Wednesday, 25 February 2015

More of the Same

You may have heard me go on at length about the lack of critical thinking, and the use of "belief" instead of facts to form decisions. In the world of graphic memes we have two lovely examples.

First here's an example of what "belief" does:

And here's an example of what we should do when we hear opinions like this:

I have been criticized for my insistence of critical thinking, but I'll tell you why it's very precious to me. I had to learn it all by myself.

Like many kids, I went to a school where nobody ever bothered to teach us how to learn. They just taught stuff and hope it stuck. It was an all-girl school, not a very good school, and I think they just expected to turn out housewives, with the occasional clerk or nurse. Well, they succeeded in their aims, most of my old school chums have devoted their lives to clerical or caring professions, and if nothing else we can cook. We had an excellent education in cooking. Better than nothing, I suppose.

But even though we were taught history and sociology, it wasn't exactly deep and it's probably not an exaggeration to say that 95% of what I know, I learned after school.

Specifically, that list of critical questions was never taught, and nothing even similar.

I am assured that today, this sort of thing IS taught, but obviously not everywhere. I don't know if it was taught in my kids' schools or not because I never bothered to wait for somebody else to teach this to them, I did it myself from a very early age.

Kids who are bright ask "why" a lot, but it's usually to do with how things work. My grandson asked me why fish have dorsal fins (I had to look that up!). Kids are naturally curious, and we have a responsibility to answer their questions. And we have to get it RIGHT. If we don't know, we must find out, or admit we don't know. Teaching them nonsense is completely unethical.

Traditionally humans often had to teach kids folklore because they didn't know any better, but today we have books and the internet. We must know ourselves how to differentiate between facts and pumped up opinion, rumour, and sheer bollocks. How can we teach them if we don't know?

When I run into somebody who prefers their beliefs over facts, especially in the area of science, I confess I find it irresistible to put them right. Is that wrong of me? I don't think so. Ask yourself. If somebody told you that cancer is a fungus, for example, would you just say nothing, or would you argue? There is no doubt as to what it actually is, there's not one single expert out there who suspects it's a fungus, so you are on solid ground. What would you say?

(Incidentally, I used this as an example, it's not the topic in hand, but if you want to hear a full rant about it, there's one here:

Perhaps you might not argue other weird assertions, because you think they don't matter. A common one is that exercise turns fat into muscle, which is absurd. But you might let that go because this mistake is probably harmless.

So what's your limit? What's your rationale behind disputing or not disputing information you know to be wrong?

That's your homework for today, off you go and think about it. I'm not done on the topic.

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