[extropy-chat] Critical Thinking

Samantha Atkins sjatkins at mac.com
Thu Mar 9 02:27:28 UTC 2006

On Mar 8, 2006, at 5:46 AM, Lee Corbin wrote:

> 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!

On what do you base this doubt?  If critical thinking can be shown to  
be useful and the components essential to critical thinking can be  
identified along with techniques to deploy them and this information  
and these techniques can be learned then I see no basis for "serious  

> 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.

This "seeming" seems to be stating only that we observe that some  
people of equal training or lack of it in critical thinking exhibit  
unequal levels of same.  This says nothing about whether critical  
thinking is teachable.

> 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.

Different people have different psychological habits and levels of  
comfort forming an opinion.  Again, how does this say anything about  

> (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.)

What?  Surely this adds nothing to your thesis and is at best a  
useless diversion.

> 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.

Well that is interesting pure opinion but says nothing about whether  
critical thinking is teachable.   It would seem to suggest that you  
personally aren't comfortable with the population at large developing  
critical thought!

> Want to know the truth, or would you rather change the world?
> Sometimes there may be a tradeoff!

Huh?  Where are you going?

> 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.


- samantha

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