Critical Thinking

Hola! Everybody…

I started to write the following and it became too involved. What appears is a very condensed version of what I wrote earlier this morning. I write it because I find too many people lacking in the critical thinking skills necessary to engage in an intelligent, constructive discussion of anything, let alone current events. I’d rather you call me a motherfucker than for you to come to my blog ignorant of what it takes to present a coherent argument.

If you believe that logic or philosophy is not an important endeavor, then please know that the reason you’re going to bail out the fat cats on Wall Street is due in large to our inability to think critically.

Bend ovah, ma’fuccas!

-=[ Logic ]=-

One of the first tasks my father, a self-taught man who didn’t finish middle school, set about when I was old enough, was to tech me how to think critically. He made it fun — so much fun that I didn’t even know I was learning. The ability to think critically was a value that was taught and respected in our household. I taught the same skill to my own son.

Yeah, I’m an uppity, elitist ma’fucca that comes from a long line of uppity, elitist ma’fuccas.

I have no patience for weak thinking and I don’t suffer fools easily. Those who value what I value — namely the search for truth (or least clear thinking) — can stay and face the challenges. Those that don’t will be embarrassed — at least as much as I can embarrass someone in this forum.

Logic is the science of correct reasoning and has no political affiliation. Whether conservative or progressive, reasoning is reasoning.

Period.

Logic is not so much a science itself but a prerequisite for any science. And in that sense we might say that logic is the science of all sciences, and any area of inquiry. I’ve already pointed out that logical reasoning is at the heart of what logic is all about. Here’s an example (with my apologies to Aristotle):

[1] All men are mortal

Eddie is a man.

Therefore, Eddie is a mortal.

In [1], I am providing reasons (let’s call them “premises”) for the conclusion that I am mortal. I am aware some women I have known would call me by other labels, but the whole point of such reasoning, for practical purposes, is to give us good reason for thinking that the conclusion is true. And as even any good neocon (or ex-girlfriend) can see, these two premises are very compelling reasons for believing that I am mortal. In fact, I would go as far as saying that these premises make it absolutely certain that I am mortal.

This little bit of reasoning, by the way, is called an argument, and it is the central idea in logic. I love to argue — with reasoning, that is.

Therefore, sticking with this whole logic/ critical thinking vibe, a logician would express the certainty of the above argument about my mortality by stating that if premises are true, the conclusion must (no ifs, ands, buts, or maybes) be true too. Another way to say it is that the premises provide conclusive proof for my conclusion. When our reasoning provides conclusive proof, it is logically correct, or valid.

So, why be concerned about critical thinking or validity? Remember that the whole point of reasoning is to prove a conclusion. If our reasoning is faulty, that means we haven’t yet proven the conclusion. And if we accept the conclusion without proof, obviously we run the risk that we are accepting something may not be true.

This lack of critical thinking costs us in real dollars, because it is partly due to the reasoning behind the deregulation of the market that has led to the financial meltdown we are currently facing. It will cost us, when all is said and done, close to a trillion dollars. Your children’s children will be paying for this mess.

But I’m getting off track.

In critical thinking, a fallacy is quite simply an argument which is not logically sound. Yesterday, I came across a discussion centered on the video floating around in which a young African-American man claims to be the father of Bristol Palin’s unborn child. This story got most of its traction from one of those abominable email forwards we all get that exemplify human ignorance.

Now here’s where the lack of critical thinking comes into play.

The post was a hoax. How do I know it was a hoax? Well, the young man who posted the video admitted it was a hoax. If you want to see some good examples of critical thinking, go to snopes.com. That’s where all email forwards go to die.

Here’s some critical thinking in action (as presented at snopes.com):

  • The individual claimed he was in Wasilla “last summer” (the summer of 2008). Since Bristol Palin was five months pregnant at the beginning of September 2008, her child had to have been conceived by the beginning of April 2008 — thus the young man would have arrived in Wasilla far too late to have fathered her child, as she was already expecting by the time of his visit.
  • The individual makes present tense reference to Bristol’s attending Wasilla High School and states that the two of them hung out there together. However, the principal at Wasilla High stated that Bristol had stopped attending that school several months earlier, having transferred mid-year to a high school in Anchorage. (“Bristol Palin, the 17-year-old daughter of Alaska governor and presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, attended the school until last year. She then transferred to another school, he said.”)
  • If the individual’s story could claim even the least bit of credibility (if, for example, some Wasilla residents remembered seeing him and Bristol together during the summer of 2008, as they surely would have if the two were dating), then it wouldn’t be just a viral web video; it would be national news. At the very least, the individual’s face would have been featured on tabloid covers under headlines such as “BRISTOL PALIN BABY SHOCKER!”
  • If even the Enquirer (which was the paper that threatened Palin with breaking the news story of her daughter’s pregnancy thus forcing her to disclose the pregnancy in the first place! Duh!!!) isn’t interested in your political sex scandal story, then you don’t really have a story.

In short, arguments supporting the story had no logic. Its premises didn’t support the conclusions. This should’ve been the end of it right?

Nope!

When presented to with critical thinking on the subject, some people reacted by stating some of the silliest defenses:

“He was paid off to say it was a hoax!”

“The story should be further investigated!”

Never mind that the story has already been effectively investigated, or that the person who committed the hoax has admitted to it. To hell with logic! LOL!

SMDH… This is why we’re now paying almost a trillion dollars to bail out the rich. It’s because we don’t use our ability to think critically.

Love,

Eddie

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