Monday, November 7, 2016

Critical thinking is Crucial

                   I was slow in leaving the church and the faith because I was blinded by faith and discouraged to ask for evidence. This line of brainwashing caused me to just eschew doubt and accept nonsense without question. Things did start to needle me, however, and I just could no longer believe that which had no proof and insulted my soul. I started to learn. I started to let my own mind take the helm and stop squashing my intuition. In the journey, it became apparent that there were necessary steps to take to be free from nonsense. After I left the church there were very many people ready to just make me another member of another stupid religion even if it was just vague spiritual woo woo, I wasn’t having it if it didn’t meet up to snuff of these criteria. The first step I took was to question all I had been taught. The questions needed answers that would finally satisfy my mind so I looked at what I needed to accept for evidence. Then I realized that I did not have time to learn all the science and math necessary to learn my own evidence so I had to learn which of the authorities out there were the ones I could trust. I did not want to be taken in again. It is terribly important to know the rules of logic. I wanted to know when someone was presenting something not based on sound reasoning the logical fallacies were the starting point of Christianity’s undoing in my mind. Because my mind is my own and it will never be fleeced again, I learned to test my thoughts and assumptions on a regular basis. On my one year anniversary of official deconversion, I reassessed.
          The first step in walking away from the cult of Christianity was constant questions. Socrates taught that once one had all the answers, their growth stopped. The only way to keep learning, keep growing was to constantly ask questions. This way, we are constantly improving. The people who started the most important fields of study weren’t satisfied with answers. They were the greatest scientists and philosophers. Firm answers are easy. It I hard to have nagging questions with crazy curiosity. However, answers are stultifying and breed ignorance. We could still be satisfied with the answer that the world is flat and where would we be? This article says it perfectly, “Questions define tasks, express problems and delineate issues. Answers on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when an answer generates a further question does thought continue its life as such. This is why it is true that only students who have questions are really thinking and learning. Moreover, the quality of the questions students ask determines the quality of the thinking they are doing. It is possible to give students an examination on any subject by just asking them to list all of the questions that they have about a subject, including all questions generated by their first list of questions. That we do not test students by asking them to list questions and explain their significance is again evidence of the privileged status we give to answers isolated from questions. That is, we ask questions only to get thought-stopping answers, not to generate further questions.” Socrates is right we need to keep asking and keep growing.
          Adopting a new world view was not simple and it took me forever to figure out what I needed to change my view on my deep faith. The missing piece after I asked all of those questions was evidence. I needed more than the tired refrain, “Your faith is all you need to believe. It is faith that saves.” No. I needed records of Jesus, dates to match up, stories to match up, a census from the year that would have been anywhere near the supposed time Jesus was born, proof that people had to go their birth homes to register (there is none), and an originality about the story. The story has no proof and is not original. Much of it was copied from mythologies of other people from that time. The Mithra tradition one of them. There is not one shred of evidence that any of the Jesus story happened or any that he was an extraordinary man. Because there was no empirical evidence for a real Jesus, I saw the Bible as no more than creative fiction based on an already existing mythology of the time and started to look for what real evidence is. I learned about observable, reliable, repeatable. It was overwhelming to think about all that I needed to learn. I had questions. I needed more thought provoking answers and questions! I did not have any time to learn about all the underlying knowledge to be able to perform experiments at that level. Trustworthy teachers were what I needed.
          Demagogues and smooth talkers were my past. Reliable leaders needed to be my future. Looking into what “peer review” was I learned that the respected names of science—Einstein, Krauss, Hawking, etc..—were respected because they had been proven correct over and over again by their intellectual peers. These were the question askers, thinkers, seekers, and scientists I was looking for. I purchased the book, The Universe in a Nutshell, by Hawking, and was blown away by how simple it was to read and understand. Mr. Hawking is really, very funny, too. I could trust his conclusions over say, Ken Ham’s because Mr. Hawking had been so completely tested and his ideas keep coming up accurate. Ken Ham however has been reviewed by several superiors and peers and keeps coming up lacking. Ken just does not have any proof for any of the declarations he makes. The difference is the bias they place on the evidence. Ken completely denies that which contradicts his faith in Genesis. With such a heavy bias, Ken could not be trusted. A true scientist of the caliber that deserves my trust, is one that will dismiss all he thought before if a better, proven, repeatable truth is found. If it meets the evidence above, a true scientist will adopt it over the previous assumptions and thinking. A faithful believer will reject prove-able truth if it contradicts with his faith, making him unreliable, untrustworthy, and not much better than a third-rate charlatan. If we all still clung to religious assumptions, we would all think that the Earth is the center of our galaxy and the sun rotates around it.
          Next up, I learned in college that if a logical fallacy was present in an argument, it weakened the premise and pointed to the fact that the entire premise is flawed. All critical thinkers have lived this moment on the internet. Our critically thinking friend has made a supported, reviewed, thoughtful post to her facebook page. She is then met with someone yelling at her that she is wrong. She then politely asks her accuser for reasons that she is wrong because critical thinkers are always ready to admit that they might be. Her accuser comes at her with, “You’re a doody head and we all know that doody heads don’t think good thoughts,” or “Well, you failed to include religious reasoning from Xenu the great god of us all! I can’t accept any idea that does not bow to Xenu!” or “Well, that is just ludicrous. I can’t believe you would think that because the idea is ridiculous to me.” These three are the three most common fallacies I see every day. The first is Ad hominem. Instead of speaking to my argument or idea, this person wants to discredit me personally to attempt to render what I say as invalid. When the truth is I could be a raving lunatic, but if my assertion is sound, it is sound. For example, my assertion could be, “My candidate is experienced at diplomacy. The other candidates are not and this scares me.” My support is that over the course of history, diplomacy skills have saved nations from wars, protected peace, and improved the lives of women. Without the experience needed to attend stressful meetings with egomaniacal dictators, I fear the other candidates would not be able to avoid war. I may very well be a “doody head,” but it does not diminish my argument’s veracity. The second fallacy is made from the flawed, “moral high ground” fallacy. It simply states, “I believe in Xenu, you don’t. Therefore, I am better than you.” Which is again, not addressing my original assertion. The last is simply put, “Your idea offends me, so therefore it can’t be true.” It is the fallacy of incredulity. This person just gave up thinking years ago and only goes with what “feels right.” It does not matter how an idea makes you feel. What matters is whether the idea is supported by evidence, true, and solidly made. A really great list of fallacies is over on this Wikipedia page.
          Last and most importantly, do not grow comfortable in your own thoughts, challenge them often. Get thinking friends together just to discuss ideas. Be like Socrates, ask questions about your own ideas and beliefs. Make sure often they are supported by sound thinking, if not, ask why. When we stop thinking and rest on faith alone, we mentally die

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