[extropy-chat] Critical Thinking

Lee Corbin lcorbin at tsoft.com
Wed Mar 8 13:46:16 UTC 2006

This month's Skeptical Inquirer has a very fine article
titled "Critical Thinking, What is it good for?, What is
it?" by Howard Gabennesch.

He makes many excellent points, although to me a bit
politically biased. (Actually, the biases, I must admit,
are *towards* my positions not against them. Now how often
do you see someone complaining about that?  :-)

He finally comes around to The Claim, to wit, that we
must be better at teaching critical thinking. But I very
seriously doubt that it can be taught!

By their natures, it seems (speaking in the identical
twin sense), some people are more judicious than others,
that is, capable of more carefully and objectively
weighing evidence. And some people are much more reluctant
to admit mistakes than are others; some are simply much
better at "remaining confused" and not venturing an
opinion until they've had a great deal of exposure to
a new claim or idea than are others.

(Claiming that critical thinking can be taught reminds
me very much of the arrogant believe that *we* are so
superior that *we* can rehabilitate criminals, but not
they, us.)

I strongly suspect that a more successful society---
given our current IQ range and limitations---has a
role for all types, and is seriously weakened when 
one manner of thinking and behaving gains too much
ascendancy over the others. The proper trade off, I say, 
between too little steadfastness and too much can *not*
be easily formulated in all too fashionable formulas
one hears nowadays.  Railing against "irrationality"
(as does the author) strikes me as a little empty and
a lot silly.

Want to know the truth, or would you rather change the world?
Sometimes there may be a tradeoff! And yet surely it's
going to be on a case by case basis: on one class of items
a given person will adopt a strong position quickly
realized by intuition, and will be most reluctant to
even be able to *see* another point of view; the same
person on other issues may be much more judicial. 

Yes---I know that if I'm right we're a little more 
powerless to DO SOMETHING, and it could be that I just
don't have the urge to tilt at... deserving targets.

By all means, most of us here believe, as do I, that for
the roots of religion, for example, tend to lie in darkness
and non-rational thought. But it's one thing to criticize
beliefs and quite another (if you ask me) to criticize most

And if one more time I hear religionists or nonbelievers
denouncing each other as "irrational" I may lose my supper.
*Beliefs* may be irrational; but we need to reserve the
criticism of being irrational for people who should be
locked up for their own good.


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