Overview – reason, critical thinking

We are witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world.  We are de-evolving…The Social Contract is the intellectual basis of all modern democratic republics, including oursA system which – for all its flaws – often managed to protect the rights of the many, against the predatory power of the few… Republicans and Tea Partiers may be leading this retreat from reason, but they are unopposed by Democrats or the Press. And in the end, there is a special place in Hell for those who allow evil to prosper by doing nothing. Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment by John Atcheson, Common Dreams, June 18, 2012

…the habit of asking critical questions can be taught. However, if you do not have a knowledge base from which to consider a situation, it is hard to think critically about it.  So ignorance often precludes effective critical thinking even if the technique is acquired… loyalty comes from myth-making and emotional bonds. In both cases, really effective critical thinking might well be incompatible with the desired end…The truth is that people who are consistently active as critical thinkers are not going to be popular, either with the government or their neighbors. The Decline of Critical Thinking, The Problem of Ignorance by Lawrence Davidson

…The world is messy and com­pli­cated, and under­stand­ing it often requires years of study and a will­ing­ness to con­sider evi­dence objec­tively regard­less of where it comes from. Yet the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment has increas­ingly become a hos­tile place for peo­ple who think for them­selves, no mat­ter how deeply they under­stand their subjects. While many aspects of pub­lic pol­icy are the sub­ject of gen­uine ide­o­log­i­cal dis­agree­ments, there are also many issues where experts really do know things the rest of the pub­lic does not. A party that sys­tem­at­i­cally favors ide­o­log­i­cally con­ve­nient argu­ments and mar­gin­al­izes dis­sent­ing voices will inevitably make costly mistakes…We should all hope the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment devel­ops a greater respect for exper­tise in the meantime. Conservatives’ Reality Problem by Tim­o­thy B. Lee

Why We Need New Ways of Thinking

Wisdom: The Forgotten Dimension? 

Critical thinking or ignorance

...about 37 percent of Americans are just are not very bright…reading anything even remotely complex or analytical is something only 42 percent of the population enjoy doing on a regular basis, which is why most TV shows, all reality shows, many major media blogs and all of Fox News is scripted for a 5th-grade education/attention span…The smarter you are, the less rigid/more liberal you become…37 Percent of People Don’t Have a Clue About What’s Going on By Mark Morford

…the habit of asking critical questions can be taught. However, if you do not have a knowledge base from which to consider a situation, it is hard to think critically about it.  So ignorance often precludes effective critical thinking even if the technique is acquired… loyalty comes from myth-making and emotional bonds. In both cases, really effective critical thinking might well be incompatible with the desired end…The truth is that people who are consistently active as critical thinkers are not going to be popular, either with the government or their neighbors. The Decline of Critical Thinking, The Problem of Ignorance by Lawrence Davidson

Creative and higher level thinking

“…America will not remain true to its highest ideals…if we don’t do a far better job than we’ve been doing of educating our sons and daughters; unless we give them the knowledge and skills they need in this new and changing world. For we know that economic progress and educational achievement have always gone hand in hand in America…The source of America’s prosperity has never been merely how ably we accumulate wealth, but how well we educate our people. This has never been more true than it is today…what’s at stake is nothing less than the American Dream…I’m calling on our nation’s governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that don’t simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test, but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking and entrepreneurship and creativity…” President Obama’s Remarks to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, March 10, 2009 -

Anti-intellectualism

…There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running think tanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies…they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses…former Republican ideologues, David Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics”. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”… wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism. Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid…The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left by George Monbiot, The Guardian/UK, February 7, 2012

The Willful Ignorance That Has Dragged the US to the Brink 

Truth and lies

A basic intent to be truthful, along with an assumption that people can be generally taken at their word, is required for all sustained civilized dealings…No civilization can tolerate a fixed expectation of dishonest communications without falling apart from a breakdown in mutual trust.… Our serious problem today is not simply that many people routinely tell lies…The problem now is that we seem to be reaching a dysfunctional tipping point in which an essential commitment to truthfulness no longer seems to be assumed in our society. If this is indeed the case, the danger is that the bonds of trust important in any society, and essential for a free and democratic one, will dissolve so that the kinds of discourse required to self-govern will become impossible. …As the Founders of our republic warned, the failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a lethal threat to any democracy. The Death of Honesty by William Damon

What Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On by Thom Hartmann CommonDreams.org, August 26, 2004

Shameless GOP Lies: Is There Any Limit to What Republicans Will Say — And What People Will Believe? 

US Running on Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions by John Atcheson

Will Republican Voters Believe Anything? The Right’s Hyperbolic, Dysfunctional World 

Positive or negative thinking

 GREED — and its crafty sibling, speculation — are the designated culprits for the financial crisis. But another, much admired, habit of mind should get its share of the blame: the delusional optimism of mainstream, all-American, positive thinking.
As promoted by Oprah Winfrey, scores of megachurch pastors and an endless flow of self-help best sellers, the idea is to firmly believe that you will get what you want, not only because it will make you feel better to do so, but because “visualizing” something — ardently and with concentration — actually makes it happen…Positive thinking is endemic to American culture — from weight loss programs to cancer support groups — and in the last two decades it has put down deep roots in the corporate world as well… Those who failed to get with the program would be subjected to personal “coaching” or shown the door…No one was psychologically prepared for hard times when they hit, because, according to the tenets of positive thinking, even to think of trouble is to bring it on.
When it comes to how we think, “negative” is not the only alternative to “positive.” As the case histories of depressives show, consistent pessimism can be just as baseless and deluded as its opposite. The alternative to both is realism — seeing the risks, having the courage to bear bad news and being prepared for famine as well as plenty. We ought to give it a try. The Power of Negative Thinking by Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times, September 24, 2008

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