over the years, I have written here about those things, and integrated them into my books. Our ancestors left us history, knowledge, and warnings, to ponder.

Not aliens.

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Who is Responsible for Education?

This podcast, Your Son Isn’t Lazy — How to Empower Boys to Succeed, has some great insights into boys and learning. If you listen closely, you may also notice some unspoken implications concerning our [the government’s] enlightened ways in educating children, which are causing the very problems that seem to increase with each generation.

My three maxims for education are these:

1. The person most responsible for your education is you.

2. The people most responsible for a child’s education is his or her parents.

3. Learning never ends.

If we adhered to these, would we constantly be trying to reinvent education, only to see it spiral further out of control?

P.S. Also check out Why Arizona’s Plan To Teach Kids Cursive Is Great For Kids where we learn, among other things, handwriting “engages the brain more deeply in creative thinking” and “strengthens students’ memories.”

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The Ruins of Rome Speak to Us

Recently, I wrote that humanity can overcome the prophets of doom who predict all manner of ends to humanity. Perhaps their lack of hope arises from their belief the world is borne out of randomness. One may ask them, then why worry about our fate? For those who have not given up, who see purpose in the universe, and want to keep civilization from faltering, there are many tools at their disposal.

History is one.

What looks impossible in the present looks inevitable in hindsight.

Those are the words written by Lael Arrington when discussing the fate of ancient Rome. In hindsight, the events of history often evoke a certain question: How could they have not seen that coming? Probably because those people were saying: That could never happen to us.

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What is Tolerance?

“Treat people as equally valuable, but treat ideas as if some are better than others, because they are. Some ideas are true, some are false. Some are brilliant, others are dangerous. And some are just plain silly. Real tolerance is about how we treat people, not ideas. Classic tolerance requires that every person be free to express his ideas without fear of abuse or reprisal, not that all views have equal validity, merit, or truth.” – Greg Koukl

The claim that “all views are equally valid” is a logical contradiction, just as the belief that all ideas must be accepted and unchallenged is intellectually empty. Nor does challenging an idea make you “bigoted, disrespectful, ignorant…[or] intolerant.”

Tolerance is easy, and so is thinking — you just have to do it.

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Start Your Week with Some Brain Food

On learning:

“The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

“Investing in yourself is the most important investment you’ll ever make in your life…There’s no financial investment that’ll ever match it.” – Warren Buffett

On thinking for yourself:

“People have to learn that consensus is a huge problem…consensus is how we bully people into pretending that there’s nothing to see.” – Eric Weinstein

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

On testing what you believe:

“We can live in deceit and illusion until one day we hit the wall of reality. When our false beliefs collide with reality, we then have a choice: Will we live according to knowledge — true belief justified by good evidence? Or will we settle for illusion?” – Lael Arrington

On academic freedom:

“The university is not a safe space…it is a place to be confronted by horrible ideas…if you want to be safe, stay home with your mom…don’t come to university if you want to be safe. If the university is going to make you safe, then it ceases to be a university.” – Jordan Peterson

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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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