Critical Thinking in a Confused World

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by Derrick Krane

I had a laptop sticker which stated you can’t co-exist with suicide bombers. I thought this was pretty much self-evident. I was working on the latest writing job at a café I frequent. The coffee is akin to old motor oil, in other words, it is superb, the young ladies who serve the coffee are beautiful and friendly, the Wi-Fi connection is reliable, and you can loiter there for hours to get work done.

But it also is a gathering place for liberals. A couple sitting across from me stared at me fixedly. On the way out, the woman said over her shoulder you can’t live with MOAB’s or Drones either. ) Note that these people have all the balls in the world on-line; less so in person). Anyhow, ummm… that’s the idea. I do not want terrorists living.

Then I thought about what she said, and looked up some information from a number of sources on drone strikes (most of which were done under the administration of the liberal hero Barrack Hussein Obama). Drones such as the Predator and its big brother, the Reaper took out terrorists with hellfire missiles.  They also took out civilians who may have not been connected to the terrorists and wanted nothing to do with politics, or live under fear and oppression in Taliban or Al-Qaeda held territory.

I concluded that our government, the decision makers who authorize drone strikes need to discriminate more between combatants and those who are in the way. Yes, I know it is easy for me to say this in the comfort of the aforementioned café, and I am not making complex and hard decisions about life and death, but we are supposed to be the good guys.

What this comes down to, is this woman, who held a belief system which was apparently the polar opposite of mine, made me think and question my beliefs, and explore. This is called dialectical thinking. It involves accepting and integrating contradictions and inconsistencies in the world and in your life into your belief system. It is about seeing the gray instead of only black and white. It seems like there is a predominance of black and white thinking, and consequences for failing to conform to this thinking. Examples:

  • The left, in its very finite wisdom, wants to abolish ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement). This would be disastrous. Saner people want to rename, re-brand, and restructure Better. This is something to look at; maybe changes should be made in ICE.
  • In a small New England city, F-35A Lightening II multi-role strike fighters are supposed to be arriving in 2019 to replace the aging F -16C Fighting Falcons. The libs have been going insane since this was announced in about 2012 because “they will be too noisy”.  F the 35, no F-35’s and so on. Saner heads are advocating basing C-130J Hercules Cargo aircraft  here instead. OK, maybe this is something to talk about. Mature adults are supposed to negotiate, not throw a tantrum when they don’t get their way.

Personally I love the sound of roaring turbofan engines, and I hope to get some good photos when the F-35’s arrive. See the vid below:

Norms & Roles

Norms are unwritten guidelines, rules, and standards which make our interactions with others more orderly and predictable. Roles are a position in society regulated by norms about how a person should act. Violation of these norms and roles will produce discomfort, both in ourselves and others.

Most people have traditionally conformed their behavior to norms and roles, most of the time, to avoid social rejection. We are living in a dangerous time. Social norms as basic as the concept of differences between man and woman are breaking down.

Too many people are accepting new doctrine without question. Even more frightening, free speech is being steadily eroded, and questioning doctrines is being punished. How has this breakdown of norms come about, and how can we understand it?

Conformity vs. Non-Conformity

Conformity has its positive and negative aspects:  It allows people to feel connected to one another promotes smooth social functioning, goal achievement, and cooperation But conformity also suppresses creative thinking and may encourage us to do things which are self-destructive or harmful to ourselves or others.

People who do not conform to the norms of a particular group are labeled as deviant. The group may try to educate them in the norms of the group, or try to punish them, in order to promote conformity. If this does not work, deviants may be removed from the group through shunning, termination of employment, or in extreme cases, incarceration or execution.

Traditional norms which have worked for decades, centuries, or even millennia are eroding, degrading, or being torn down. Roles have become confused. We are entering a state of anomie; which is a society without norms. Things are moving so fast, there is so much momentum in the information explosion in the internet, that we are bombarded with change and trends. Too many people are embracing these trends without any thought of the consequences.

Barriers to Critical thinking

  • Information bias, aka Confirmation bias

Our beliefs are our most precious and cherished possessions. We tend to get very defensive when they are challenged, especially if we feel our grip on them is tenuous. We over-commit to one idea without adequately exploring others, or testing our beliefs for validity.

We tend to seek information that confirms our beliefs and avoid information which contradicts it. This is part of human nature; I do it, we have all done it. The ability to critically analyze is important to overcome this flaw in our decision making process and is part of being a good thinker.

  • The Availability Heuristic

This is a social psychology concept which states that we tend to accept the information we are most frequently presented with as factual or valid. We are under an information onslaught these days. The media sets off avalanches of information which we are buried under. Digging your way out is an arduous task.

  • The Google Bubble

Google is the dominant search engine in the world. Google tracks and records your searches, and over time. Google filters your searches to provide you with the information which you re most likely seeking, based on your past searches.

While this may make searching for information faster and more efficient; it also places you in a self-reinforcing information bubble. This means a vast amount of information will never reach you. This information, outside your bubble may contradict your beliefs.

  • The Echo Chamber

This is a real life Google bubble. We tend to surround ourselves with people who have the same beliefs we have, which reinforces our belief system. Their words resonate with us. Wow I have always felt the same way, I have said that before. I have thought the same thing. This validates our point of view and strengthens our belief system.

The Result of this bombardment can be:

  • Kool-Aid Drinking

In 1983, Rev. Jim Jones induced almost 1000 people to kill themselves by drinking a grape flavored soft drink (it was actually grape Flavor-Ade, a different brand name) laced with the sedatives Valium, Phenergan and Chloral Hydrate, and the poison cyanide.

Most obeyed. Those who did not were shot as they refused or attempted to flee. Those who were armed then willingly drank the poison, or shot themselves. Rev. Jones died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In the end, 909 men, women and children, and even babies were dead. Drinking the Koo-Aid has become an expression to indicate mindless obedience to doctrine, even to the point of self-destruction. Thinking for yourself instead of drinking the Kool-Aid.

  • Lemmings and marching off the cliff

Lemmings are small blonde and black haired hamster –like rodents who live in Arctic regions. A myth is that they commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs into the ocean. They don’t actually do that. But Lemmings have become synonymous with groupthink.

  • Brainwashing

We are all subjected to brainwashing on a regular basis. The most effective form of brainwashing is when you don’t even realize it is happening. Advertisers work hard to change our emotions, the way we think, how we perceive things, and our behavioral choices.

The mainstream media influences our emotions, thoughts, perception, and behavior. The media is not there to educate or inform but to influence decision making. Look at a news broadcast from the mid-1980’s, or earlier, compared with a contemporary news report. The difference is striking. Facts were reported; the audience drew their own conclusion, and made their own decisions. Today, we are taught how to think and what we can say.

The steps of brainwashing are:

  1. Select a target
  2. Isolate the target
  3. Foster dependence in the target by attacking self esteem
  4. Erase the individuality of the target
  5. Devalue those outside the group
  6. Saturate with doctrine and repetition of messages
  7. Punish and reward to modify behavior
  8. Make suggestions, then demands
  9. Use for own ends as desired

Break the Bubble: Becoming a Critical Thinker

I teach part time at a college. In every course, I emphasize critical thinking. Therefore, I was aghast to hear this from a student halfway through the semester. She was horrified at a YouTube video she saw of cola being poured over a raw pork chop and worms emerging. This is a YouTube prank that has been circulating for years:

There are even parodies of someone dumping a can of cola over a pork chop, an obvious cut away, and then gummy worms are scattered all over it in the next scene. That someone would believe whatever they see on a YouTube without question distresses me after lengthy and repeated discussions about critical thinking.

  1. Assume nothing, question everything
  2. Check multiple sources, looking for overall consistent answers. A basic premise of statistics is that reliability is increased by taking repeated measure.
  3. Look at information which contradicts and challenges your belief system

It starts in the education system. Young people are not being taught science, statistics and probability, and critical thinking. Instead, they are exposed to social justice indoctrination, and critical thinking is actively suppressed.

Young people graduate high school without an understanding of basic scientific principles, economics, literature, history, or how to function in the adult world. I have heard the outcome of this among licensed mental health professionals that I work with, who have no grasp of statistics, probability, science, or analytical and critical thinking.

But ask most of them about some social justice issue and they are experts. Mental health professionals and educators are bombarded with social justice rhetoric of increasing toxicity. This is done at the exclusion of how to actually do your job. A colleague was complaining that interns do not have basic skills and theoretical knowledge; he has to teach them the basics they should have learned in undergraduate, and definitely should have learned in graduate school.

If you dare questions these social justice doctrines, at best, will be isolated from and shunned by your peers, (I have few friends in the mental health profession, and none I can think of in Academia, but many in Corrections) at worst terminated (this has happened once, and been threatened twice), and your life threatened along with the life of your family (not so far, but waiting for it).

I have long said you can hold any opinion you want, as long as it is the right one. Deviate from the current political doctrine, and you are a heretic, and can become unemployable. I got out of clinic life and into private practice years ago as I could not tolerate the bullshit from the left majority any longer.

The last straw was when we received an email telling us not to say Merry Christmas as we might offend someone who did not celebrate Christmas. Are you kidding? Fuck yourself.

And are you ready for this one: We were told by the same source not to use the term’s “clean” or “dirty” in reference to the results of a patients drug toxicology screen. We had to day positive or negative. I guess this was so the urine wouldn’t feel badly about itself. This place was, and still is a dog and pony show which has focused on social justice matters to the exclusion of patient care. No wonder people are screwed up, when the caregivers are more out of touch with reality than the patients.

  • Avoiding Lather, Rinse, Repeat Thinking

If you are a young person who is college bound, or attending college, think carefully about what you are being taught. Here are some thoughts on academia and brainwashing in the videos below:

  1. Don’t believe everything you are told; Be skeptical
  2. Think for yourself, and question trends. Just because everyone is doing it, does that mean it is a great idea? Remember what Lemmings supposedly do, and What Jim Jones’ followers actually did?
  3. Digest instead of regurgitating information
  • The 10th man

“ After several disasters that NO ONE thought could happen, the Council decided that if a vote was unanimous against a possible outcome, one member would act as if it was ABSOLUTELY going to happen, and trying to prevent it. This way, if they have a Crisis, one man is prepared for it, and assumes directorship of the council for the duration of the crisis”

The Tenth Man Doctrine:

“If ten people are in a room, and nine agree on how to interpret and respond to a Situation, the tenth man must disagree. His duty is to find the best possible argument for why the decision of the group is flawed”

-World War Z

Before making changes in your life — think like the tenth man. Try to find evidence to disprove your ideas If you find evidence against the idea, it’s worth waiting before making any drastic changes. Do what researchers call rejecting the null hypothesis: Assume you are wrong, and try to prove yourself wrong.

“Whenever you’re presented with a new claim, especially a strange one that seems improbable, the burden of proof is on the person making the new claim”

  • Devil’s Advocate

The Devil’s advocate

This is another form of testing the null hypothesis, or trying to prove yourself wrong. This is about internally challenging your own beliefs, distressing though it may be, and challenging the beliefs of those around you for the common good.

‘“The Vatican used to have the Devil’s Advocate. During canonization, which is Part of the selection of people for elevation to sainthood, somebody is selected to play Devil’s Advocate. Their job is to cast doubt on the person’s character. They also try to prove that the miracles required for canonization are Fraudulent and so on”

Conclusion

The cost of mindless obedience and abdication of one’s free will was written in blood in the 20th century:

  • Six million, (by a conservative estimate) Jews, were killed under the rule of Adolph Hitler and a followers who obeyed him without question.
  • 15-30 million more Russian Jews and political dissidents were killed in the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin.
  • Three million political dissidents, intellectuals, the educated, the literate, and the nearor far-sighted in Cambodia by Pol Pot.
  • 300,000 political dissidents in Uganda by Idi Amin Dada

The consequences of unregulated group-think can be catastrophic. It seems we are drawing closer and closer to it every day. Push back.

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