Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Critical Thinking Gap

So, while dinner's in the oven, here's a quick one.

 I set out on Facebook to see where I could find examples of critical thinking skills at work in people's reposts... I sort of found what I was looking for- well, by that I mean I found where critical thinking skills are lacking... which is a lot more common than where they actually, you kow, are.

 The difficulty with critical thinking is that given the impact that Dunning-Kruger theory has (to summarize, the more stupid someone is, the more likely they are to overestimate their intelligence),and how the internet has given a voice to a billion people who really, really should just shut the hell up, critical thinking is hated while groupthink is praised. I've long believed that the results of group thinking is based on the average intelligence of the lowest-intelligence cohort in the group. If you have 10 people working on a project, all pushing for inclusion in leadership, the quality of the output will be based on the intelligence of the 3 least intelligent people in the group.

 Life is hell. And so is the internet.

 Critical thinking, on the other hand, often makes you keep your mouth shut when people are talking, because you have to assess what they're saying, and arguing with an idiot is sometimes not worth the effort. Ever read the comments of a Vox or Mother Jones article?  I could eat scrabble tiles and shit out a more intelligent comment... and at other times, you gain perspective on an issue you really don't like, and having to take in good information that runs against your natural bias is HARD. And that certainly can be a challenge, but to think critically, it has to be done.

  People don't LIKE being told they're wrong. If a bunch of assbags get into a circle jerk of self-support, they get downright hostile when you tell them they're wrong, or misled, or whatever kind way you have of telling them not to be a bunch of fuckin' chumps.  It's like listening to a Reiki practitioner. You think any of them actually believe that shit? Of course they don't, except for the one poor sap who has synesthesia and sees shit when they hear shit. They actually have a reason, however wrong, to believe that they actually do see something. I mean, they really do see colors, it's just that they're seeing shit that doesn't actually exist.
 And fuck, you can do that too if you poison yourself right and cause visual hallucinations. Drink a bottle of whisky after running 5 miles on a summer day. You'll see colors too, before you die I mean.

 Just to prove a point and provide some fun trivia about the value of critical thinking, and also the disdain for critical thinking that so many posess, Let's look at ancient Chinese medicine... which in reality dates back less than 100 years.
 Yeah, that ancient Chinese medicine shit? It's fake, about 99.8%. Most Chinese remedies available in the west are Asafetida or other strong smelling plant with some sort of other green leaves added and some sort of water-medium protein or chalk added as a binder.  Chicken broth concentrate is popular too (it's Jewish Penicillin!). A few things work ok- not as good as lightning-in-a-bottle discoveries like the value of Willow bark (aspirin) and Foxglove (digitalis), but stuff like St. John' Wort, which sort of helps, some, unless it kills you, of course. I'm sure there are some things that work a bit, but, say, going out and eating all the yarrow off your lawn's weed spots can get you to vomit if you want to vomit, but the western way, sticking your finger down your throat, works better.
Look up Mao's 'Barefoot Doctors' and not the bullshit fanboi Wikipenis entry, but the critical "Give them faith in their weeds and dirt because there's too many to treat with real medicine," of the Mao regime. Greatest scam of the last 500 years.  And it still works! How many people spend $40 on 'Cleanse' or 'Detoxify' pills.  Yeah... Cleansing? Kaolin or an equivalent baby laxative, and maybe some bentonite, a mineral that expands massively and makes a rubbery gel when it gets wet.  So you take your pills, and you get either a touch of diarrhea or take a massive rubbery dump that you spent $40 on but which you could have copied with a couple of tablespoons of mineral oil at about 20 cents, and now you need to go out and buy a new plunger, too.

 Well, at least they're not placebos. Detox and cleansing pills may be a scam, but they really will make you shit yourself empty. I'm not going to get into the detox myth too much, since others have done better already, and if you're a true believer in psuedoscience, you won't like me telling you otherwise anyhow, which is my whole point. 

 Oh, and Acupuncture? Also completely fake, and less than two centuries old, except that like eating dirt and sticks and bugs, the Placebo effect is a thing, so it can work... until you know that it only works via the placebo effect, when it no longer works. Like believing in Santa.

 So, I just ruined acupuncture for you forever. Hahaha. Sorry.
 See? My point is that Critical Thinking is powerful, and people don't like it.



The Big Guy said...

If you hate the Groupthink concept and practice, Facebook is mild compared to the nightmarish echo chamber that is Reddit...
(If you're not familiar, steer clear, it's a monumental shithole.)

STxAR said...

I earned a BS degree. Required Calculus, Physics, Statics and Dynamics, Strength of Materials, Electronics, Rotating Electrical Machinery, Welding and Machine Tool labs. But I didn't get the critical thinking education I needed/wanted. I got that listening to the radio....

Entertainment is okay in small doses but gets in the way when you want to learn. I listened to a couple of real sharp guys on the radio and studied how they argued and thought. I guess I've listened to one of them for almost 10 years now. I learned quite a bit, and my wife even noticed the difference in our discussions. I still have a long way to go tho. But it's funny to hear one of them make an argument that I can refute using tools I learned from him!

That said, I find the most enlightening thing is to contrast 2 positions. I state my position, then get you to accurately state yours. Then we explore the positions. Most of the time, no debate is needed to reach a consensus.