Dec 14 2015

We Need Both Science and Critical Thinking

civic scientific literacyA recent commentary published in the New Scientist addresses the issue of scientific literacy and civic decision-making. The author notes:

We have a long tradition of allowing civic affairs to be settled by persuasive rhetoric. That is inadequate for our modern society. Science and technology shape our world and, as a society, we need to make well-reasoned and scientifically literate choices about everything from genetic engineering to geoengineering.

But many of the tools used to make science-heavy decisions are also needed to properly evaluate a much broader range of subjects: in particular, critical thinking and numerical analysis.

I completely agree. The process of public decision-making should default to an objective and critical analysis of the relevant evidence. That should always be step 1. Rather, it seems that all sides of an issue feel empowered to have their own facts, their own interpretation of reality.

This hits upon a key aspect of the skeptical community. Often I encounter scientists or just members of the general public who think that science alone is all we need, that skepticism has no particular or additional value. Even a casual look at the issues facing our society today shows how vacuous this position is.

Without critical thinking skills, the ability to think philosophically about science, and some knowledge of pseudoscience and how it operates, scientific literacy alone is not enough. Just ask any biologist who had their asses handed to them by Duane Gish in an evolution debate – having science on your side is not enough. You have to understand the ways that science is distorted for ideology.

There are many important issues that face society today that demonstrate this unequivocally: vaccine refusal, regulation of GMOs, climate change, alternative medicine, toxin hysteria, teaching evolution, gun control, and eating “clean,” to name the most prominent.

All of these issues have, to varying degrees, a significant scientific angle. Saying that all we need is science, and therefore all the public needs is scientific literacy, misses a huge aspect of these controversies.

Make no mistake, scientific literacy is an important issue. A survey earlier this year found that 80% of Americans support mandatory labels for food containing DNA.

Any of the issues I mention above, however, are great examples of how scientific literacy itself is not enough. There are anti-vaxers who understand the science well-enough, their problem is that they are lost in conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. Their problem is not with basic scientific literacy, but with critical thinking skills.

Anti-vaxers, anti-GMO activists, global warming deniers, and proponents of bizarre medical treatments often cite their own studies, have reasons for dismissing studies that disagree with their conclusions, and feel they are science-based.

So how are we doing? The New Scientist author refers to a recent Pew poll of scientific literacy, quoting some favorable statistics.

A Pew survey released in September concluded that “most Americans can answer basic questions about several scientific terms and concepts”: that Earth’s core is its hottest part, for example, or that uranium is needed for nuclear energy and weapons.

Take a look at the poll, in fact you can take the quiz yourself. Do that before looking at the answers.

OK – back?

My reaction was – these questions are way too easy. I understand I am a science enthusiast, but seriously those were easy questions. The Earth’s core question, for example, could have been influenced by the colors they used – in the picture, the core looks hotter.

Considering that a grade-schooler should get a 12/12 on that test, the fact that only 6% of the public got all the questions correct is not reassuring. More than half taking the test got four or more questions wrong. Many of the questions could be answered by remembering simple associations (this is a picture of a comet, for example) without demonstrating any real understanding.

This was also not the correct survey to use when discussing civic scientific literacy. Jon Miller has been tracking civic scientific literacy for a couple decades. The good news is that the numbers have been getting better, but still the number of people qualifying as scientifically literate is less than 30%.

The questions are more relevant, such as not just identifying what astrology is, but agreeing that astrology is “not at all scientific.” (Only 59% agreed with that statement.) Even still, we are talking multiple choice or 50/50 questions, so in many cases 50% is random guessing. Only 54% of people correctly agreed with the statement “electrons are smaller than atoms.” That was up from 46% in 1999.

Conclusion

The issue of civic scientific literacy, and critical thinking literacy, is perhaps one of the most important issues we face as a society, because this issue impact all other important issues.

Scientific literacy and critical thinking skills impact more than obviously scientific questions. It is important to simply understand that a political question has an empirical aspect to it, and the debate is best served if we have the most objective and accurate data as possible.

That does not mean there is no meaningful debate. People still differ on values and priorities. That is where the debate should be focused – not on disagreeing over the basic facts.

While there appears to be some awareness that scientific literacy (and to a lesser extent awareness of critical thinking) is important, there is not nearly enough. I do think surveys are important to show where we are.

The current surveys that I have seen, even the “good” ones, are inadequate. They need to do a better job of capturing real understanding of science at a level that is necessary for civic decision-making. They also need to capture the ability to think critically about science and civic issues, including some understanding of pseudoscience and logic.

Properly measuring the issue is just one step. We need to prioritize teaching of scientific literacy and critical thinking skills much more than we do.

156 responses so far

156 Responses to “We Need Both Science and Critical Thinking”

  1. hardnoseon 14 Dec 2015 at 11:19 am

    Critical thinking skills are inborn, you can’t teach them, everyone has them.

    When people seem illogical it’s because they are ignorant. Everyone is ignorant to some degree.

  2. Charonon 14 Dec 2015 at 11:37 am

    Factual recall is the lowest level of knowledge indeed, but it’s still necessary before the higher levels. I definitely work on developing better reasoning skills in my students, though, and it is heartening to see their explanations on homework dramatically improve over the course. Often it seems they’ve never had to rigorously justify things before.

    That said I’d have gotten 11/12 on these questions, and I have a PhD in physics. You don’t need uranium to make a bomb. Plutonium bombs, anyone?

  3. Steven Novellaon 14 Dec 2015 at 11:53 am

    Yes – a couple of the questions were poor and if you overthink them with advanced science knowledge you can talk yourself out of the correct answer. The tides question was another one – the sun also has a tidal effect on the Earth about half the magnitude as the moon (they did say “main” effect). The uranium question is obviously more complicated as well.

  4. Ivan Groznyon 14 Dec 2015 at 12:06 pm

    “Make no mistake, scientific literacy is an important issue. A survey earlier this year found that 80% of Americans support mandatory labels for food containing DNA.”

    I am certain that even higher percentage would support mandatory labelling for that dangerous pollutant bi-hydrogen monoxide.

  5. bendon 14 Dec 2015 at 12:38 pm

    “There are anti-vaxers who understand the science well-enough, their problem is that they are lost in conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. Their problem is not with basic scientific literacy, but with critical thinking skills.”
    How could we possibly divorce critical thinking from scientific literacy. A basic understanding of statistics and some kind of sense of scale is fundamental to any science? Knowing that organomercury compounds are toxic and found in (multidose influenza) vaccines is not scientific literacy unless you also understand that their quantity is orders of magnitude lower than necessary for adverse reaction and that there’s no statistical association with neurological disorders.
    Critical thinking isn’t sufficient for scientific literacy, but it is necessary.

  6. bendon 14 Dec 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Forgive the misplace question mark.

  7. bendon 14 Dec 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I meant misplaced, not misplace. Anybody familiar with Muphry’s law? I didn’t know that it applied to corrections of my own stuff. I’d better stop typing now.

  8. Ian Wardellon 14 Dec 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Test

  9. Ian Wardellon 14 Dec 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I got 12/12, but I always do on science quizzes. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve took this quiz before on facebook. Yes these science quizzes are always way too easy. This is in stark contrast to quizzes on popular culture. I always get less marks then anyone else in them!

    I agree entirely about critical thinking skills being absolutely crucial as well as scientific literacy, although the former is more important it seems to me. But people tend to be sadly lacking in both. Part of the blame must surely be due to the educational process that we undergo at school. I live in the UK and I wrote an email to the relevant minister about the need to change the way schools impart understanding and knowledge. I haven’t received any response. My email is on a blog of mine here:

    Incidentally the problem with the word “skepticism” is that its current meaning seems to have shifted somewhat from its original meaning. I’ve just wrote a blog entry 3 days ago about this:

  10. Ian Wardellon 14 Dec 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Can’t post with links to my blogs.

  11. mumadaddon 14 Dec 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Ian,

    I thought you were gone, never to return?

    “Can’t post with links to my blogs.”

    Aahh, that’s turned my Monday around. :)

  12. Charonon 14 Dec 2015 at 1:49 pm

    @Steve:

    a couple of the questions were poor and if you overthink them with advanced science knowledge you can talk yourself out of the correct answer

    Indeed. I actually just took the quiz, and noticed their scatter plot question confuses correlation with causation :) Granted, in this case we have a mechanism that helps establish causation, but the scatter plot alone… (On the other hand, since it’s multiple choice you really are forced into the uranium answer.)

    I had to train myself not to overthink questions on standardized tests like the SAT or GRE. And it’s why the exams I give are free response – I’m a lot more interested in their reasoning than their result.

  13. Charonon 14 Dec 2015 at 1:52 pm

    @bend:
    Often by “scientific literacy” people just mean knowing the results of science. This doesn’t require critical thinking. The vast majority of people know the Earth is (approximately) a sphere and orbits the Sun. How many of them could explain how we know that? Particularly if they can’t reference pictures of the Earth taken from space. A fun part of a history of science course is showing people how non-obvious these “obvious” facts are.

    Sometimes the word “literacy” is used to mean “competence”, and I’d certainly agree being competent in science requires critical thinking and more. But that’s not usually the sense for the phrase “scientific literacy”. Sadly this leads to people who know many facts thinking they know how to science. Climate change deniers able to recite facts about the greenhouse effect, but when questioned unable to do the most basic reasoning about it. Anti-vaxxers able to list chemical ingredients in vaccines without any understand of what they mean. Etc.

  14. steve12on 14 Dec 2015 at 2:06 pm

    “The process of public decision-making should default to an objective and critical analysis of the relevant evidence.”

    Considering this, I think we need to add economic policy to the fields that skeptics engage in. There’s an aversion here as most would like to avoid the associated polar politics, but this is precisely why I think more attention is required.

    Look at, e.g., the 2008 financial collapse. Each camp has it’s own little reality where that event is concerned, but there is actual reality. And that reality is important for our public discourse and the policies that come thereof.

  15. Pete Aon 14 Dec 2015 at 2:41 pm

    I hope the readers will enjoy this article: How to Use the Feynman Technique to Identify Pseudoscience by Simon Oxenham
    http://bigthink.com/neurobonkers/how-to-use-the-feynman-technique-to-identify-pseudoscience

  16. elmer mccurdyon 14 Dec 2015 at 4:35 pm

    There is nothing in the literature about what happens when someone completely ruptures his pec tendon and doctors miss it for 20 years but 5 years in one of them decides to do a biceps tenodesis without asking or explaining, but there’s a dogma that you don’t need your biceps tendon. Well I need it. I can feel it. It’s my body, my muscles, that they have ****ed up. I can’t attach your brain to my muscles but they’re pretty ******* well innervated. I’m so tired of fighting these *******s.

    Sorry, carry on with whatever you’re talking about.

  17. RickKon 14 Dec 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I’m sorry you have only negative experience with doctors, Elmer.

    My experience is quite different. Doctors dramatically improved my daughter’s quality of life through an effective treatment for her life-threatening food allergy. My doctor treated my broken elbow with good advice and almost no cost. When I had pains in both shoulders, my doctor was un-fooled by a coincidence of timing and correctly diagnosed that I was suffering from tendinitis in one shoulder and adhesive capsulitis in the other, and both conditions followed exactly the course that he predicted. I have a number of other positive examples. While major health issues require thoughtful consideration and second-opinions, my family has had nothing but excellent experiences with the medical community, and we’re glad to live at a time when such capability is available.

  18. Gareth Priceon 14 Dec 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Doesn’t the graph of sugar consumption v dental decay show a correlation rather than causation? Correlation and causation are things that are frequently misunderstood.

  19. elmer mccurdyon 14 Dec 2015 at 6:28 pm

    1) I’m venting 2) to the extent that the ideology espoused here would support these surgeons against me, it is a cancer.

  20. MaryMon 14 Dec 2015 at 6:42 pm

    Critical thinking is crucial on so many things and should be taught formally. I talk to my nephews–who are young parents now–and I really worry that they have no idea how to select the right mortgage, or the right retirement investments, how to evaluate a health plan, or even pick a car on the right criteria. It’s just not how they evaluate things.

    Some things I wish they didn’t have to. I wish we all had universal health care so you wouldn’t have to cross-compare absurd details of health plans (I just had to do this again). And I wish everyone was going to get a pension. But those days are gone.

    There are many ways to get ripped off today. Critical thinking skills would be so valuable for anyone. And you shouldn’t have to be a scientist to face it all. It certainly does help, though.

  21. RickKon 14 Dec 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Has anyone here experienced a really good course in “critical thinking”? If so, what made it good? How could it have been improved?

  22. hardnoseon 14 Dec 2015 at 7:25 pm

    I would guess that the vast majority of people have good critical thinking skills about things related to their jobs. In the things they must do every day, and that they are familiar with, they don’t constantly make foolish mistakes. Unless, that is, they hate their jobs, in which case they will get fired or choose a different career.

    People also have good thinking skills for things that interest them. A very common example is the intricate and complex understanding that is acquired from being a sports fan.

    So WHY do “skeptic” organizations constantly bring up the need for education in critical thinking skills?

    Mostly because they are trying to explain away religion, and supernatural beliefs in general. Since they, you, are all atheists they can’t fathom how a rational person could believe those things.

  23. hardnoseon 14 Dec 2015 at 7:29 pm

    And yes, religious people can be very irrational on the subject of their religion, even though they are extremely familiar with it. But that’s because they are only familiar with one religion and there is nothing to compare it to.

  24. Pete Aon 14 Dec 2015 at 7:52 pm

    RickK, Yes, my apprenticeship in engineering. The rules were very simple: Either learn to think critically or be dismissed without any references. It could’ve been usefully improved by giving more examples of things that go horribly wrong when critical thinking is absent or momentarily suspended, but to be fair, the film footage of disasters that were shown to us would now be deemed as far too graphic to be shown on television, on YouTube, or in any workplace in the UK (and many other areas of the world).

    Being regularly grilled by auditors and Health & Safety inspectors throughout my career was a constant reminder to use critical thinking skills rather than relying on learnt heuristic shortcuts, experience, and opinions.

  25. Fair Persuasionon 14 Dec 2015 at 9:14 pm

    What’s an informed citizen? If she/he has to read about a new law involving abortion rights, walk farther than the local neighborhood or dorm floor for real pharmaceuticals, pay for medical care and cooperate during the process, obtain a car license, register to vote, apply for a gun card and study gun safety and ultimately participate in the civic process, this takes too much concentration compared to watching the Kardashians on cable tv.

  26. Pete Aon 14 Dec 2015 at 9:25 pm

    “So WHY do ‘skeptic’ organizations constantly bring up the need for education in critical thinking skills?”

    When you begin to realize that which is blindingly obvious to others: your inborn critical thinking skills that cannot be taught have led you to create a straw-man argument of skeptics and skepticism, which you have then personally attacked. It really is pitiful to observe the relentless stream of logical fallacies that you commit, the frustration this is causing you, and your abject refusal to learn.

    “When people seem illogical it’s because they are ignorant. Everyone is ignorant to some degree.” Indeed, you have a degree in illogic that is almost beyond belief — it is certainly way beyond your belief and way beyond your comprehension. You epitomise the necessity for teaching critical thinking skills.

  27. RickKon 14 Dec 2015 at 9:37 pm

    hardnose – you’ve demonstrated in the past that you can’t understand the discussion, so don’t try.

    Pete – Yes, getting grilled and audited teaches one to never assume.

    I think software debugging, particularly in complex systems, is useful for teaching a methodical approach to understanding and solving problems. Breaking a problem down into component parts, starting at the beginning, testing hypotheses, questioning everything – these are all skills that must be learned and improve with practice.

    Exercises and courses that teach people about cognitive biases, that force people to question their own assumptions, and that provide examples of “things millions of people KNOW but aren’t in fact true” all seem like obvious beneficial approaches to honing critical thinking skills.

    I’m curious if people have seen other effective approaches.

  28. Steve Crosson 14 Dec 2015 at 9:41 pm

    RickK,

    I haven’t had time to to take it yet (although it is definitely on my list of things to do asap) I suggest you take a look at Dr. Novella’s course on critical thinking offered through “The Great Courses”. I assume it is at least as good as the information dispensed in this very blog. Also, I highly recommend the podcast “Skeptics Guide to the Universe” (which you probably know is another of Dr. Novella’s projects).

    Personally, I recommend spending some time learning to recognize the many logical fallacies that you will encounter when analyzing opinions on any topic. If you can avoid them in your own arguments and not be persuaded by the specious reasoning of others, you have gone a long way towards being a good critical thinker.

    The mere fact that you desire to improve your critical thinking skills is probably the most important step you can take. ALL OF US should constantly be aware that we are most in danger of overlooking some important fact when we are most convinced that we “have all the evidence needed”. Obviously, the scientific method has helped us identify many things as provisionally true, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be modified if good quality evidence is presented.

    As I said, merely being aware of human fallibility is a step in the right direction. Sadly, the Dunning-Kruger effect is just as applicable to critical thinking as it is to any other skill. The people with the worst critical thinking skills are the most likely to overestimate their own ability — as is often illustrated in the Neurologica comment sections.

  29. civilon 15 Dec 2015 at 2:00 am

    RickK,

    You might like the book ‘Decisive’ by the Heath brothers. I’m reading it now based on a recommendation from the Center for Applied Rationality’s web site. Good decision-making is a little narrower a subject than critical thinking, but the book’s about overcoming the cognitive biases that make human beings less-than-stellar decision makers.

  30. BillyJoe7on 15 Dec 2015 at 4:43 am

    l’il elmer,

    “There is nothing in the literature about what happens when someone completely ruptures his pec tendon and doctors miss it for 20 years but 5 years in one of them decides to do a biceps tenodesis without asking or explaining, but there’s a dogma that you don’t need your biceps tendon”

    As far as I can gather, biceps tenodesis has nothing to to with the treatment of a complete rupture of the pectoralis major tendon. It is used to treat superior labral tears of the shoulder in the older non-athletic sufferer.

    And no, unless you are an athlete who needs a good overhand serve, you don’t need your long head of biceps tendon. It causes your biceps muscle to bunch up a little but it otherwise performs perfectly well. It often ruptures spontaneously without loss of function.

    And I also find it hard to believe that doctors and physiotherapists missed a complete rupture of your pectoralis major tendon for twenty years; or that a surgeon would operate on you without explaining what and why in order to get your consent to the surgery.

    In short, I think you’re full of it.

  31. BillyJoe7on 15 Dec 2015 at 4:53 am

    …in case you think I’m biased, I have had two medical misadventures in my life, an unnecessary tonsillectomy and near loss of a testicle through misdiagnosis as an STD (my only other medical encounter was correctly diagnosed as malingering – I didn’t want to go to school that day)

  32. etatroon 15 Dec 2015 at 7:16 am

    I am a scientist who just recently moved from academia to the business world and this post reminds me of some of the things I am learning about negotiation and conflict resolution. One of the first steps is to separate the people from the problem, focus on facts, and find an objective set of standards that each party can turn to in order to evaluate a decision. For example, if there’s a disagreement at work, you can first agree that you both want the resolution to be the best business interest of the company. Good starting point, but I think the best interest is longevity of our capital goods, so we should get the expensive servers, other party thinks its operating cost, so we get the cheap ones. Then we can compare the effect of each decision on the business interest, is long term or short more important for the immediate needs? Always use facts and a commonly held interest to drive the discussion. So for civic literacy, I suppose this means having the willingness to be convinced to eventually change your mind or accept an outcome you originally didn’t think was best, to refocus the discussion on the core interests, and to use facts to support or refute claims and conclusions. Always separate the people from the problem. These are skills that can be taught, learned, practiced, and improved over time. It’s not too late for even adults to learn them. As soon as my nephews and nieces are old enough, I’ll be getting them “Getting to Yes” and other books on conflict resolution, it’s really applying the scientific method to human interaction and group decision-making, which really is (dare I say?), in a word, politics.

  33. hardnoseon 15 Dec 2015 at 7:28 am

    People lose contact with rationality when they are stuck in an ideology, and also when their self-defense emotions are activated. As soon as we feel our self-worth being attacked we drop logic and go into fighting mode.

    To a limited extent maybe we can learn not to do this.

  34. Ian Wardellon 15 Dec 2015 at 8:20 am

    Here’s a relevant article:

    http://www.intellectualtakeout.org/blog/critical-thinking-overrated

  35. Ian Wardellon 15 Dec 2015 at 8:22 am

    Appears it’s only my blogs I can’t link to. Don’t expect me to ever post on here again.

  36. Pete Aon 15 Dec 2015 at 9:12 am

    Hardnose, here are just two lists of the ‘critical thinking skills’ that are inborn/innate:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

    You and your alter ego are fully aware of these innate cognitive biases and errors: ideologies rely on exploiting them; science and critical thinking expose the ideologies and enable people to resist them. I’m not in the least bit surprised that you constantly attack skeptics and ‘materialism’ — it’s the last resort of those who have zero evidence to back their claims of the supernatural.

    “Michael Egnor is a neurosurgeon, creationist/IDiot, and promoter of neuro-woo, specifically of non-materialist neuroscience and dualism. Egnor became a writer for the Discovery Institute’s online newsletter Evolutionary News and Views in 2007. In 2011, he decided he needed his own blog and called it ‘Egnorance’.

    When it comes to creationism, Egnor eschews the weaselly escape hatch-style arguments often employed by its proponents in favor of blatant ignorance. He is, however, highly fond of points refuted a thousand times.”
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Michael_Egnor

  37. arnieon 15 Dec 2015 at 9:14 am

    hardnose: “People lose contact with rationality when they are stuck in an ideology, and also when their self-defense emotions are activated.”

    Congrats on that sudden self-realization. Must have been a great therapy session this morning! Just teasing (sort of)

  38. RNAworldon 15 Dec 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I think that while both science literacy and critical thinking skills are necessary for us as individuals and us as a society to make the best decisions, I also feel they are not sufficient on their own. Having the ability to think rationally is also a necessary component. Rational thinking takes both the best science and the critical thinking process into account then makes the best decision possible based on the limited data from each. In a real life situation we know that scientific knowledge will not be absolute, and critical thinking will never be satisfied until every possible avenue is explored. One criticism I’ve seen leveled by believers against using critical thinking in everyday decision is that you would never be able to decide anything because you would be paralyzed as you continue to gather the mountains of data to complete your analysis, no matter how trivial the task at hand might be. The rational thinker uses the available scientific information and uses the best critical thinking skills but accepts that the data set will inevitably will be incomplete but will nonetheless be able to more forward with the best decision possible given the limited info and time available. This would presumably still be far better than relying on intuitions, ideologies, and fallacious arguments more times than not.

  39. hardnoseon 15 Dec 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Critical thinking results from knowledge. We accept whatever we are told unless/until it contradicts something we already know.

    As we notice contradictions we start to question the information we are given.

    If you become immersed in one philosophy/ideology you won’t see how it contradicts with other philosophies/ideologies.

    The basic skill of thinking logically is as inborn as the skill of using language. It is not acquired through western education. All “primitive” people can think logically.

    The scientific method is a formalization of what we do naturally.

    “Skeptics” think they have found something new and different, the source of all truth. No, science and logic have been around forever.

  40. RickKon 15 Dec 2015 at 1:03 pm

    +1 to etatro’s comment

    And as usual, hardnose’s comments are attempts to disrupt rather than contribute. His persistence at missing the plot can only be intentional.

  41. Steve Crosson 15 Dec 2015 at 2:37 pm

    “And as usual, hardnose’s comments are attempts to disrupt rather than contribute. His persistence at missing the plot can only be intentional.”

    Yup … Obvious troll is obvious — and getting more so as fewer people are willing to engage directly.

    IF
    “The basic skill of thinking logically is as inborn as the skill of using language. It is not acquired through western education. All ‘primitive’ people can think logically.”

    was even even slightly true, there wouldn’t (and couldn’t) be hundreds of thousands of different, incompatible religions, world views, medical philosophies, etc. etc. etc. …

    Most people seem to be terrible at noticing contradictions. They would rather settle for the comfortable but false sense of security granted by the belief that their own particular world view is always right.

    Facing actual reality and realizing that there may always be some things that are unknown and beyond your control is certainly scarier and often harder, but in the long run is much more fruitful.

  42. steve12on 15 Dec 2015 at 2:46 pm

    HN has jumped the shark.

  43. BillyJoe7on 15 Dec 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Ian,

    “Appears it’s only my blogs I can’t link to”

    Can you spell paranoia?

    I doubt that SN would ban links to your blog without telling you so. More likely it’s a glitch in wordpress. I wouldn’t blame him, though. It’s bad form to come onto a blog to advertise your own. Some blogs ban it. It’s also disrespectful to attempt to lure commenters away to your blog as you did recently, calling me a “despicable coward” for not doing so.

    “Don’t expect me to ever post on here again”

    You’re going to have to swear on the bible.

  44. BillyJoe7on 15 Dec 2015 at 3:44 pm

    How can you possibly respond to HN’s recent scribblings?
    Maybe this:

    http://unintelligiblescribbles.blogspot.com.au/2007/11/i-started-this-because-my-bike-was-in.html

  45. BillyJoe7on 15 Dec 2015 at 3:46 pm

    …okay, the link didn’t quite work. It was supposed to just display the last scribble

  46. Karl Withakayon 15 Dec 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Charon,

    RE: “That said I’d have gotten 11/12 on these questions, and I have a PhD in physics. You don’t need uranium to make a bomb. Plutonium bombs, anyone?”

    Well, where are you going to get the Plutonium 239 from unless you breed it from Uranium 238? To get any fissile material in anything near critical mass quantities (on Earth, at least), you’ve go to have Uranium involved somewhere at some point.

  47. hardnoseon 15 Dec 2015 at 5:30 pm

    “IF
    “The basic skill of thinking logically is as inborn as the skill of using language. It is not acquired through western education. All ‘primitive’ people can think logically.”

    was even even slightly true, there wouldn’t (and couldn’t) be hundreds of thousands of different, incompatible religions, world views, medical philosophies, etc. etc. etc. …”

    You are assuming there is one true world view, etc., that everyone would arrive at if everyone could think logically.

    However we all have different information, and no one’s information is complete, so even if our logic is perfect we will arrive at different answers.

    DATA is the problem, NOT LOGIC.

  48. hardnoseon 15 Dec 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Organized “skeptics” love to believe they have found the WAY. If they could only persuade the world to follow their WAY, the world’s problems could be solved.

    Sort of like John Lennon’s song Imagine.

    This is a typical progressive theme, going back at least to Karl Marx.

    If only we could eradicate irrational thinking and its products (religion, mysticism, etc.), we could forge bravely into the future on the starship Enterprise, spreading peace and love and science all over the universe.

  49. Steve Crosson 15 Dec 2015 at 6:52 pm

    HN,

    Wow!! You can’t even win your own strawman argument:

    “However we all have different information, and no one’s information is complete, so even if our logic is perfect we will arrive at different answers.”

    Explain to me how the SAME Bible (or Koran, etc.) can be “logically” interpreted thousands of different ways IF (according to you) everyone is born with the ability to think logically.

    You’ve failed miserably with your silly strawman, and haven’t even attempted to address the actual subject of the article – the necessity of Critical Thinking.

    Part of the essence of critical thinking is the realization that you need to seek out all of the pertinent data and judge it fairly and logically before you reach any conclusions.

    I do have to give you credit for getting one thing right:

    “If only we could eradicate irrational thinking and its products (religion, mysticism, etc.), we could forge bravely into the future on the starship Enterprise, spreading peace and love and science all over the universe.”

    Obviously, even you realize that making good, logical decisions based on the best available evidence is the best way to ensure the best possible future for us all.

  50. hardnoseon 15 Dec 2015 at 8:23 pm

    “Part of the essence of critical thinking is the realization that you need to seek out all of the pertinent data and judge it fairly and logically before you reach any conclusions.”

    Very often it is impossible to find all the pertinent data. Even if we could somehow gather all the data related to our decision, we often can’t predict the future accurately. There are just too many variables.

    Consider how hard it is to predict the weather more than a few days in advance.

    We also can’t know exactly what other people are thinking, and very often we have no idea what they are thinking.

    It is just a myth that logic can be taught, or needs to be taught, and that logic can lead us out of darkness.

    We are have an inborn ability to learn critical thinking, just as we have an inborn ability to learn a language.

    Critical thinking can help us reject ideas based on evidence, but it cannot provide the evidence.

    Organized “skeptics” believe they have found the source of humanity’s problems, and the solution. It is based on wishful thinking and is not so different from many other religions and ideologies.

  51. hardnoseon 15 Dec 2015 at 8:25 pm

    “Explain to me how the SAME Bible (or Koran, etc.) can be “logically” interpreted thousands of different ways IF (according to you) everyone is born with the ability to think logically.”

    You have failed to understand anything I said about the problems of incomplete, inaccurate, and ambiguous data. Logic has to work on the available data.

  52. Steve Crosson 15 Dec 2015 at 9:33 pm

    HN,

    As always, you are being willfully obtuse and insist on creating ridiculous strawman arguments:

    “Very often it is impossible to find all the pertinent data. Even if we could somehow gather all the data related to our decision, we often can’t predict the future accurately. There are just too many variables.”

    So what??? You have provided absolutely no evidence that good critical thinking skills are not beneficial — regardless of the amount of information available at any given point in time. Part of the process in evaluating ANY information is being able to recognize when you don’t have enough information to reliably form conclusions. Not making a WRONG conclusion can be just as important as the ability to make a correct conclusion when the data supports it.

    These two statements are contradictory:

    “It is just a myth that logic can be taught, or needs to be taught, and that logic can lead us out of darkness.
    We are have an inborn ability to learn critical thinking, just as we have an inborn ability to learn a language.”

    The second is true. The first is laughably false.

    Obviously, we don’t all have access to exactly the same information at exactly the same time. But there are countless examples of different people examining exactly the same information and reaching wildly different conclusions. Clearly, they can’t all be equally good at critical thinking.

    Your ludicrous contention that we all start out equally able to think logically but later get mislead by devotion to various ideologies is completely backward. The different ideologies only arise because too many people look at the same information and reach different conclusions.

    Quit making stupid straw man arguments. NO ONE has ever said that good critical thinking skills will solve all of the world’s problems immediately — but it will help — a lot!!

  53. Steve Crosson 15 Dec 2015 at 9:59 pm

    hardnose – “You have failed to understand anything I said about the problems of incomplete, inaccurate, and ambiguous data. Logic has to work on the available data.”

    Nope — I understand it completely — but it is irrelevant.

    You have failed to explain why making bad decisions is preferable to making good ones.

  54. BillyJoe7on 16 Dec 2015 at 5:40 am

    The first fifty comments have been lost – is it actually worth commenting anymore till this problem is fixed?

  55. BillyJoe7on 16 Dec 2015 at 5:41 am

    …on the other hand, how will we know when it’s fixed unless we keep commenting!

  56. Pete Aon 16 Dec 2015 at 8:29 am

    Comments 1-50 are placed at ArticleURL/comment-page-1/
    comments 51-100 are placed at ArticleURL/comment-page-2/ etc.
    Yeah, it’s a pain.
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/we-need-both-science-and-critical-thinking/comment-page-1/

  57. hardnoseon 16 Dec 2015 at 11:06 am

    “there are countless examples of different people examining exactly the same information and reaching wildly different conclusions.”

    There are NO examples of that happening when the information is complete, as long as all the people have normally functioning brains.

    When the information is vague and incomplete, as it always is for controversial subjects, people fill in the gaps with what they believe or hope is true.

  58. hardnoseon 16 Dec 2015 at 11:10 am

    “You have provided absolutely no evidence that good critical thinking skills are not beneficial”

    I never said good critical thinking skills are not beneficial. I said they don’t need to be taught, because children will naturally acquire them, just as they naturally acquire language.

    Reading and writing do have to be taught, as does mathematics and formal logic, and many other things.

    But being able to reason correctly is not something you have to indoctrinate college freshman with.

    When “skeptics” recommend teaching critical thinking skills, they really mean indoctrinating college students into the materialist ideology.

    What I am saying is easy to prove.

  59. hardnoseon 16 Dec 2015 at 11:16 am

    Consider for example a young mother who never studied science in college, and forgot all the science she learned in public school. She has to use reasoning all the time in taking care of her baby, frequently making important and sometimes life or death decisions. Yes she has to consult with doctors sometimes, but on a daily basis she can make most of the decisions herself or with the help of more experienced mothers.

    How often do young mothers make idiotic mistakes that damage or kill their babies? If critical thinking needed to be taught, it should happen a lot.

    That’s just one example, but it’s easy to think of many others. And it would be easy to devise simple tests to prove that the average person has critical thinking skills.

    All the well-known tests showing that people are idiots are tests for knowledge (data), not logic.

  60. RickKon 16 Dec 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Thread is dead. DNR

  61. Pete Aon 16 Dec 2015 at 12:31 pm

    “When the information is vague and incomplete, as it always is for controversial subjects, people fill in the gaps with what they believe or hope is true.”

    That is exactly why Intelligent Design (i.e., Creationism with a deliberately obfuscated title) should NOT be taught in school biology lessons: evolution is a well-established evidence-based scientifically verifiable fact; Christian fundamentalism is promoted by people who fill in the gaps in their own wilfully limited knowledge with that which they believe, or hope to be, true.

  62. Steve Crosson 16 Dec 2015 at 12:35 pm

    RickK – “Thread is dead. DNR”

    Agreed. It’s seems appropriate to end the thread immediately after HN’s canonical demonstration of poor critical thinking skills — thus proving Dr. Novella’s orignal point.

  63. hardnoseon 16 Dec 2015 at 12:40 pm

    “evolution is a well-established evidence-based scientifically verifiable fact”

    Yes it is, but the cause of evolution is unknown. Materialists say natural selection completely explains it, but that is an example of filling in the gaps to fit an ideology.

    Intelligent Design and Christian fundamentalism are completely different things. There are Christian fundamentalists who advocate Intelligent Design — but if you had good critical thinking skills (free from ideological bias) you would see that does not mean that ID resembles Christianity.

    Materialist “skeptics” always make those mistakes when debating evolution.

  64. Pete Aon 16 Dec 2015 at 1:29 pm

    “The ruse was made glaringly obvious by spelling errors like ‘cdesign proponentsists.'”
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Intelligent_Design#Wedge_strategy

  65. BillyJoe7on 16 Dec 2015 at 3:04 pm

    “the cause of evolution is unknown” :)

    “Materialists say natural selection completely explains it” :)

    ‘Christian fundamentalists….always make those mistakes when debating evolution. 😉

  66. BillyJoe7on 16 Dec 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Does the laughing emoticon work…:D

  67. BillyJoe7on 16 Dec 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Nope…pity, because it absolutely is needed here.

  68. Pete Aon 16 Dec 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Nope, the laughing emoticon does not, and will not, work until it dawns on everyone that the commentator “hardnose” is Dr Square Brackets: a nym-shifting shill for the Discovery Institute — not just on this website, but across multiple websites that support science and critical thinking skills.

    The only thing that I find a little surprising is that the Discovery Institute maintains its association with such an obviously incompetent nym-shifting troll.

  69. hardnoseon 16 Dec 2015 at 3:37 pm

    None of you have tried to explain how the average person can survive without being taught critical thinking skills.

    People run successful businesses, do complex jobs, navigate social situations,etc., etc., even if no one ever tried to teach them critical thinking skills.

  70. Pete Aon 16 Dec 2015 at 3:53 pm

    Multi-level marketing, religion [apologies for the repetition], and the alternatives to medicine being exemplars of multi-billion dollar business empires that maximally exploit the dire lack of critical thinking skills; and vehemently oppose the global teaching of critical thinking skills in primary and secondary education.

  71. hardnoseon 16 Dec 2015 at 4:37 pm

    You are not answering me, and no one has. I have been explaining that critical thinking skills, and intelligence and creativity in general, depend on the context.

    If you fall victim to a scam, it is probably because you are lacking knowledge of the context. For example, if a person is scammed by an auto mechanic is it because the person lacks critical thinking skills? Or because they have limited understanding of how cars work?

    Test any normal healthy adult to see if they can reason well about a subject they know well.

    An exceptionally intelligent person will, I predict, do poorly on a test if they are not familiar with the subject.

    What I am saying has been recognized for a long time in computer science. Computers are perfectly logical, but they are not intelligent. The only way to make them somewhat intelligent is to give them huge amounts of data and the ability to sort through it within a reasonable amount of time.

  72. Pete Aon 16 Dec 2015 at 5:02 pm

    What about falling victim to a supernatural scam, such as Creationism and the wilful obscurantism of the Discovery Institute and Dr Square Brackets?

    Which method of enquiry do you use to decide whether Creationism/ID is better or worse than the much more successful, popular, and complete ideology of Islamism?

  73. hardnoseon 16 Dec 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Pete A, your comments are beginning to sound like randomly-generated garbage to me. Maybe it’s just late in the day. But my critical thinking skills tell me you are not even trying to make sense.

  74. Pete Aon 16 Dec 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Which method of enquiry do you use to decide whether Creationism/ID is better or worse than the much more successful, popular, and complete ideology of Islamism?

    It isn’t a difficult question to answer.

  75. hardnoseon 16 Dec 2015 at 5:49 pm

    I can give a randomly generated nonsense answer for your randomly generated nonsense question —

    “I would use the method of quantum harmonization reflexology.”

  76. bachfiendon 16 Dec 2015 at 6:18 pm

    With the problem of the early comments being deleted, again I feel that I’m lacking an idea of the nature of the discussion.

    Hardnose,

    You seem to be claiming that critical thinking doesn’t need to be taught, because everyone picks it up naturally? Or it’s innate?

    Then why do most people, including mathematicians with PhDs, get the Monty Hall problem wrong? And persist in denying that they’re wrong despite being told the correct answer and its basis?

    I regard one aspect of critical thinking is the ability to make decisions on the basis of incomplete information. And the ability to know which unknown information should be sought in order to make a better decision.

    Rumsfeld got a lot of (undeserved) criticism with his known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns. I think he forgot the unknown knowns – it was known that defectors often lie to further their agenda, but this wasn’t taken into account when the policy makers decided to invade Iraq.

    Doctors aren’t good examples of critical thinkers (Michael Egnor is a good counter-example). They do best when they’re following a set protocol of actions in given situations. Their lack of critical thinking is demonstrated by their general misinterpretation of false plosives/false negatives in screening tests. For example, if a screening test for an uncommon condition has a 99% accuracy (which sounds very good), most people with a positive result don’t actually have the condition. And most screening tests aren’t anywhere near this good.

  77. Steve Crosson 16 Dec 2015 at 6:33 pm

    HN,

    You literally have NO idea what good critical thinking skills are — so how can you possibly claim that no one needs to learn how to improve them?

    You have been given many, many examples where people have access to the EXACT same information yet reach entirely different conclusions. How is that logical?

    A huge part of good critical thinking is the awareness that you must seek out all of the data before making any conclusions. It is BECAUSE so many people are willing to settle for whatever information is readily available that so many suboptimal decisions are made.

    The goal of improving your critical thinking skills to is to make the best decision as often as possible. Your “point” that many people can muddle through life by trial and error or by simply imitating everyone else does NOT mean that they are making either correct or the best possible decisions for their own wellbeing.

  78. hardnoseon 16 Dec 2015 at 6:56 pm

    “A huge part of good critical thinking is the awareness that you must seek out all of the data before making any conclusions.”

    In most cases you can’t get all the data. The more data you have the better, but it is inherently limited. As I said before we can’t know the future or what other people are really thinking.

    People don’t go and seek data unless they are motivated. If someone is happy with the religion they learned as a child they probably won’t bother getting in depth knowledge of other religions, for example.

    When people are highly motivated to get information on a subject, eventually they become an expert and their reasoning ability within that subject is better than non-experts.

    Our reasoning is only as good as the data, and no one can provide us with all possible data about all possible situations. So no one can teach us critical thinking skills. These skills are acquired through studying subjects and through life experience.

  79. Steve Crosson 16 Dec 2015 at 7:10 pm

    This:

    “Our reasoning is only as good as the data, and no one can provide us with all possible data about all possible situations. ”

    is true. But it does NOT imply this:

    “So no one can teach us critical thinking skills.”

    To make the best, correct decisions, you still need to avoid being mislead by:

    Logical fallacies

    Confirmation Bias

    Poor understanding of probability

    Heuristic failures

    Pseudoscience

    Conspiracy theories

    and many other mistakes in reasoning that all of us make (including skeptics) that we need to understand and constantly make a conscious effort to avoid.

  80. bachfiendon 16 Dec 2015 at 8:06 pm

    I was almost the victim of a lack of critical thinking and lack of science knowledge. Last Tuesday morning I took my dog to her animal trainer (she has a barely treated anxiety disorder, for which she’s prescribed Prosac which she’s very good at avoiding taking).

    On the way home, I stopped at a shopping centre to buy a few items at the supermarket. So I closed all the windows and locked the car.

    I returned 15 minutes later to find a security officer and a woman shopper preparing to break one of the car’s windows to ‘rescue’ the dog, who was ‘distressed’ and barking – due to her anxiety disorder.

    Yes, I know a car in direct sunshine can get dangerously hot in 15 minutes, insolation can be as much as 1000 Watts per square metre. But the car was parked in an undercover car park. The only radiation the car was exposed to was the heat of the surrounding cars, walls, roof, pillars (I’d estimate around 25 degrees Celsius).

    The security man left when I returned. But the woman continued to abuse me, insisting that it was highly dangerous to leave a dog in an enclosed car, coming up with increasingly ridiculous reasons. Such as the heat of the dog would make the inside of the car dangerously hot (at rest, a human generates 50 Watts of heat, so even if the dog does the same, 50 Watts compared to at least 1000 Watts is negligible). Or the dog would suffocate as a result of all the oxygen being consumed, not likely unless for hours. Or that she felt ‘uncomfortable’ in just a few minutes that morning when she’d turned the car’s ignition off (did she have the car’s air conditioning running? I’d feel uncomfortable if I was sitting in a car immediately the AC went off).

    Anyway. The temperature inside the car when I opened the car was 25 degrees Celsius. A little warmer than the usual 22 degrees my house usually is. But considerably cooler that the spot on the floor in the sunshine my dog often goes to sleep in the morning.

    The woman just lacked critical thinking and science knowledge. She got it into her head that it was always dangerous to leave a dog in an enclosed space, regardless of circumstances, coming up with spurious reasons for her opinion.

  81. Steve Crosson 16 Dec 2015 at 8:46 pm

    Bachfiend,

    A perfect example of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.

    And, of course, another example of a data point that refutes hardnose’s contention everyone just “naturally” has all of the critical thinking skills they need.

    After all, situations don’t become part of the common vernacular unless they are, in fact, “common”.

  82. RickKon 16 Dec 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Guys, nothing you say will convince or educate hardnose. He can’t be reasoned with. He doesn’t value logic or integrity, or honesty. And he absolutely will not stop, ever, until each and every Neurologica comment thread has been derailed and perverted.

  83. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 3:41 am

    RickK,

    I’m not sure if it was deliberate or not (though suspect it was), but your last comment reminds me of Sarah Conner’s description of the terminator in T2. I have had those very same lines pop into my head many times where hn is concerned.

  84. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 3:42 am

    Oops – Sarah Connor.

  85. arnieon 17 Dec 2015 at 5:59 am

    Agree with RickK. Wouldn’t critical thinking lead to the conclusion that it’s counterproductive to continue to respond to HN’s provocations?

  86. Damloweton 17 Dec 2015 at 6:20 am

    Although it can become tedious and repetitive, I think responding to the likes of HN, ME and Ian can be quite illuminating. Through their ‘butchery’ of fact and fallacies I feel I am becoming better at spotting the bullshit for myself before it gets pointed out by the regulars.

    Thanks guys, keep it up.

    Damien

  87. Pete Aon 17 Dec 2015 at 6:26 am

    The Encyclopedia of American loons explains what Egnor and his sock puppet “hardnose” is attempting to do on this blog.
    “Egnor is a neurosurgeon and creationist, and one of the more recent additions to the Discovery Institute’s rooster of loons. He is also an idiot. His main anti-science strategy is attacking materialistic neuroscience and an attempted revival of dualism (taken up also by e.g. O’Leary), completely oblivious to any of the literature on the subject (and to fallacies such as the fallacy of division and denying the antecedent).

    Diagnosis: Blissfully ignorant, total moron and dependable fallacy generator. He is relatively prominent among the Discovery Institute Crackpots, and might actually prove to be dangerous; see more here[1]”
    http://americanloons.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/119-michael-egnor.html

    1. That link doesn’t work, here is the correct link:
    http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2007/03/19/telling-what-people-think/

  88. RickKon 17 Dec 2015 at 8:22 am

    mumadadd, right series, wrong movie. It was Reese’s line to Sarah in the first movie.

    Pete A said: “Blissfully ignorant, total moron and dependable fallacy generator. ”

    I respectfully disagree. I think he’s reasonably clever and gets personal gratification from derailing Steve’s blog. Note how hardnose jumps in early with a repetition of some hardnoseism right at the beginning of many of Steve’s discussions. When we engage with him and draw the discussion off topic, hardnose declares it a good day and chalks up another personal victory by successfully baiting people who consider themselves critical thinkers.

    I’ve been as guilty as anyone here. But personally, I think we should stop giving him the pleasure.

  89. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 8:50 am

    Rick,

    Ah yes, a bit of conflation on my part, specifically with this:

    <blockquote?[Voiceover] Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop, it would never leave him. And it would never hurt him, never shout at him or get drunk and hit him or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there and it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.

  90. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 8:50 am

    Rick,

    Ah yes, a bit of conflation on my part, specifically with this:

    [Voiceover] Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator would never stop, it would never leave him. And it would never hurt him, never shout at him or get drunk and hit him or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there and it would die to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.

  91. Pete Aon 17 Dec 2015 at 9:13 am

    RickK, I previously disagreed with you, and Damlowet made a good point “Through their ‘butchery’ of fact and fallacies I feel I am becoming better at spotting the bullshit for myself before it gets pointed out by the regulars.”

    However, I’ve finally had enough of Egnor and his increasingly childish sock puppet so I shall try my best to ignore him.

  92. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 9:25 am

    Although I haven’t had much spare time to post comments, I’ve been lurking here for a very long time and I fully understand how tedious HN, ME and Ian can be. But I’m conflicted about the best way to respond to their provocations.

    In general, I feel it is important to not leave obvious nonsense unchallenged. Certainly, for most of the core group of regular commenters, HN et al are nothing but extremely predictable and boring distractions. But, I hope that lots of other people read the comments even if they don’t have the time or inclination to post. Some of them may be fairly new skeptics and may not immediately recognize all the BS. At a minimum, pointing out the logical fallacies and errors in reasoning may be instructive to the new people.

    Who knows? Even apparent true believers like Ian may learn something if they are forced to defend their beliefs. No idea if Egnor is a true believer or simply working for his paycheck from the Disco-tute, but we may as well make him earn it.

    HN is a special case. Regardless of his personal beliefs, he obviously gets off on the trolling aspect — his entire goal is to cause frustration. My suggestion is to deny him the satisfaction. Never, ever express frustration — and yes I know, easier said than done as my own infrequent posts too often express some frustration, but never-the-less, worth a try.

    If you have the time and feel so inclined, calmly and rationally refute his nonsense for the benefit of others. If not, just skip his posts and any responses. No matter what, the signal to noise ratio of this particular blog is still among the best on the Internet.

  93. hardnoseon 17 Dec 2015 at 10:03 am

    “hardnose’s contention everyone just “naturally” has all of the critical thinking skills they need.”

    I never said that. I said people naturally acquire critical thinking skills in the things they need to do or like to do. You don’t see normal adults constantly making idiotic errors while dealing with the complexities of their practical and social lives.

  94. hardnoseon 17 Dec 2015 at 10:08 am

    Some of you don’t like the fact that I try to inject science and reason into the comments section. You would rather glide blissfully along with the blog’s prevailing ideology.

  95. RickKon 17 Dec 2015 at 10:16 am

    Steve Cross said: “But I’m conflicted about the best way to respond to their provocations.”

    As am I. The best debates here are in response to people who disagree or attack this blog’s views. I’m in no way suggesting we leave them unchallenged.

    But I agree that “HN is a special case… his entire goal is to cause frustration.” His posting of quick, one-line “detailers”, his tedious repetition of words like “materialism” that he refuses to define, his pointed ignoring of evidence, and his utter refusal to engage in any rational followup debate all reveal his real motives and detract from the quality of discussion on Neurologica.

  96. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 12:27 pm

    From hardnose:

    “hardnose’s contention everyone just “naturally” has all of the critical thinking skills they need.”
    I never said that. I said people naturally acquire critical thinking skills in the things they need to do or like to do. You don’t see normal adults constantly making idiotic errors while dealing with the complexities of their practical and social lives.

    At various times in this thread, you’ve said:

    1) “Critical thinking skills are inborn, you can’t teach them, everyone has them.”

    2) “We are have an inborn ability to learn critical thinking, just as we have an inborn ability to learn a language.”

    Obviously, this is a contradiction. Anything that can be learned, can also be taught. Learning is a continuum. You can always learn more as you admitted above when you said “people naturally acquire critical thinking skills in the things they need to do or like to do”

    You also said “You don’t see normal adults constantly making idiotic errors” which is also obviously false.

    The vast majority of the world seems to believe in one of many hundreds of thousands of mutually incompatible religions. Considering the downside of being wrong, it is clearly “idiotic” to not make an effort to determine which one (if any) is actually the correct one.

    Also, too many people are literally scammed out of their life savings or make other egregious errors because of poor critical thinking skills. How is that not “idiotic”?

    And what about all of the children that suffer and die from vaccine preventable diseases or are denied medical care because their parents lack good critical thinking skills. Also “idiotic” and reprehensible.

    Clearly, good critical thinking skills are a continuum in which everyone can and should learn to get better. And anything that can be learned can usually be learned faster and more effectively with the aid of a good teacher. Which is Dr. Novella’a point and it is irrefutable.

  97. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Also from hardnose:

    Some of you don’t like the fact that I try to inject science and reason into the comments section. You would rather glide blissfully along with the blog’s prevailing ideology.

    You have a unique definition of science and reason. I’ve been reading Neurologica for years, and as far as I can tell, the only ideology Dr. Novella has ever espoused is that is is important to:

    Examine all available evidence with an open mind, avoid logical fallacies and other errors in reasoning and use the facts to make decisions and reach conclusions that are the most likely to be true.

    What exactly do you find objectionable about this “ideology”?

  98. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Steve Cross,

    If you’ve been lurking you may well already have this figured out, but I can tell you from my own lurking (and commenting, but I lurk more than I comment) where this is going to go.

    hn will tell you that people basically had it figured out thousands of years ago, and the intuition derived superstitions we still cling to represent genuine insight; modern science is led, by the nose, by a materialist ideology created by a bunch of intellectual elites (and hn got in trouble in college because he was clever enough to be able to see this – his tutors were part jealous, part indoctrinated ideologues).

    Oops, go to go! Taxi here. There’s more but you get the idea — it’s a loop.

  99. hardnoseon 17 Dec 2015 at 1:47 pm

    I didn’t get in trouble in college. I got through 2 master’s degrees and a PhD with straight A’s. And the PhD only took me 4 years.

    “people basically had it figured out thousands of years ago, and the intuition derived superstitions we still cling to represent genuine insight”

    You’ve done a great job of completely mangling my statements.

  100. hardnoseon 17 Dec 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I have stated my opinion here that “primitive” and prehistoric people were not a bunch of morons. Many of their ideas were wrong, but many modern ideas are wrong. They were practical and scientific, as most non-scientists of today, in general.

    Technology is evolving ever more rapidly, and this can make us feel superior. But we aren’t superior, in my opinion, just different.

    You don’t have to be a scientist, and you don’t have to be indoctrinated into materialism, to have good reasoning skills.

    But as I keep saying over and over, we only have good reasoning skills in contexts where we are familiar with the data.

    As I said before, it is known in computer science that depends on data, not just logic.

    If you are absolutely certain that all aspects of religion and mysticism are stupid nonsense, then of course you will look down at the vast majority of humanity, present and past.

  101. hardnoseon 17 Dec 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Before someone jumps on it, the PhD PLUS on of the MAs only took me 4 years altogether.

  102. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Think I may have just posted this on the wrong thread, but can’t tell as on mobile and comments all effed up.

    PeteA,

    I have to ask, do you know something we don’t re ME and hn? I notice that they don’t tend to be active on the same thread at the same time. Maybe there is also some similarity in specific flaws in reasoning that connects them. This is pretty scant evidence upon which to confidently assert that hn is ME’s sock puppet though. What gives? What else have you noticed/do you know?

  103. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Not playing, hn. I would say the evidence is there should anyone care to dig through previous threads, but given the current comments situation I’m not too sure.

  104. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 2:13 pm

    mumadadd,

    I appreciate the heads up, but as you guessed, I’m already well aware. I don’t mean to waste anyone’s time, and as I said earlier, the regulars should feel free to skip any of my comments. I’ll try to make them obvious by starting with a direct quote of one of HN’s pearls of wisdom.

    As it happens, I have lots of free time during the holidays and lots of boring relatives. I don’t mind pointing out obvious logical contradictions and other low hanging fruit. Perhaps some newcomers may benefit.

    I certainly don’t expect to make any headway with hardnose. He clearly has a gigantic inferiority complex and desperately wants to build himself up by pretending to be the smartest kid on the block. He can spout all of his unsubstantiated opinions all day long and no one will ever take him seriously. But when he tries to venture into the world of logic, I’m more than happy to point out logical contradictions and fallacies, etc.– I’m pretty sure that bursting his balloon hurts him a lot more than he will ever admit — otherwise he wouldn’t be so pathetically transparent in always trying to have the last word.

  105. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 2:51 pm

    hardnose said:

    If you are absolutely certain that all aspects of religion and mysticism are stupid nonsense, then of course you will look down at the vast majority of humanity, present and past.

    I’m pretty sure that no one here has ever said that — at least not Dr. Novella or the regular commenters. What they HAVE said is that there has never been any evidence that any particular religious or mystical belief system is actually true, therefore it is foolish and potentially dangerous to make life choices based on wishful thinking.

    No one has even declared that the supernatural doesn’t or can’t exist — simply that there is no evidence that it does.

    We do know that the natural world exists and that we can actually understand it to a large extent if we go about it scientifically. Being able to understand cause and effect, and RELIABLY predicting an end result from a given action is hugely beneficial. It is the only proven method to allow us to control our environment and the way we live and quality of our life.

    If it gives you comfort to believe in something supernatural, fine — more power to you. But it has never been proven to do anything at all other than providing a (possibly false) sense of security. Until someone actually proves it exists and is able to quantify the effects, it is useless for describing or controlling the natural world we live in.

  106. BillyJoe7on 17 Dec 2015 at 3:09 pm

    And he gets to completely ignore this bit because, I guess, he can always complain that he can’t respond to everything:

    “At various times in this thread, you’ve said:

    1) “Critical thinking skills are inborn, you can’t teach them, everyone has them.”

    2) “We are have an inborn ability to learn critical thinking, just as we have an inborn ability to learn a language.”

    Obviously, this is a contradiction. Anything that can be learned, can also be taught. Learning is a continuum. You can always learn more as you admitted above when you said “people naturally acquire critical thinking skills in the things they need to do or like to do””

    If he has “got through 2 master’s degrees and a PhD with straight A’s”, he’s lost it somewhere along the way

  107. Pete Aon 17 Dec 2015 at 3:29 pm

    mumadadd said: “I have to ask, do you know something we don’t re ME and hn?” Apparently :-) I’m not going to explain how I know, and I don’t expect anyone to take my word for it. The trail of evidence is in plain sight, but that doesn’t mean it is at all obvious.

  108. hardnoseon 17 Dec 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Everyone is born with the ability to think logically, just as everyone is born with the ability to learn a language. But the logic ability and the language ability can’t function without data, experience. I said that over and over and over.

    The “skeptic” perspective is that the world is full of morons, and that is the cause of all humanity’s problems. Your goal is to educate (indoctrinate) the world into your perspective.

    You sincerely believe your way is better. Well most people believe their way is better, but most people are not organized activists. The NESS is an organization out to “improve” the world, to save us all from idiocy.

    I sometimes agree with the posts here, or parts of them, since I am a scientific skeptic. But I strongly disagree with the elitist tone and the crusading activism. I strongly disagree with the idea that the average person is an idiot unless they become indoctrinated into materialism.

    And maybe you don’t use the word “idiot” to describe the average person, but it is definitely implied.

    And by the way, the ideas I express here are things I have been thinking about all my life, which (unfortunately) is a very long time.

  109. ccbowerson 17 Dec 2015 at 4:23 pm

    ”No one has even declared that the supernatural doesn’t or can’t exist — simply that there is no evidence that it does.”

    I will disagree with this (not just for the sake of disagreement- that is HN’s calling). What would demonstrate the existence of something supernatural? The concept is incoherent, as far as I can tell. If someone finds evidence for something, and establishes it’s existence, how would that not fall under “natural?” What does it mean to go beyond the natural into supernatural? I have never come across a good explanation for this, which makes these discussions pointless as we are discussing an incoherent concept.

  110. Karl Withakayon 17 Dec 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Is it just me and my computers/browsers or are comments disappearing from this post’s comment section? I don’t see 102 comments nor do I specifically comments I made and replied to the other day.

  111. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 4:41 pm

    hardnose said:

    The “skeptic” perspective is that the world is full of morons, and that is the cause of all humanity’s problems. Your goal is to educate (indoctrinate) the world into your perspective.

    You are projecting your own feelings of inadequacy. You obviously, desperately want to believe in something that you know has zero evidence, but you think (mistakenly) that disparaging the “other side” somehow adds credibility to your own beliefs — it doesn’t.

    No one I know thinks the world is full of morons. We do think that a lot of people regularly make a lot of bad decisions.

    We also think that if everyone did a better job gathering and evaluating evidence and making better decisions, then the world would be a better place — not perfect, but better.

    Yup … I guess we are EVIL

  112. ccbowerson 17 Dec 2015 at 4:41 pm

    “And by the way, the ideas I express here are things I have been thinking about all my life, which (unfortunately) is a very long time.”

    I’m sorry you have been confused for so long. This does make me wonder about the various ages of the commentators here. Over time, I’ve come to realize that many of the commentators here are older than I initially thought. There is this bias in assuming that the internet is predominantly in their teens and twenties, when that it is obviously not true, and is becoming less true over time.

  113. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Karl Withakay,

    Something is definitely messed up. Pete A suggested the following workaround:

    Comments 1-50 are placed at ArticleURL/comment-page-1/
    comments 51-100 are placed at ArticleURL/comment-page-2/ etc.
    Yeah, it’s a pain.
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/we-need-both-science-and-critical-thinking/comment-page-1/

    We’re up to page three now, but you can view the earlier stuff by pasting the url above with the correct page number.

  114. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 5:04 pm

    ccbowers,

    I agree completely with you about the logical difficulties involved when attempting to discuss the supernatural.

    However, HN seems wedded to the idea that there is something magical out there beyond our poor “materialist” world view. But my point is that unless it has some measurable effect on the world we live in (which probably would make it natural after all), there is no reason to imagine it is either useful or real.

    Regarding the age question, I get the feeling that a lot of the commenters here have quite a few years of experience under their belts — and a fair amount of hard-earned wisdom.

  115. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 5:13 pm

    ccbowers,

    BTW, when I mentioned “hard-earned wisdom”, I definitely did NOT mean to include HN.

    Some people just become cranky old men.

  116. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Can we all (including me) stop psychologising hn?

    ——

    Here is the argument — the product of much back and forth:

    People have language. They are born with an instinct to acquire language (to summarise Steven Pinker’s thesis in The Language Instinct, which hn was too clever to buy). People have critical thinking. They are born with an instinct to acquire critical thinking. Language and critical thinking can’t happen without the context of experienced reality. Therefore neither language or critical thinking can be taught, and nobody can be better than anyone else at either.

  117. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 5:31 pm

    PeteA,

    “Apparently :-) I’m not going to explain how I know, and I don’t expect anyone to take my word for it. The trail of evidence is in plain sight, but that doesn’t mean it is at all obvious.”

    Really? Either you’re wrong; you’re ME; you hacked the NESS and matched the IPs; you’ve spotted some pattern in forum posts that evades the rest of us but still definitely doesn’t qualify as an evidence based conclusion… or something else I can’t think of.

    Please explain — this has been bugging me for ages.

  118. steve12on 17 Dec 2015 at 6:14 pm

    “2 master’s degrees and a PhD with straight As”

    I’m almost positive that HN has told us in the past that he didn’t finish his (supposed) PhD program in CS. As soon as the comments are fixed I’ll find it.

    Does anyone think if HN had a PhD we would just be finding out about it now?

    Please…

  119. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 6:29 pm

    hn:

    “I didn’t get in trouble in college. I got through 2 master’s degrees and a PhD with straight A’s. And the PhD only took me 4 years.”

    Ian Wardell:

    “I got 12/12, but I always do on science quizzes.”

    F*ck the 2 of you. I’m much smarter than the both of you combined! I took my maths GCSE a year early, but then I always do… I got 12/12 in every science test I took, and I’m like gravity where doctorates are concerned. I also have a bachelor’s in computer science, a science quiz with 13 questions that’s confusing the hell out of me, and a lot of spare time.

    Sometimes conflation is fair.

  120. RickKon 17 Dec 2015 at 6:35 pm

    mumadadd,

    If I remember correctly, Pete A’s hypothesis that ME and hn are the same person was based on:

    1) One of them regularly uses square brackets (“[]”) to quote text, and the other has done so seemingly by accident on a couple occasions;
    2) The similarities in their antipathy for the anti-magical-thinking of Steve and Neurologica;
    3) The fact that the two of them seemed to tag-team Neurologica posts – one or the other would engage, but never (until recently) both – and never engaged with each other.

    Was there more, Pete?

    At first I was skeptical, pointing out more differences than similarities, but then hardnose posted some longer screeds and the similarities deepened. So now I’m more open to the idea. Though I think hardnose’s palpable insecurity, low self-esteem, and Mussolini-esque strutting of his limited education would take a very clever person to fake, and Egnor never struck me as that clever.

  121. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Ah yes, I forgot about the square brackets. Well, that’ll do me. I gosh shorn won’t be asking any more awkward questions.

  122. mumadaddon 17 Dec 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Steve12,

    hm fell in with the wrong crowd, abandoned his PhD, and got totally addicted to bass.

  123. hardnoseon 17 Dec 2015 at 7:51 pm

    “strutting of his limited education”

    I only mentioned my education because of a comment implying I hate education because I got in trouble in college. No, I didn’t like the way they expected to indoctrinate everyone, but I like science and learning so I was really good at being a student.

    And one of the most important things I learned from getting a PhD is that getting a PhD is not a big deal. As long as you have discipline and know how to be submissive you can get through it. I imagine medical school is a similar deal.

  124. hardnoseon 17 Dec 2015 at 7:59 pm

    “I’m almost positive that HN has told us in the past that he didn’t finish his (supposed) PhD program in CS.”

    You can search for many hours but you won’t find it because I never said it.

    A very large percentage of doctoral students never get through it, probably because they get tired of being submissive and pretending to always agree with their professors.

    But I did not quit, or get kicked out, or whatever you’re hallucinating about me.

  125. hardnoseon 17 Dec 2015 at 8:03 pm

    “People have critical thinking. They are born with an instinct to acquire critical thinking. Language and critical thinking can’t happen without the context of experienced reality. Therefore neither language or critical thinking can be taught, and nobody can be better than anyone else at either.”

    Some people are obviously better at language than others, and the same is true for reasoning. As I have repeated over and over and over, you improve at these things as your knowledge and experience increases.

    Your language and critical thinking skills need some work mumadadd.

  126. Willyon 17 Dec 2015 at 8:44 pm

    hn and ME are NOT the same person. BTW, ME’s blog has been silent for some time now: http://egnorance.blogspot.com/.

  127. Steve Crosson 17 Dec 2015 at 9:06 pm

    hardnose said:

    Some people are obviously better at language than others, and the same is true for reasoning. As I have repeated over and over and over, you improve at these things as your knowledge and experience increases.

    hardnose also said:

    Critical thinking skills are inborn, you can’t teach them, everyone has them.

    So people can learn (and be taught) better reasoning skills through knowledge and experience, BUT critical thinking skills are inborn BUT you can’t teach them.

    Nope … mumadadd’s summation of your self-contradictory word salad is entirely accurate.

  128. ccbowerson 17 Dec 2015 at 10:02 pm

    “Regarding the age question, I get the feeling that a lot of the commenters here have quite a few years of experience under their belts — and a fair amount of hard-earned wisdom.”

    I started following this blog about 7 years or so ago, and many of the commenters around then are still here today. Some good ones have left, and some will not be missed (artfulD, bindle, and a commenter whose name escapes me- but he used a more common first name). After a certain age, I have not noticed a huge effect of age on their skeptical skills. Perhaps this is just diminishing returns. Certainly it takes some time and effort to develop some sophistication in understanding skepticism broadly, and it does take time to acquire knowledge on various topics.

    I think engaging others in a forum like this helps a great deal, as it tends to attract those who are interested in intellectual discussions. Despite the allure of trolls or pseudo-trolls, I most enjoy disagreements with those who I often agree with. I think that is where progress is likely to happen, as both parties are usually interested in advancing the arguments.

  129. Pete Aon 17 Dec 2015 at 11:56 pm

    harnose has stated:

    Novella doesn’t know very much about the brain; no one does. I studied both computer science and neuroscience, so I know enough to know how little we actually understand.
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/neuromorphic-computing/comment-page-1/#comment-70153

    My own field is cognitive science and psychology, and I have to agree there is plenty of nonsense in psychology.
    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/grab-your-torch-and-pitchforks/comment-page-3/#comment-97844

  130. mumadaddon 18 Dec 2015 at 6:34 am

    PeteA, RickK:

    I was a bit heavy on the snark last night, so apologies; it’s sometimes a dangerous thing to be able jump on comment thread while out being festively merry. Having said that, I’m sincerely just not seeing the link between ME and hn.

    1) One of them regularly uses square brackets (“[]”) to quote text, and the other has done so seemingly by accident on a couple occasions;
    2) The similarities in their antipathy for the anti-magical-thinking of Steve and Neurologica;
    3) The fact that the two of them seemed to tag-team Neurologica posts – one or the other would engage, but never (until recently) both – and never engaged with each other.

    All of this could apply to quite a few commenters. I seem to recall Ian Wardell used square brackets once or twice, and he and ME have barely interacted here. If I looked for commenters who appear to tag team, I’ll bet I could find some other matches.

    PeteA — it seems really out of character for you to just say, “it’s obvious and I’m not going to explain it.” We all value evidence here, and as a general rule you appear to be no exception, so I’m always left wondering what you know that we don’t.

    What keeps jumping to my mind every time you assert that hn is ME’s sock puppet is the “Linda problem” discussed a few weeks ago on this very blog, or at least some sort of failure to consider base-rate. i.e. I would think sockpuppetry is quite a rare event, in the context of the overall volume of comments on this blog (I couldn’t confidently put a number on, but I’d guess at 1 per 500 as a “wet finger in the air”), so what bits of information have moved you incrementally away from from this low base rate to a confident assertion?

    I realise this is trivial, and I don’t mean to be overly critical, but you’ve piqued my curiosity so I’m hoping you’ll indulge me. :)

  131. hardnoseon 18 Dec 2015 at 7:42 am

    “So people can learn (and be taught) better reasoning skills through knowledge and experience, BUT critical thinking skills are inborn BUT you can’t teach them.”

    According to Noam Chomsky, the ability to learn a human language is inborn in humans, and I think that is obviously true.

    Similarly, the ability to learn to reason is inborn in humans. I think most cognitive scientists would agree with that.

    Some of you are unable to grasp the concept of having and inborn ability which needs to be developed through experience and practice.

  132. SteveAon 18 Dec 2015 at 8:55 am

    Hardnose: “Some of you are unable to grasp the concept of having and inborn ability which needs to be developed through experience and practice.”

    BJ7 answered this point way back yesterday (I’ve copied the post below).

    You keep contradicting yourself, Hardnose…

    “BillyJoe7 17 Dec 2015 at 3:09 pm

    And he gets to completely ignore this bit because, I guess, he can always complain that he can’t respond to everything:

    “At various times in this thread, you’ve said:

    1) “Critical thinking skills are inborn, you can’t teach them, everyone has them.”

    2) “We are have an inborn ability to learn critical thinking, just as we have an inborn ability to learn a language.”

    Obviously, this is a contradiction. Anything that can be learned, can also be taught. Learning is a continuum. You can always learn more as you admitted above when you said “people naturally acquire critical thinking skills in the things they need to do or like to do””

    If he has “got through 2 master’s degrees and a PhD with straight A’s”, he’s lost it somewhere along the way”

  133. Steve Crosson 18 Dec 2015 at 9:00 am

    hardnose said:

    According to Noam Chomsky, the ability to learn a human language is inborn in humans, and I think that is obviously true.
    Similarly, the ability to learn to reason is inborn in humans. I think most cognitive scientists would agree with that.
    Some of you are unable to grasp the concept of having and inborn ability which needs to be developed through experience and practice.

    The entire POINT of Dr. Novella’s article was that everyone can and should improve their reasoning skills.

    EVERYONE understands that but YOU.

    You specifically said:

    Critical thinking skills are inborn, you can’t teach them, everyone has them.
    When people seem illogical it’s because they are ignorant. Everyone is ignorant to some degree.

    which was your very first comment.

    That is completely nonsensical and contradictory. OF COURSE people can learn to reason better. And if they can learn, that means they can be taught.

    This is BASIC logic, i.e. critical thinking — something you desperately need to get better at if you ever want to convince anyone of anything.

    Your problem is that you are lazy. You want to believe that you were born with all of the critical thinking skills you need to make correct decisions (and win arguments). But you can’t even recognize a simple logical contradiction — this is basic, freshman level stuff.

    You are a perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger effect — you don’t know enough to know how much you don’t know.

  134. Steve Crosson 18 Dec 2015 at 9:14 am

    SteveA,

    I must have been typing while you were posting, as we both made pretty much the same point.

    Actually, BJ7 was excerpting one of my earlier posts and pointing out that HN had failed to respond. And I doubt that HN will respond to either of these — he never does when he is caught red-handed.

  135. hardnoseon 18 Dec 2015 at 10:55 am

    “You want to believe that you were born with all of the critical thinking skills you need to make correct decisions”

    I don’t remember how many times I said this but it was too many. We are born with an ability to reason, similar to our ability to learn a language. The logical reasoning ability seems to develop later (age 7 or so), but the potential is there all along. It is genetic.

    But making decisions can be extremely difficult, because perfect decisions depend on having all the data, and we NEVER HAVE ALL THE DATA, especially in complex contexts.

    I do agree with the “skeptics” that learning some math, especially statistics and probability, can help us with certain kinds of decisions.

    But you cannot teach people the kind of reasoning skills that would cause them to reject supernatural beliefs. You can indoctrinate them into thinking life evolved by a haphazard process and living things are poorly designed. But you DO NOT HAVE data to base that on.

    There is a big difference between indoctrination and education, although unfortunately they can’t easily be separated.

  136. hardnoseon 18 Dec 2015 at 11:05 am

    I also should say that I do think some people are “smarter” than others, because some brains are just more efficient and/or healthier than others. Some people think faster and have better memories than others.

    Using your brain a lot will of course help it become faster and more efficient, so inborn disadvantages could to some extent be overcome.

    But the most important thing — and most cognitive scientists will agree — is knowledge.

    There is no short cut to acquiring knowledge.

    So the idea of teaching students critical thinking skills is stupid.

  137. steve12on 18 Dec 2015 at 11:12 am

    Mumadadd:

    “hm fell in with the wrong crowd, abandoned his PhD, and got totally addicted to bass.”

    Have you ever seen HN and Les Calypool in the same place at the same time?

  138. Steve Crosson 18 Dec 2015 at 11:27 am

    hardnose said:

    But you cannot teach people the kind of reasoning skills that would cause them to reject supernatural beliefs.

    Of course you can. Billions of people have been raised in a religious households. Not all, but millions and millions have rejected supernatural beliefs after learning about logic and evidence.

    And actually, most of the remaining billions reject “other” religions as illogical but haven’t learned enough to take the final step and reject their own.

    Some people believe in ghosts, ESP and all sorts of other supernatural things, but many LEARN to reject them by performing simple scientific tests such as double blind experiments.

    The essence of critical thinking is understanding how easy it is to fool ourselves and learning how to avoid that. As I said earlier, you have no idea how much you don’t know.

  139. RickKon 18 Dec 2015 at 11:38 am

    “There is no short cut to acquiring knowledge.
    So the idea of teaching students critical thinking skills is stupid.”

    Here is an example of hardnose simply being disruptive.

    “Teaching” is in fact a shortcut to acquiring knowledge. “Teaching” is a more efficient transmission of knowledge from a more experienced/knowledgeable person to a less experienced/knowledgeable person.

    What is the point of “teaching” and “training” if not to shortcut the acquisition of knowledge and skills?

    We don’t need to contradict hardnose – he so contrarian he contradicts himself.

  140. Steve Crosson 18 Dec 2015 at 11:46 am

    hardnose said:

    So the idea of teaching students critical thinking skills is stupid.

    Assuming that no one can learn critical thinking skills simply because you can’t is called PROJECTION.

    Many, many, many people can and have learned things such as how to recognize a logical contradiction (although you obviously can’t and refuse to acknowledge it).

    People can also learn to recognize and avoid logical fallacies in their arguments as well as many other reasoning errors like confirmation bias — another of your specialities. You search out any tidbit of information which can be twisted to support your beliefs but refuse to acknowledge the mountain of evidence against you.

  141. Steve Crosson 18 Dec 2015 at 11:50 am

    We don’t need to contradict hardnose – he so contrarian he contradicts himself.

    True, but it’s already been established that he is unable to recognize a logical contradiction 😉

  142. Pete Aon 18 Dec 2015 at 12:17 pm

    mumadadd, It’s unlike you to quote me as saying things that I never said. I ignored it the first time, but enough already. Please stop digging: it’s making a mess.

  143. hardnoseon 18 Dec 2015 at 12:17 pm

    “Billions of people have been raised in a religious households. Not all, but millions and millions have rejected supernatural beliefs after learning about logic and evidence.”

    And THAT is the essential message of contemprary organized “skeptics.” Religion is illogical and if you teach people how to be logical they will reject religion.

  144. mumadaddon 18 Dec 2015 at 12:25 pm

    PeteA,

    I know that the quote was from Rick, but you have, on several occasions, referred to hn as ME’s sock puppet, which is what I am asking for clarification on. I included the quote from Rick as it seems like a fair representation of the similarities you have pointed out. Is there more to it?

  145. Pete Aon 18 Dec 2015 at 1:37 pm

    mumadadd said: “Is there more to it?”. You have no idea how hard I’ve been biting my tongue to prevent me from writing sarcastic replies to you. I wish I could explain it to you in person — your face palm and “Doh!” would be a priceless moment for both of us to treasure.

  146. hardnoseon 18 Dec 2015 at 2:21 pm

    >There is no short cut to acquiring knowledge.
    >So the idea of teaching students critical thinking skills is stupid.”

    >Here is an example of hardnose simply being disruptive.

    >“Teaching” is in fact a shortcut to acquiring knowledge. “Teaching” is a more efficient transmission of knowledge >from a more experienced/knowledgeable person to a less experienced/knowledgeable person.

    >What is the point of “teaching” and “training” if not to shortcut the acquisition of knowledge and skills?

    RickK demonstrates his poor reasoning skills here. Like everyone, he was born with an ability to reason, but ideology overrides reason.

    I said that knowledge can be acquired and taught, but basic critical thinking skills (for the most part) do not need to be taught.

    Actually I can’t figure out what RickK is trying to say here. I guess he was agreeing with me?

  147. Steve Crosson 18 Dec 2015 at 2:23 pm

    hardnose said:

    “Billions of people have been raised in a religious households. Not all, but millions and millions have rejected supernatural beliefs after learning about logic and evidence.”
    And THAT is the essential message of contemprary organized “skeptics.” Religion is illogical and if you teach people how to be logical they will reject religion.

    Finally, we get to the crux of the issue. You are concerned that if more people learn how to be good critical thinkers, then they will all reject religion and other forms of supernatural beliefs.

    Unfortunately, whether or not you want something to be true has no bearing on whether it actually is true. No matter how much you want to believe otherwise, people can and do learn to be better at critical thinking.

    But you are wrong about the goal of skepticism. No one I know objects to the parts of religion that give people comfort and encourages people to be “good”. Most of my family is still pretty religious, and I certainly have no desire to try to convince my mother that heaven isn’t real.

    But most of us are very concerned about how any form of unjustified belief has the potential to cause great harm. And it is not just religious belief. We’ve already talked about scams and bad medical advice as just a couple of examples of problems that are directly caused by poor critical thinking skills.

    The problem is almost always caused by those people who are convinced that their point of view is absolutely right. Whether it is an anti-vaxer, AGW denier, extremist Muslim or a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, people who believe they can’t possibly be wrong are the most dangerous and destructive members of society.

    People need to learn how to make the best possible choices based on whatever information is available, however limited it may be. And they must learn how to avoid deluding themselves.

    Wishful thinking is a terrible trap to fall into. Just think how many cancer victims have spent fortunes and probably shortened their lives on quack “cures” just because they lacked critical thinking skills.

    I know you’re concerned that logic will be the death of religion. It may be, but I doubt it. No one is perfect at critical thinking and many will still continue to hope. And who knows — there’s no evidence for the supernatural, but there is no evidence against it either.

    I (and I think most skeptics) would be overjoyed if everyone would accept that they “might be wrong”. With hundreds of thousands of different religions to pick from (none of which have ever demonstrated conclusively that their version was the “right” one), I would be happy if everyone would realize that their own interpretation just might be wrong, at least partially.

    Therefore, don’t try to force your beliefs on me or even be surprised if I don’t voluntarily accept them without convincing evidence. In return, I’ll respect your wishes to live your life however you want if it doesn’t harm me or innocent bystanders.

    The benefits of good critical thinking skills are real, and they can be learned and improved upon. Your concern that religious belief may be undermined does not make that any less true.

  148. Pete Aon 18 Dec 2015 at 3:05 pm

    The Center for Science and Culture (CSC) — part of the Discovery Institute, a conservative Christian think tank in the United States — fully supports, and expands on, what hardnose keeps trying to tell the materialistic science and skeptical communities:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_for_Science_and_Culture

    “The Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, as it was originally named, grew out of a conference called ‘The Death of Materialism and the Renewal of Culture’ that the Discovery Institute organised in the summer of 1995.

    The CSC continues to state as a goal a redefinition of science, and the philosophy on which it is based, particularly the exclusion of what it calls the ‘unscientific principle of materialism,’ and in particular the acceptance of what it calls ‘the scientific theory of intelligent design.'”

    Indeed! I admire hardnose’s relentless and tireless support for the Renewal of Science and Culture — it’s becoming increasingly difficult as the 21st Century marches on. Just out of interest, how much progress is the CSC making in the Middle East?

  149. BillyJoe7on 18 Dec 2015 at 3:50 pm

    “You can indoctrinate them into thinking life evolved by a haphazard process and living things are poorly designed. But you DO NOT HAVE data to base that on”

    The recurrent largngeal nerve – especially in the giraffe.

  150. arnieon 18 Dec 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Pete A,
    Thanks for sharing that. So clearly we can never expect anything more than the religious/ideology-based, close-minded pseudoscience propaganda that we’ve seen all along from ME and HN. Their arrogant goal will only and always be to disrupt hijack Steve’s science based and critical thinking oriented blog. They will have no interest in actual, honest, open-minded dialogue. Lacking any hope of that, I guess that still leaves the rest of us several choices: We can read and ignore, read and respond, or neither read nor respond to their comments.

  151. arnieon 18 Dec 2015 at 4:56 pm

    I meant ….”disrupt AND hijack”….

  152. Pete Aon 18 Dec 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Arnie, I fully agree with, and thank you for, your insightful conclusions.

  153. Pete Aon 19 Dec 2015 at 9:23 am

    For the readers who wish to view all of the comments on this article:
    Comments 1-50: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/we-need-both-science-and-critical-thinking/comment-page-1/
    Comments 51-100: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/we-need-both-science-and-critical-thinking/comment-page-2/
    Comments 101-150: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/we-need-both-science-and-critical-thinking/comment-page-3/
    Comments 151+: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/we-need-both-science-and-critical-thinking/comment-page-4/

  154. Pete Aon 19 Dec 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Some readers may find this article by Bert Bigelow of interest (and perhaps a refreshing antidote to the Disco ‘Tute shills who try endlessly to subvert Dr Novella’s blog): Christmas Busybodies.
    http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2015/12/18/christmas-busybodies/

  155. BillyJoe7on 19 Dec 2015 at 8:52 pm

    “Christmas Busybodies”

    Hilarious. They proselytise their religion on public land and we are accused of harassment for objecting on the basis of separation of church and state, which is in the country’s founding document. They are the 85% but we, the minority are harassing them. Hilarious.

  156. Pete Aon 20 Dec 2015 at 11:24 am

    I always read each edition of The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter, by Robert T. Carroll. I think the recent edition (December 2015) contains several things that are relevant to Dr Novella’s articles and to some of the comments.
    http://skepdic.com/news/newsletter1411.html

    As it’s festive season, this (recently updated) article will, I hope, add to your merriment: Rumpology for Dummies
    http://skepdic.com/essays/rumpology4dummies.html

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.