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!

Image credits:


No comments:

Post a Comment