Saturday, 16 July 2016

6 Ideas to Reduce Extremism

It seems like all of these senseless, extremist murders are carrying on without much being done about them.  I find it very  frustrating.  The following is a list of things I think should happen to reduce extremism:

1.  Every child should learn critical thinking at school.  This will teach them to challenge what they're being taught, and understand how their minds can deceive them, e.g. basing their beliefs on emotions, rather than logic and evidence.

2.  We need a new kind of social network; the opposite of a dating site, where instead of being matched with people like you, you're matched with people who are completely different to you.  In Facebook and Meetup we join groups with like minded people, and we keep contact with those people.  We need to diversify, and make friends with people of different races, languages, sexual preferences, etc.

3.  We need to invent better technology to overcome language barriers, e.g. gadgets like Pilot.  Facebook does an okay job of translating foreign languages, so people can type in their own language and others can read it in theirs.

4.  We shouldn't have schools based on specific religions.  Now, I know you're thinking "But my religion is the one true religion and we should get rid of schools that follow other religions, but not mine."  My counter argument is that is exactly why there shouldn't be specific religious schools;  No-one is going to learn about your religion if you're isolating it from the rest of the world.  It would be better for all schools to teach about all the major religions, covering evidence for and against them, and then the children can use the critical thinking skills which they learned at school to decide, based on the evidence, which is the right religion and obviously they'll choose yours.

5.  The use of intellect, rather than bombs.  The group, Anonymous, showed us an example, where they disabled extremist websites.

6.  We need a democratic way of making changes in other parts of the world, not just in our own country, e.g. Democratic Intelligence.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Monday, 30 May 2016

Why I Am Passionate About Critical Thinking

If I were to spend all my time promoting one change in the world, it would be for all children to learn critical thinking.

If you don't know what critical thinking is, you may wish to read my blog post on critical thinking first.

I think of critical thinking as the foundation of knowledge.  While not all knowledge requires critical thinking, like learning a language or perhaps art, other important subjects like science and medicine would be complete nonsense without it.

Maybe I should start by painting a picture of what I imagine the world would be like today if critical thinking did not exist...

If critical thinking didn't exist, no product would ever need to be proven, so one could sell anything, no matter what it is, regardless of whether or not it worked.  One would simply have to advertise it.  Any old piece of junk could be considered a working vehicle.  You pay your hard earned money for it, and if it doesn't fly, you simply don't have enough faith.  Medicine would consist of pills containing nothing but coloured water, and if you died while taking them, well then maybe they just didn't work for you, because some people who took the same pills were actually still alive.  We would all be members of cults, knocking on the doors of the evil, lost infidels (everyone who is in a different cult) day and night.  On the plus side, at least no-one would ever leave our cult, so we would never have to stone them to death or blow them up for doing so.  We might or might not believe in global warming, depending on which side of the debate we'd have heard first, and if we did, we would have believed it was caused by aliens and the only way to stop it was to pray to Deity Bob, or give all of the money we earned from our job as armpit hair reading fortune tellers to one of Deity Bob's infallible priests.

Actually this doesn't sound much different from some of the crazy things going on in the world.  I imagine a world without critical thinking to be the one that existed just a couple of centuries ago.  Medicine was just water (homeopathic), and doctors didn't really cure people.  They didn't even know what germs were.  They did crazy things like drain people's blood to try to cure them.  Sickness was blamed on evil spirits.  It was common for women to die giving birth, or for the baby to die, and therefore the average life expectancy was 30 to 40 years.  Women were tortured and burned for supposedly being witches, and if you dared disagree with a holy book and say the earth was not the flat centre of the universe, then you were in serious trouble.  None of the vaccines we have today existed, so people had to worry about dying of smallpox, or contracting polio.

Being a critical thinker, I'll also consider the negative side of critical thinking, like perhaps it's more fun to believe in aliens, conspiracies and flying spaghetti monsters, and forming social groups with equally deluded individuals and then going out and protesting against things that don't exist.  Perhaps some people enjoy living under a rock.  Or perhaps some people have a concern about morality.  There are many religions which provide their own version of morality, promising extreme and eternal torture to those who do not follow these moral rules.
Critical thinkers tend to eventually agree on most things, because they're all using the same, effective method to arrive at their conclusions.  If we were all perfect critical thinkers, we'd eventually find ourselves uniting in thought about deities and religions.  It does mean that eventually only the single, evidence based viewpoint would remain, eliminating all other moral rules.  I don't see that as a bad thing.  The vast majority of people consider their actions to be justified.  Even Hitler probably considered himself to be an extremely good person, justifying his actions based on his beliefs.  If we were all critical thinkers, it would mean that we would be honest with ourselves and we'd have to justify our actions based on reality.  I have personally learned to see other living beings as myself, in the same way that I am also my past and future self, which I think, is a better moral compass than simply fearing the ramifications of not following a set of rules.

In a future where critical thinking is taught in every school, I believe that extremism could disappear.  I like to think we would move away from left wing and right wing governments towards systems that work based on testing, simulations and evidence.  We could be united across the globe and find much more in common with our fellow living beings, perhaps even finding that country borders no longer matter and that war is simply stupid.  Homeopaths, psychics and other deceivers would find themselves out of the job and we'd have purely evidence based medicine and vaccines that we can use to eradicate the world of some diseases.  We would no longer fear things that don't exist, or protest against conspiracies that never happened.

Well, that's my ideological dream.  For now I'm just happy that none of my Facebook friends have shared "Spirit Science" and Deepak Chopra posts in a while!

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