Monthly Archives: July 2008

On Critical Thinking

Teach Children How to Think for Themselves

This is the second time recently I have seen a call to teach children how to think, rather than what to think. Bill Harper’s book “The Atheist’s Guide to Religion” discussed teaching ethics and philosophy in schools and the Moral Maze article in The Sun-Herald ( 27/7/08 ) discusses teaching children how to think for themselves. copy available here

The Moral Maze article by Leslie Cannold discusses Intelligent Design / Creationism’s latest method to de-rail real science. A law passed recently in Louisiana requires

the education bureaucracy to assist schools that wish to help students “understand, analyse, critique, and review” scientific theories such as evolution, the origins of life, global warming and human cloning.

Whilst on the surface this sounds like a fairly noble concept – teaching students how to think – things are not quite what they seem. As Leslie says this is just another way to introduce “biblical principles into the classroom”. Similar to Expelled, which amongst other things claimed that some IDers had been persecuted for their views, they are trying to dress up academic freedom as a way to teach creationism.

Leslie continues on to explain how this new law could actually be turned to our (non theists) advantage. She argues that “Currently, primary and secondary school children are taught scientific content:” They are taught the conclusions (to all sorts of facts), but not how to reach those conclusions. It is not till university that “the methods used to reach conclusions [are] properly explained and used to critique answers to key questions”; and not everyone attends university.

Leslie quite rightly states:

No matter how widely accepted it is today, no theory – including evolution – is beyond question. The accumulation of enough counter-evidence, or the successful questioning of the method or logic used to develop the theory in the first place, will topple it in the sort of paradigm shift that makes academic careers and defines human progress. This is how reason and evidence-based systems, of which science is one, work.

So the creationists can try as hard as they like to topple any scientific theory, but they have to use proper reasoning and scientific methods. To date, no counter-evidence to evolution has passed any scientific scrutiny; saying god-did-it or god-might-have-done-it is not good enough.

Leslie concludes that by teaching children how to think, and how to decide what is right or wrong, “we won’t have to tell them that creationism, … , is not science, but religion.”

A Conflict

However, no matter how much critical thinking skills people are taught, someone will always lie to them. At least well educated people, taught how to think, are more likely to detect the lie.

But what happens when the questioner is told that it isn’t a lie, or told just to believe, or told to stop questioning the “authority” or else there will be dire consequences? What if that authority is a loved one, friend or family, (like parents lying to children about god, Santa or the tooth fairy)? As much as the questioner can use the skills they have been taught to critique the answers, there may still be doubts. After all this person (their parents) wouldn’t lie to them, would they? Perhaps they have got it wrong, perhaps they should just believe what the ‘authority’ is telling them.

This can cause all sorts of conflicts within the mind of the questioner; and some question Richard Dawkins’ quote about religious indoctrination being child abuse. I see this is as one of the biggest problems faced with reducing the affect of religious indoctrination of children by their parents and religious authority figures. The conflict between what you know is wrong and what your friends/family/authority figure/parents are telling you is true can be quite traumatic and difficult, especially for young children.

So, how do we teach people to cope with this conflict?

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A Tragedy bigger than mine

Hi all, I’m back.

I’ve just been reading about the shootings at a church in Knoxville Tennessee yesterday, due to which two people have now died. It is always a tragedy when someone goes on a shooting spree and kills or injures innocent people. Whilst the unfortunate event which happened to me recently (which I am still suffering from, and will be for a while) was, how can I say this politely, quite distressing. I guess at least I haven’t been shot and severely wounded or killed, like those poor unfortunate people in Tennessee.

My sympathy goes out to all those affected by this latest church shooting.

Interestingly at WSAZ.com they have an unconfirmed report from a neighbour who says

she has known church shooting suspect Jim D. Adkisson, 58, for a few years … that Adkisson has a problem with religion that stems from a childhood of being forced to attend church by his parents.

The neighbor says Adkisson believes the Bible contradicts itself.

Adkisson isn’t alone in being forced to attend church as a child or in believing the Bible contradicts itself. But hopefully no one else takes the radical action of taking those frustrations out by shooting church goers.

As the saying goes: there is always someone worse off than you. Which is easy to say, but not so easy to believe when the tragedy directly effects you.

 

Whilst I’m back blogging, my posting interval may be a bit erratic for a while, I still have a lot of things to sort out. Bear with me I’ll do my best, and expect to see me visiting your blogs as much as I can.

 

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Carnival of the Godless #96

The latest Carnival of the Godless is on over at Sean the Blogonaut’s. I have had a read of his top 5 and particularly liked Jeffrey Stingerstein’s Morality Is Not Objective. So What? and PhillyChief’s Zarathustra Test. If you haven’t already, why not head on over to Sean’s blog and check out some of the many other submissions.

This post is not my return to blogging, I’m not ready just yet, but keep those comments coming on my old posts. I’ll try very hard to answers everyone’s questions when I return, which is likely to be soon.

I also need to let everyone know that I am due to hold the 99th Carnival of the Godless on Sunday 31 August. So I intend to be back with a vengeance at least two weeks before hand. Stay tuned for more.

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rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated

Due to a serious personal crisis, I have had neither the time, energy or inclination to blog, or comment on other blogs and forums. Writing this is a struggle in itself, but I thought you deserved a reason for my absence.

I apologise to my loyal readers and anyone who comments here, especially any comments since Friday 27 June. I have not been avoiding you, I just don’t have the emotional fortitude to hold an in-depth rational argument with anyone at the moment. I also don’t feel up to critiquing current religious and political events, which is one of the reasons why there has been no new posts recently and may not be for a while. I do intend to return, so keep any eye out on my RSS feed, or for comments from me on other blogs.

To all the people whose blogs I frequently, and sometimes infrequently, comment at (see Blog Roll in side bar) and to various other sites and forums I comment at (Sean’s AFA forum in particular) I’ll be back. Till then, keep blogging and don’t think I’ve forgotten you.

Finally, please feel free to continue responding to any past post, or even this one, though I may not read your comments for a while (Note: I have, and will continue to, moderate comments as required but there may be a longer delay than usual).

You may also use this post as an open forum to discuss any topic you wish.

Cheers all

Oz

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