Critical Thinking

Google Bertrand Russell. Amazing man. Allow me to share his Ten Commandments of Critical Thinking and Democratic Decency.

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

My journey into critical thought is challenging. Here’s to becoming “eccentric” in opinion!

Attribution

“Hooked On A Feeling”

Credit Mark James (songwriter) and B. J. Thomas (singer)

Disclaimer: No ooga chakas were harmed in the making of this post. (Yes, I know the “ooga chakas” came from a cover by Jonathan King and, more popularly, by the Blue Swede. B. J. Thomas did the original, though, in 1968. Without any “ooga chakas”.)

Fact:

Truth:

Evidence:

Proof:

Elevation: See this Psychology Today article.

Also, see this Psychology Today article on Confirmation bias.

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Now that the stage is set and you, reader, have reviewed the information above (I know, I do suffer from fantasy and delusion!), let’s proceed.

The Spirit.

Some claim that personal revelation and other manifestations of “the Spirit” are individual experiences and cannot be subject scientific or other objective means of evaluation. They are personal experiences beyond the reach of science.

And are your experiences “true” while those of other faiths “false”?

Let’s reason together.

Let’s say you receive a ‘revelation’, in whatever mode of manifestation that appeals to you, that a certain idea is true. Let’s also say a member of another faith receives a ‘revelation’ that an idea is true, through identical means as you received yours. The two ideas are diametrically opposed. For example, the idea is that the member’s faith/religion/church is the one and only church of god.

How can that be? They can’t both be true! Truth isn’t subjective. It doesn’t “care” how you feel about it. It exists independently. How can you determine who is right? What if you are both wrong? More importantly, why would a god be so inefficient as to give two people identical means to determine a truth that ends up being contradictory?

This is where we need to consider elevation and confirmation bias. The following quote from Carl Sagan might be helpful:

“The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth — never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.” Carl Sagan – “Wonder and Skepticism”, Skeptical Enquirer Volume 19, Issue 1, (January-February 1995)

Simplified restatement (hopefully): The truth may be hard to understand. It may be something we have to struggle with. It may be strange and not what we expect. It may go against what we believe deep inside. It may not be what we want to be true. But what we want does not decide what’s true. We have a way (science), and that way does not tell us perfect truth, but what it tells us is always closer to the truth than last time — never there, just closer and closer, always finding new things that are possible. Making experiments wisely is the key.

I submit that feelings are not a reliable way to determine or discover truth/fact. We need a process involving evidence. Truth, to be the truth, must be backed by proof.

This is where science and the scientific method come in, as alluded to in the simplified restatement paragraph above. Mankind has not found another method better than the scientific method for evaluating hypotheses. Religious people have complained that this method is unreliable because it has contradicted prior accepted “truths”.

Well, that’s the point! That’s how we learn! That’s how we went from an Earth-centered viewpoint to a heliocentric viewpoint regarding our relationship to the sun and our neighboring planets! It’s how we will continue to advance our shared knowledge.

Old knowledge being refined, or even replaced, by new. New knowledge being discovered.

Makes more sense than the current cacophony caused by conflicting ideologies engendered by the multitude of differing and opposing human feelings, right? It makes THE truth supersede YOUR truth and MY truth, right?

Think about it.

May your seeking be fruitful…and scientific!