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Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:00 pm
A Cry From the Heart explains how our personal worldviews affect our ability to perceive and discern, and how inherited mindsets inhibit our ability to think critically today.
Above is the description of your essay. But there is a conflict. You can't claim to be utilizing the tools of critical thinking to form the conclusion that critical thinking is a worthless endeavor, and that all beliefs are created equally. Which one is it, Lawrence?
Critical thinking is the art of analyzing and evaluating thinking with a view to improving it.
The very essence of critical thinking is that not all beliefs, statements, arguments, premises and conclusions are equally reasonable or valid. This is what the field of critical thinking is about, so if you are claiming to be working towards improving critical thinking skills you must embrace the very core principle of critical thinking itself, which is that every statement needs to be examined and evaluated. Whenever I hear you talk about your essay, or more importantly, the conclusions of your essay, I hear you arguing the very opposite position, and that being that we should throw our hands up in the air and stop judging or comparing all the beliefs of the world, because they're all nothing but beliefs and beliefs are beliefs and beliefs are all on a big completely flat playing field. They're all equal. Well, if this is your argument you are basically telling every lawyer, detective, judge, scientist and critical thinking educator that they need to quit their jobs today because there are engaged in futility.
In my above post Theist #1, who believes that a deity exists, is much safer in a critical thinking debate than Theist #2 who has assigned contradictory characteristics to his God. For the most part, the moment a person opens their mouth and shares their beliefs they have now subjected their beliefs to scrutiny.
I think where you're going astray is that you're assuming that the objects of all beliefs are subjective in nature. But this isn't the case at all. Whether a God exists or doesn't exist is completely objective. If a God exists he exists whether or not people believe in him. Disagree? Well, according to the Christian world religion God created mankind, which means God existed prior to humans existing, so clearly no human willed God into existence. God existed prior and independent of belief. See what I just did? I thought critically about a statement of belief and showed that the idea that God exists independently of belief is more logical than the idea that God exists subjectively. Sure, some people believe and some people don't believe in a God, but that doesn't change the reality of whether or not a God exists.
If we were talking about our beliefs about the beauty or lack of beauty of the Mona Lisa then you'd be correct. Both of us have our own ideas of beauty and they aren't necessarily the same, but when you change the discussion from one of a subjective nature to one of an objective nature our beliefs can then be examined critically. If you believe the Mona Lisa exists and I believe the Mona Lisa is a fairy tale and never really existed in any tangible form we would both be expressing beliefs. More than likely, neither of us has ever seen the original Mona Lisa and never will see it. So our statements are indeed statements of belief, but both beliefs don't have an equal probability of being correct. There is a tremendous amount of evidence supporting the claim that the Mona Lisa exists as an element of objective reality, even though, for all intents and purposes I cannot prove this to you.
Ahh, but we're talking about the existence of a god and not of a painting. Absolutely no difference. The moment a theist says anything that can be examined critically the critical thinker is NOT acting nutty if he or she actually examines and evaluates the claim critically. You seem to be arguing that we should show equal respect for all beliefs and I am saying that this line of reasoning would never work in the real world where daily we are forced to make educated decisions about whether or not a claim is valid.
Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:06 pm
You are presenting your arguments with perfect clarity. I obviously am not.
I try to show in my essay that practically everything we think we know is actually a belief. That's for starters. When we dialogue about our beliefs, in anything: 1. If we are trying to convince our compadre our belief is accurate and he/she should agree, we are arguing inside the eggshell wherein there is no resolution. 2. If we are trying to explain what we believe because it helps clarify our thoughts to do so, we are outside the eggshell. I am free to believe what ever I want and I don't have to justify to anyone that my belief makes sense to anyone else.
That is our reality now. That is how we are living now. Either inside or outside the eggshell. (You may recall I think most everyone is inside the eggshell.)
Don't beat yourself up on this. Maybe when you read the essay as it is rewritten my point will become clear. I do love our time together. Iron sharpens iron. Lawrence
Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:07 pm
....my mommy and daddy believe in the lime green god. All of my aunts and uncles believe in the lime green god. Everyone in my nation believe in the lime green god. Who are you to say my lime green god is not rational.
I purposely used the lime green God because it is indeed something we can evaluate. Who am I to say your lime green god is not rational? Well, I'm an effective thinker and any effective thinker can tell you that the idea that god is made of lime green Jell-O is crazy. I know that Jell-O has a history that started long after our planet was born. Jell-O was created and didn't exist prior to it being formulated in a lab.
http://inventors.about.com/library/inve ... ljello.htm
A critical thinker can then discard the claim that God is made out of lime green Jell-O as impossible. Make sense? So if you believe God is made of lime green Jell-O you cannot claim to have a sensible religious belief. Truthfully, all religions on this planet can be ripped apart with very basic critical thinking skills and Guy P. Harrison does an outstanding job of doing so.
Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:18 pm
I want to continue our discussion but I'm obligated to do something else now. later, Lawrence PS Harrison's a lightweight.
Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:18 pm
I try to show in my essay that practically everything we think we know is actually a belief.
I'll agree with you on this, but not all beliefs are equally valid or probable. Some beliefs are reasonable while others have absolutely zero chance of being valid. Don't believe me? Just ask and I'll creatively name you 3 beliefs that just can't be true. It will be fun.
1. If we are trying to convince our compadre our belief is accurate and he/she should agree, we are arguing inside the eggshell wherein there is no resolution.
But there is resolution. That is what the entire field of critical thinking is about. We can and should evaluate claims, arguments and beliefs, and when these examined claims, arguments and beliefs can be shown to be logically inconsistent we should discard them as invalidated. This is what scientists do when they form a hypothesis and then rip it apart through rigorous testing. If it doesn't hold up under fire they discard it, as you should with all proposed beliefs. Throw them in the garbage as trash if they don't make sense. If the proponent of the discarded belief wants to dig it out of the trash can, wipe it clean and repackage it as a revised claim or belief then we should put the newly revised claim or belief back through the same rigourous critical examination. But stay near the garbage can.
2. If we are trying to explain what we believe because it helps clarify our thoughts to do so, we are outside the eggshell. I am free to believe what ever I want and I don't have to justify to anyone that my belief makes sense to anyone else.
You've found a nice analogy or metaphor that works for you. But I'm going to move past this eggshell thing because I am not comfortable talking about beliefs that reside inside or outside of an egg.
I am free to believe what ever I want and I don't have to justify to anyone that my belief makes sense to anyone else.
Being free to do something doesn't make it sensible to do so. I am free to smash my toe with a hammer, but I'd really struggle to pursuade my neighbor that he ought to smash his toe with a hammer too. Are you arguing about the RIGHT to believe or what IS right to believe?
Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:24 pm
PS Harrison's a lightweight.
Ok, this is your belief. Now sell me on it.
reasoning is not judged by the rules of pitching horseshoes
Posted: Tue Sep 16, 2008 1:26 pm
Chris said a mile back:
I'm struggling to find the right words. This is why I'm hoping someone more articulate jumps in here and joins the discussion. But you're making a huge mistake in reasoning.
I think I may have discovered the stump in your thinking. You are talking as though reasoning is judged by the same rules as pitching horseshoes. If you are closer to being accurate you are better than one who pitched way off the post. There is no post to measure against in personal reasoning about beliefs.
Using your reasoning, those who propose String Theory to explain the universe can now claim, because of the CERN collider that will enable men to see N -21st power, that they are closer to being right because the string will be seen at N -35th power. (A trillion times a trillion smaller than an atom.)
Those who reject the String Theory see no relevance that being closer to seeing adds to the current validity of the theory. I believe this dialogue is most respectful but both sides are attempting to establish fact and so right now they are both inside the eggshell.
To continue my response Chris said:
Can you at least agree with me that some beliefs are pretty wacky?
Of course Chris, but that and 2$ can buy a latte coffee. That you and I agree does not establish the truth or falsity of a belief.
You're using "dogma" in place of "belief about God." So swap them out and I hear you saying, "My belief about God is better than your belief about God." Are we together at this point?
Yes, we are as one.
But here comes your horseshoe logic
Would you not agree that my belief about God is more logical, rational and probable than your belief about God? Don't you see that all beliefs aren't equally probable?
Only if you are the judge. And that is exactly what you do. That is what we all do. You judge beliefs for yourself to use in making decisions. I don't want someone else making my decisions for me by telling me which of my beliefs are more or less probable than the speaker's beliefs.
I think that's enough for now.
PS Harrison's a lightweight because Thomas Hood and Robert said so. So there, my belief is closer to the pole than yours.
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:50 am
Well Lawrence, we can just drop this and move on, but I seriously don't understand what you're saying.
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 8:16 am
I awakened this morning with this thought. You understand I'm saying all beliefs are equal. I believe I'm saying all beliefs are personal. Some beliefs may indeed be or prove to be accurate, some are not, but until a belief becomes knowledge (fact), in the mind of the believer it is still just a belief. I hope it is not my obdurate attitude that kept you up until 1:50 this morning.
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 8:51 am
First of all you should see a skilled doctor if you have anything even remotely obdurate. What the heck does that word mean? LOL No, real estate kept me up till 5:00 am. But business is picking up and I am not complaining.
so much to learn so little time
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 10:34 am
6 dictionary results for: obdurate
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This
ob·du·rate [ob-doo-rit, -dyoo-] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
Because I don't believe Lawrence is obdurate...
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 8:47 pm
I am going to do this although it's frightening to me. Last night I read this whole string and thought about it (well, I may have mainly felt about it, irresponsible a pastime though that is, I admit). I wrote a fairly long installment of my Opus. (There. Now you're as scared as I am and it's fair). I have not the arrogance to put it here in the string, but I made a first Blog entry of it and because it could also have been entitled, "The Lime Jello God of My Daddy: Some Unitelligible Maunderings," I want to admit here that it exists and that I hope Lawrence at least will read it (because he isn't obdurate and so I think he'll understand; I hope he'll find it to be personally, if not functionally a support in the debate.) Oh, and don't worry. I didn't choose "In Love" as the mood for personal reasons involving any of y'all. It was just the closest thing to it out of the choices. I would have said, Sacred Angst. But I always exaggerate, worse than Daffy Duck.
Also, Penelope was right. Reincarnation was a standard part of Christian thinking until the Council of Nicea (I've probably spelled it wrong and you won't believe me...) explicitly made it a heresy in the fifth century AD. It wasn't before. Lots of early Christians believed in it.
Posted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:13 pm
Chris OConnor wrote:
The very essence of critical thinking is that not all beliefs, statements, arguments, premises and conclusions are equally reasonable or valid. This is what the field of critical thinking is about
Chris, I'm sure this is generally true, but isn't critical thinking also in essence an applied skill that we use with varying degrees of success in daily life? That's what it is to me, anyway. Now to use this skill well, to what extent do beliefs that we might profess impinge on us? To what extent, that is, do they cut us off from being able/willing to think critically? I strongly feel that just because, by some independent analysis, a person's beliefs might be judged irrational (take the "standard" Christian beliefs as an example, if you wish), does not mean that person has any less ability to use critical thinking than one who professes no such beliefs. Of course it may
be the case that religious belief gets in the way of critical thinking, but the non-believer has no lock on rational thinking, either.
What I'd assert is that we should judge another's critical thinking in action. The extent to which he/she might profess irrational religious beliefs really has no necessary bearing on ability to get along in the discipline of critical reasoning. There are, after all, numerous examples of "religious" people who can more than hold their own in rational discussion on a variety of topics.
Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 8:33 am
DWill wrote:just because, by some independent analysis, a person's beliefs might be judged irrational (take the "standard" Christian beliefs as an example, if you wish), does not mean that person has any less ability to use critical thinking than one who professes no such beliefs.
I don't agree. If a person believes something that has been proven to be impossible, such as the virgin birth, that belief corrupts their entire capacity to think critically, undermining their ability to base their opinions upon evidence. Once we throw away the requirement for evidence in one area we are on a slippery slope to irrationality. As Voltaire said, who believes absurdities permits atrocities. In the sad case of the Roman Catholic church, their absurdities have produced a dogmatic rigidity which may be adaptive in the short term but is not sustainable.
Of course it may be the case that religious belief gets in the way of critical thinking, but the non-believer has no lock on rational thinking, either.
This is a good point, in that the 'non-believer' also must have beliefs as well. We all have to use our judgement to form opinions about matters for which we lack sufficient evidence, such as whether to make investments. The risk is that baseless opinions can easily crystallise into firm belief.
Posted: Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:52 am
Robert Tulip wrote:I don't agree. If a person believes something that has been proven to be impossible, such as the virgin birth, that belief corrupts their entire capacity to think critically, undermining their ability to base their opinions upon evidence. Once we throw away the requirement for evidence in one area we are on a slippery slope to irrationality.
I don't agree
. I do not have these beliefs, so I'm not able to say, "Look at me, I'm
not irrational" (that would be risky anyway).
But just from knowing and knowing about people who are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc., I can say that there is no basis to impugn their critical thinking ability. As I tried to say, judge this ability in action, not by exhuming someone's store of beliefs and then attacking it
as demonstrating a lack of critical thinking.
I realize that we come here to a very hard point of saying when a "belief" is really a belief. In other words, does profession of belief necessarily equate to mental commitment? Does Barrack Obama, seemingly a supremely rational man and a professsed Christian, really
believe that Jesus rose from the dead? If he does, I suppose I would be surprised. Then I would agree with you that his critical thinking might be more likely to be colored than in someome without this belief. But he appears to have no such thinking problem. Could he then be guilty of hypocrisy? I suppose, but tend to think not. It is easy enough to view the resurrection metaphorically. And hypocrisy isn't always so bad.
I think many overestimate the force of so-called beliefs, becoming quite alarmed at their very mention. There is often a compartmentalization that happens, in any case, regarding religious beliefs, tending to wall them off from affecting people's daily decision-making.