Showing posts with label Critical thinking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Critical thinking. Show all posts

Monday, July 31, 2017

Defining Critical Thinking

Here's a recent post from my local paper about critical thinking. I thought it very appropriate in the Age of Trump and the Right Wing Blogger/Commenter, specifically...

Q: How do you define critical thinking? 

A: Let’s focus on two ideas: Is your claim supported with evidence? And, are the sources you’re using for your evidence valid? A lot of our debate today is just hurling claims at each other without any effort to support them. It’s claims of fake news and “gotcha” journalism and false balances and the non-reply reply. As for sources, one of the effects of the internet is that it allows you to live in a much narrower world. If I don’t like what someone is saying on Facebook, for example, I’ll unfriend them and I don’t have to think about them anymore

Q: This sounds like confirmation bias. 

A: The extreme version in academic circles is called “epistemic closure.” That means that your only criteria for deciding what someone is saying is true is if you already believe it to be true. This is dangerous because now you’ve become insulated from any argument that might challenge your point of view.

Right. Today's conservative supports nothing withe evidence, hurls claims, bitches about fake news, espouses false balances, and is a master of the non reply reply. They live in a narrow world and shut out (defriend) the world because facts that they don't believe in hurt their head.

I challenge all of you to find arguments that are supported by evidence and have valid sources that challenge your point of view.

Here's a great example.

Here is another one.

Here is another one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Frustrating Example

This is how it always goes.

A conservative friend of mine, in this case one of the two evangelical ministers I know, will send me a link like this one. With the headline being "The Pre-Partisan Caucus" one would at least be intrigued, right?

Further reading shows some very agreeable things.

If you are a thinking person interested in

1. Honest ground rules, for

2. Vital political debate, in service to

3. Unalienable rights given by the Creator for all people equally

Good so far. And I honestly don't mind that he calls himself a pro-life libertarian. Pro life people are fighting for what they believe is murder. Since no one knows for sure exactly when life begins, they might be right. They might also be wrong but let's not get off on the wrong foot.

He goes on with this one.

Part of the genius of the Declaration's appeal was that there was no denominational religion in view when making reference to the Creator. In the same wisdom, Article 6 of the Constitution abolished any religious test for political office.

Yep. So far, he has me interested. He then goes on to detail his six pillars of honest politics.
  • The power to give affirms that the unalienable rights given by the Creator belong to all people equally, and leaders in human government should serve such a gift.
  • The power to live in the light means leaders in human government at every level should be as fully transparent as possible.
  • The power of informed choice is rooted in an honest definition of terms in political debate, providing a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally, apart from which political freedom is not possible.
  • The power to love hard questions is in place when political leaders honor and answer those who pose them the toughest questions.
  • The power to love enemies recognizes that even the harshest of political opponents share a common humanity and are to be treated with respect.
  • The power to forgive recognizes the need to address our individual and societal transgressions against one another, and to work toward justice and reconciliation.
Again, all fantastic. At this point, I'm thinking that this guy's ideas have some real merit. In the interest of being agreeable, I'll forgive his Occam's Razor idiocy and simply move along.

Now, pay close attention to the parts I bolded as we take a look at some of the links in the rest of his site.

Under the "Education and Race" link, we see this:

The “public” schools today are no longer truly public or common, rather they are “government” schools where many educational elitists work out their self-serving theories on our children.

Ah, well, so much for sharing a common humanity and working towards reconciliation. I don't like it therefore it must be wrong/bad. He then goes on to talk about how schools should all be Christian themed and yet still be public. I'm wondering if he has been in a public school recently. Instructors don't have the time to work out self serving theories.

And what exactly are education elitists? Oh, yeah. The commies that have taken over our nation's schools (see: Bircher insanity).

Under the "Marriage and Pansexuality link, we see this:

It is the relentless agenda of a small core of homosexual-rights activists that will outlast the core of politically defined pro-family activists, unless biblical theology gains ascendancy.

Look out! Here comes the gay mafia!

Namely, they elevated same-sex marriage to the status of a “fundamental” or “basic civil right,” indeed, equal to that of an unalienable right. This reality almost never gains comment, but is the deepest substance of the decision, and its greatest threat to civil life.

And so much for unalienable rights given to all people. Can someone please tell me how gay marriage threatens civil life when the divorce rate for heterosexual marriage is over 50 percent?

I offer this site as an example of how I am not the problem. Guys like John C. Rankin are the problem because they pretend to be agreeable but they really aren't. Then, when people like me call them on their bullshit, they paint the people that disagree with them as being the real problem and very cleverly avoid their own mea culpa (see also: responsibility). It reminds me of one of my children saying," It was ____. They made me do it! It's really _____" Tsk, tsk...again with the childish dishonesty and a most excellent example of how frustrating all of this is.

If Rankin is serious about his six pillars of honest politics, that means he's going to have to (gasp!) change. Until people like him and many others on the right admit that their ideas aren't perfect and they are wrong sometimes, there is not going to be any pre-partisanship...unless of course it's defined as "my way or the highway"...which isn't really libertarian when you think about it, right?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Width of Vision Redux

President Obama's statement on the debt ceiling, which I posted yesterday, says quite a bit about the guy. First, it demonstrates that he's not spend crazy. The fact he knows that this is large problem should give people around the country, regardless of their political stripe, hope.

Second, the statement doesn't exist in a vacuum. One has to look at why he said it and what happened afterwards. He said it at a time when President Bush was essentially not vetoing a single bill from Congress. Clearly, he has the foreknowledge to see that this was going to create a problem. And it has.

The problems we have today were caused by the actions of the GOP led Congress and President Bush. Contrary to the catechisms of the anti spending hysterics, the crash of 2008 gave us only one, albeit pretty crappy, option: bail out/stimulus. Without both, the world economy would have collapsed. The world in 2006 was a much different place than it is in 2011.

My point in all of this was to show that people (especially true believers) have to think outside of the box when seeing a statement like this. In other words, critically think about it. In many ways, this illustrates what the president told Bill O'Reilly before the Super Bowl a few months back. He said that by the time something gets to his desk, it's so FUBAR (my words, not his:)) that every solution really stinks. So which do you want to have-vomit or diarrhea?

Monday, January 03, 2011

New Year's Housekeeping

As we begin the New Year here at Notes From the Front, I thought it might be wise to throw out a few housekeeping items.

First, this blog is not important. Seriously, I mean it. Lately I've noticed a few commenters that seem to have substituted the comments section for a social life. Living your life and interacting with people is more important than posting here. If you don't have time to write all that you want, so what? I know I don't.That means your time is better spent doing things with friends and family than posting on this sixth rate (seventh rate?) blog. I put up a post every day but some are now from Nikto because I have other stuff going on.

This brings me to my second point. I think it's time that I reminded people why I post here. I do so because I love to write. It helps me work out my frustrations. It's also a heck of a lot of fun. I think it's pretty amusing that some of you feel that I am humiliated continually when I post here but I never am. Not at all. I have a pretty thick skin and school yard bullying, which we see all the time in comments, doesn't even come close to making a dent. A few weeks back I was working with some junior high school kids and had one student slice another student in the face with a scissors. Having someone call me stupid is pretty paltry compared to that.

My other main goal is for reflection and critical thinking. We've recently had a concise definition of critical thinking submitted in comments. Here it is again.

The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit. Thus, educating good critical thinkers means working toward this ideal.

I suspect I will be putting this up quite a bit as several of you are avoiding it. I'd like to see each one of you turn inward and honestly assess how well you match up this ideal. This would be the reflection part. You should know that every time...every single time...some of the commenters here blow a bowel about something I write, there is no doubt in my mind it's because they are resistant to reflection.

Something else...I had a regular commenter in here (a libertarian one, btw) make a note to me regarding staying on topic in comments. If this person wishes to state this with his name attached, that's fine but I thought I would let them remain anonymous for now. Essentially, said person complained that we whir off topic in threads and it would be nice to stick to the subject. I thought about it for awhile because I really do respect (and love) the person that suggested it but it's just not my vision for this blog.

Comments to me are about near total freedom. I post about climate change and you want to link a video about Obama as Hitler? Fine by me. You have a business or product you want to hawk and you are a regular poster here? Put it up. I have about 200-300 unique page loads a day. Talk about anything on your mind. This blog is an outlet for reflection, venting, and discussion on a wide range of topics. I live in Minnesota and have had it up to here (Mark puts his hand way above his head) with people telling me to be polite and not discuss certain topics. Fuck that. That's why ALL of you get the same honor and privilege. It's my way of telling my fellow Minnesotans to pound salt hence the byline above, "Where politics, sex and religion are always polite to discuss."

Of course, if everyone wants to stay on topic, then that's fine too. I will, however, generally delete spam comments if it is from a source I don't recognize. If it turns out to be someone we know, I will put it back up. Porn is also usually out unless it stars one of you and/or it's really hot.

One last thing about comments....sometimes Blogger is wonky. Since everyone seems to have a different experience with this, more than likely it's the relationship between individual settings and Blogger. Remember to cut and paste your comment off line and then if it vanishes, try again. As I have stated above, I don't block any one's comments or delete them.

So what will the New Year bring? Well, we already have the GOP putting health care repeal front and center. That's smart....NOT. I know climate change is going to come up a few times. We should have some GOP hopefuls for president soon. I predict Mitt Romney will be the nominee if he runs.

More importantly, though, we will have the start of a conversation that I hope will change this blog forever. It's the evolution of many of my thoughts that I have been putting up here since I started. It's why our country is so fucked up. It has to do with what I have been dropping here and there of late: The Michael Jordan Generation.

Stay tuned!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Critical Thinking, Science and Conservatives

Mark's post on critical thinking got me to thinking about an article I read recently. It said that the vast majority of scientists surveyed were Democrats, independents or undecided. Only 6% of them were Republicans. The right, of course, latched on to this as evidence of political bias in science. But it really reflects the sort of personality that's attracted to science in the first place.

Science is all about observations and the hypotheses that explain them. As scientists collect more data the hypotheses are refined. The theories change and are often thrown out completely when they don't fit the facts. In science there's always the possibility that the ground will be pulled out from underneath you. It doesn't happen overnight, but it happens in every field of study. Every theory is temporary, subject to change. That doesn't mean the theories are wrong; they're just incomplete.

People on the right seem to crow about never having changed their minds, as if it were some kind of badge of honor. They want an answer now, and once they have it they will not allow it to change. Even if the underlying facts change, or were initially misapprehended. They don't seem to trust science because science doesn't provide them a dogmatic answer that will justify what they've already decided they want. They hate uncertainty because it breeds fear.

Sure, there are some conservatives in science. But the very definition of science involves learning new things, and new ideas will of necessity change the way we think. And that's anathema to most conservatives: for them everything must remain static and unchanging. The way it was must be conserved for eternity. Even though that golden age was much different from what the conservatives of that time longed for.

A more cynical person would say that conservatives just aren't smart enough to be scientists, or are too greedy to waste time getting a PhD or working in academia for peanuts. But for many fields of study there is too much conflict between matters of fact and religious or political beliefs.

The foundation of modern biology and zoology is the theory of evolution. It explains pretty much everything, from why embryos develop the way they do, to how infectious diseases mutate. So a career in biology is out of the question for someone who thinks that Noah collected pairs of wombats, dodos, jaguars, penguins, polar bears, awks, platypuses, orangutans, bison, lemurs and aurochs from all across the world, put them on a boat for six weeks then led them back to their places of origin.

Astronomy and cosmology are similarly taboo: the creation of the universe is an open question for astronomers. For someone who thinks the earth was created six thousand years ago geology is right out. As is anthropology and pretty much any of the social sciences.

But there are some conservatives in those fields. One is C. Martin Gaskell, a conservative astronomer who is suing the University of Kentucky for not hiring him because he publicly questions the validity of evolutionary theory and theorizes on how the bible relates to contemporary astronomy. I thought Republicans were against frivolous lawsuits? I mean, it's a simple business question for the University: what serious student of the sciences would consider attending an institution that hires a guy like that? Such a hire would cast a bad light on the whole university, especially considering that Kentucky houses the Creation Museum and is providing public funding for a Noah's ark park.

The really hard sciences -- physics, mathematics, chemistry, medicine -- would seem to harbor the most conservatives because they come into conflict with political beliefs only rarely. And they are clearly the most applicable to money-making opportunities.

But when hard science does conflict with conservative ideology -- especially when there are economic implications -- the science loses. A prime example is climatology. Some conservatives deny that it's happening. Other conservatives deny that we have anything to do with it. Others say the scientists are lying to make money. The remaining few conservatives who acknowledge the reality say that we'll just adapt.

Mainstream climatologists agree that we should adapt. The best way to adapt is to reduce carbon emissions and develop new energy technologies. The best time to adapt is now, while we have enough oil and gas to make the transition smoothly.

One of the most foolish things I ever heard George Bush utter was also the most illustrative of the conservative mindset. He said, "Do you want the terrorists to control the oil in 50 years?" In 50 years there's not going to be any more oil to for the terrorists to control. We will have burned it all. Or at least all of the Middle East's easily accessible oil.

When the oil is gone we will of necessity reduce our emissions and develop new energy sources. Why put that off to the time when competition for the little remaining oil will be bringing us to the brink of war with China, and we have total dependence on countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Russia and Venezuela for our oil?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Critical Thinking

The topic of critical thinking has come up again in comments. It was born out of discussion (the latest in a series) which can best be described as MARK IS WRONG BECAUSE HE IS _______. This very tedious tactic has been going on for quite some time and it makes me wonder just how insecure some of my posters are in their ideology and beliefs. I mean, I am wrong from time to time, but how does that mean that they are right? Such a black and white world they live in....

The insta-contrarians in comments latest volley is that I am illogical therefore I am wrong. Well, folks, I am not Spock. Logic should be employed as part of an eclectic approach to analyzing the issues we talk about on here but it shouldn't be used as the sole tool in the tool kit. A link regarding critical thinking was provided to dispute this assertion.

Interestingly, the link provided by one of these ICs (insta-contrarians) had this to say about critical thinking.

The ideal critical thinker is habitually inquisitive, well-informed, trustful of reason, open-minded, flexible, fair-minded in evaluation, honest in facing personal biases, prudent in making judgments, willing to reconsider, clear about issues, orderly in complex matters, diligent in seeking relevant information, reasonable in the selection of criteria, focused in inquiry, and persistent in seeking results which are as precise as the subject and the circumstances of inquiry permit. Thus, educating good critical thinkers means working toward this ideal.

First, I agree completely with this statement. This is the framework I use to instruct young people. Second, this is an ideal and it would be very difficult to achieve it in one's lifetime. I know that I fall short of this ideal. We all do.

But I think I can say without much doubt that the ICs in comments come nowhere near this on nearly every issue. The only time they do is when I say something with which they agree. Surprise, surprise. We are on the same side of the argument so they win!

Want some examples?

1. I have yet to see any honesty in facing personal biases from the ICs. I have admitted several times on here that I have a horrible bias against Muslims.

2. I have yet to see any sort of flexibility regarding liberal and progressive policies from the ICs. They are all bad. I have stated many times on here that Reagan did many things he had to do given the context of his time and that he was right to do them. I've admitted that the Laffer curve works in countries with high tax rates and, possibly, with corporate taxes. It also works on a micro level.

3. I have yet to see any open minded analysis of climate change from the ICs. They are all warmists! I, however, have stated many times that I'd like to see more data but that the methods used in support of climate change are sound. This was recently confirmed by THREE independent panels (see: peer review).

If you ICs are the critical thinkers that you claim to be, demonstrate to me how you live by this definition above. If you reject the definition, that's fine. Why?

No doubt this will solve nothing and we'll quickly be back to personal insults and more "logic" based thinking.