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Proposal: How to make a positive *dent* in an adult population’s critical thinking skills

 
SkepticX
 
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SkepticX
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28 September 2013 20:32
 

There’s some other good stuff posted in here from a while back as well, but one of my favorite resources then crashed—dead links ... bummer.

Fishman—that definition states that lies can be fallacies (or are, period), not that all fallacies are lies. Most fallacies in my experience are genuine errors, though careless thinking runs the spectrum from innocent negligence (apathy) to a method of conscious deception. More important than making sure you don’t commit fallacies is what you do when you discover you are committing one. That’s where intellectual courage and integrity or their opposites become important.

Valuable Intellectual Traits

Closely related:
Open-minded Inquiry

 
 
Bugs Bunny
 
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Bugs Bunny
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28 September 2013 23:52
 
icehorse - 09 July 2013 09:40 PM

On my hypothetical scale though, you’re working the realms of 8s and 10s - I’m hoping to expose a few 4s to the idea of spotting a blatantly fallacious sales pitch (from a minister or a politician) when they see one.

I would be interested in knowing if when the Obama Administration told the American people with regards to Benghazi, that the uprisings were due to a youtube video, if that would be considered a fallacious sales pitch?  They ran with that narrative for days, and I did not buy into it when Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton came out before the cameras to sell it over and over.

 
 
SkepticX
 
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29 September 2013 00:43
 
fishman - 28 September 2013 07:35 PM
SkepticX - 28 September 2013 06:32 PM

There’s some other good stuff posted in here from a while back as well, but one of my favorite resources then crashed—dead links ... bummer.

Fishman—that definition states that lies can be fallacies (or are, period), not that all fallacies are lies. Most fallacies in my experience are genuine errors, though careless thinking runs the spectrum from innocent negligence (apathy) to a method of conscious deception. More important than making sure you don’t commit fallacies is what you do when you discover you are committing one. That’s where intellectual courage and integrity or their opposites become important.

Valuable Intellectual Traits

Closely related:
Open-minded Inquiry

yes we can say a fallacy is not a lie it’s just wrong.  This is why it is so important admit we don’t know what we don’t know. smile

Yup, and being particularly careful to avoid personal exceptionalism when it comes to human frailties—that we’re especially vigilant about biases and holding too much stock in our own “raw” perceptions and ideas (less thoroughly cooked—less processed/less vetted/less thoroughly considered and cross-checked and such).

 

fishman - 28 September 2013 07:35 PM

That is to say…To know what we don’t know…..wait….what?..wink

cool smile

There ya go!

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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29 September 2013 14:08
 

All of this conversation demonstrates that you guys are qualified to teach the less erudite, a few basic, critical thinking skills. To me, that’s the most immediate and universal way to combat all of the ills you’re bemoaning. (Says the OP, playing the role of a one-trick pony)

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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30 September 2013 21:45
 

well you’ve hit on a big problem for sure. back to the OP again, the proposition is that every person will fall somewhere on the “open to learning new stuff” spectrum. We might be politically incorrect and say that in general we’d expect Westboro Baptists to be far, far on the “not open” end of that spectrum.

So, perhaps the trick is to find / target those people who are on the brink of learning new stuff… folks who might,if they saw just one Sam Harris YouTube video (or Dawkins or Hitchens or Dennett), decide to dust off their brains and learn some new stuff.

I’m reminded of the late great comedian Bill Hick who tells the story of being in a diner somewhere in a Red State reading a book. A bunch of locals come up to him, and the leader says: “Watch’ya readin’... for?”  Not our target audience.

 
 
Shyraz
 
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Shyraz
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07 July 2014 22:17
 

Is the underlying question here, how do we teach critical thinking skills?
How do we teach people how to think, not what to think?
How about by stopping to force-feed them conclusions, interpretations or any other subjective spin on factual data. By starting to present factual, objective data to people, in schools, at work, through media and let people come to their own conclusions. We can’t teach a child to walk by walking for them, we can’t teach people how to interpret data and gather knowledge from objective data by interpreting this data for them. We can’t teach people to understand the implication of something without letting people themselves work through the steps of possible results and consequences.
It is the same principle we see in authoritarian countries in contrast to equalitarian countries. In authoritarian countries people are told how to behave and get punished if they do not obey. While in equalitarian countries people are more free to do as they please, and instead of getting punished by law enforcers, they suffer the natural consequences of their actions. The proven result of this is that people who are expected to be responsible for their own actions behave more responsible, equalitarian countries see less crime and violence for example, while people in authoritarian countries who are not trusted to act responsible do therefore indeed behave less responsible.

 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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30 August 2014 13:40
 
Shyraz - 07 July 2014 08:17 PM

Is the underlying question here, how do we teach critical thinking skills?
How do we teach people how to think, not what to think?
How about by stopping to force-feed them conclusions, interpretations or any other subjective spin on factual data. By starting to present factual, objective data to people, in schools, at work, through media and let people come to their own conclusions. We can’t teach a child to walk by walking for them, we can’t teach people how to interpret data and gather knowledge from objective data by interpreting this data for them. We can’t teach people to understand the implication of something without letting people themselves work through the steps of possible results and consequences.
It is the same principle we see in authoritarian countries in contrast to equalitarian countries. In authoritarian countries people are told how to behave and get punished if they do not obey. While in equalitarian countries people are more free to do as they please, and instead of getting punished by law enforcers, they suffer the natural consequences of their actions. The proven result of this is that people who are expected to be responsible for their own actions behave more responsible, equalitarian countries see less crime and violence for example, while people in authoritarian countries who are not trusted to act responsible do therefore indeed behave less responsible.

Yes, you’ve grokked the essence of the OP.

Not an easy undertaking, but in my opinion a crucial one. I also think this undertaking is just one instance of focusing the PR mission statement. I’ve made little bits of progress. I’m working with several school teachers who are adding some specific critical thinking skills to their lesson plans.

 
 
unsmoked
 
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30 August 2014 17:13
 
Shyraz - 07 July 2014 08:17 PM

In authoritarian countries people are told how to behave and get punished if they do not obey. While in equalitarian countries people are more free to do as they please, and instead of getting punished by law enforcers, they suffer the natural consequences of their actions. The proven result of this is that people who are expected to be responsible for their own actions behave more responsible, equalitarian countries see less crime and violence for example, while people in authoritarian countries who are not trusted to act responsible do therefore indeed behave less responsible.

I’d like to think this was true, but how do you account for the U.S. prison population compared to other more authoritarian countries?  The gun violence?  In some U.S. neighborhoods, children can’t play outside by themselves.  There are many populated places in the U.S. I’d never dare to walk, even in broad daylight. 

http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate

This doesn’t mean that I’d rather live in a more authoritarian country.  I’m asking, does freedom mean less crime?

 
 
icehorse
 
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31 August 2014 04:42
 
unsmoked - 30 August 2014 03:13 PM

I’d like to think this was true, but how do you account for the U.S. prison population compared to other more authoritarian countries?  The gun violence?  In some U.S. neighborhoods, children can’t play outside by themselves.  There are many populated places in the U.S. I’d never dare to walk, even in broad daylight. 

http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate

This doesn’t mean that I’d rather live in a more authoritarian country.  I’m asking, does freedom mean less crime?

There are so many variables. Drug laws for example account for a huge swath of the prison population, and most of those prisoners are non-violent.

 
 
unsmoked
 
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31 August 2014 16:44
 
icehorse - 31 August 2014 02:42 AM
unsmoked - 30 August 2014 03:13 PM

I’d like to think this was true, but how do you account for the U.S. prison population compared to other more authoritarian countries?  The gun violence?  In some U.S. neighborhoods, children can’t play outside by themselves.  There are many populated places in the U.S. I’d never dare to walk, even in broad daylight. 

http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_rate

This doesn’t mean that I’d rather live in a more authoritarian country.  I’m asking, does freedom mean less crime?

There are so many variables. Drug laws for example account for a huge swath of the prison population, and most of those prisoners are non-violent.

True about the variables.  Think of Iraq under Saddam.  Then he is toppled, supposedly to create a free country, and all hell breaks loose.

I noticed another variable in Japan.  If a person does something shameful it could reflect on his or her entire family.  You lose your job at Toyota because your teenager sold some weed at school?  Is this carried to an extreme in North Korea where your whole family could go to some gulag if you rob a convenience store? 

I wonder how many Christians are ‘good’ because of the threat of hell, not because they understand cause and effect, or because they are by nature kind and considerate or because they believe in being kind to their enemies?  Fifteen years ago in Iraq, did Shiite and Sunni live civilly side by side in the same Baghdad neighborhoods because of fear of Saddam and his police?

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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31 August 2014 17:00
 

It’s a bit of a tangent, but I think you’re on to something if you think of Hussein as the lid on a pressure cooker.

Shyraz,

Way back earlier in this thread (or perhaps a related thread?), I suggested breaking “critical thinking” into a collection of micro-skills and tackling the problem from the perspective of teaching micro-skills. The micro-skill I’ve been using as a test case is the “false dilemma” fallacy argument.

If 2-3% more adults could spot false dilemmas when they hear them, it would be tougher for politicians and corporations to get away with lying. Recently there have been some incredibly close elections and initiatives that might have gone the other way if more people knew to be suspicious of people who use false dilemma arguments.  (He says, wandering dangerously close to a false dilemma smile  )

So, t-shirts, bumper stickers… “spot false dilemmas now, ask me how”...

Of course other micro-skills might be equally good or better. One thing for sure, it’s unlikely that we’ll manage to get huge swaths of people to start taking philosophy classes.

 
 
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