Saturday, January 21, 2012

Critical Thinking Sucks

Critical thinking is such a bother. Seriously, it's a pain in the ass. The hardest part about it is the letting go of sacred cows. Everything can be scrutinized, critiqued, and if deemed unfit, discarded. No idea, thought, belief or opinion is beyond reproach. That's not an easy lifestyle to maintain, and I think it's important that we understand that. Let's not fool ourselves: we play favorites. Even those of us who understand the value of reason wrestle with bias and our personal desires.

Critical thinking is difficult. No one wants to be wrong, and when we are presented with an idea or argument contrary to what we have said, we have a hard time reconsidering what we just said. No one wants to be wrong, and certainly no one wants to admit that they were wrong. Hell, we're usually not in the mood to even consider that the other side of the coin might actually have a case.

I have had the pleasure recently of conversing with Eugene Gerber, whom - if you're unaware - is the man I facetiously referred to as "stupid" in a recent blog entry. Someone pointed him to my blog, he offered his comments, and then he and I proceeded to have a very interesting conversation. To keep it short, he presented his side of the story. He made his case, and I think he made it quite well.

(For the record, I never actually thought Eugene was stupid. I was merely trying to make a point about free speech, rights, Orwellian nonsense, blah blah blah. I was still pretty fired up from all the SOPA stuff.)

So now I have to reconsider my position. But I don't want to. I don't want to consider the possibility that I'm wrong. I expressed my position in a blog entry that has been read by hundreds of people already. I want to be right!

But critical thinking demands I at least consider it, and I have. I'm still considering it, to be honest. As of right now, I think Eugene made a good case for why he did what he did. I don't think I agree with his actions, but I certainly understand why he did it. I could be wrong.

The process of becoming an atheist have given me some existential understanding of why people remain in religion. No one wants to be wrong. We all play favorites. We take sides and have a really hard time even trying to consider the other side's view. We see things through our own context, through the filter of our preferred prejudice, and resist stepping out of our skin, looking through the lens of another person's context, and empathizing. We hate that.

We want to be right. We look for other people who agree with us, so we can all be right together. This thought occurred to me after reading Tristan's blog entry on sports and religion. I responded to his post by noting that both sports and religion satisfy a basic human need: connection. Religion gives people a sense of connection in a common purpose, common beliefs (regardless of whether said beliefs are right or wrong), a shared sense of validation (we are "saved"), a mutual affiliation and an identity. People want to feel like they're "in the club."

Sports is the same. We choose our team, and we associate ourselves with that team (it's "my team"). When our favorite team wins, then "we win," giving ourselves a sense of validation. We wear our team's jersey and become evangelists and apologists for our team, and when we see other fellow fans of our team, we have an automatic connection ("I like her, she's a ______ fan!"). Our favorite team becomes part of our identity. Sports even comes with its own version of "Satan" in team rivalries. And nothing unites people and gives them a sense of rightness like having a common enemy.

We don't want to consider opposing views in the same way we would never want to change who our favorite sports teams are. We become as devoted of fans of our beliefs as we are of our sports teams. We resist the "enemy" with as much contempt as we have for our rival teams. I've noticed this as a blogger. I always, always get more opposition from atheists when I criticize other atheists than when I criticize theists. My guess is, if I were to put forth a really bad argument against something an atheist said, I'd get other atheists calling me out on it. If I were to put forth a really bad argument against something a Christian said, however, I imagine the rebuttals from other atheists would be at a minimum. This is a guess, and - again - I could be wrong.

Guh. Critical thinking sucks. I think I'm going to just keep posting more animated gifs like all the cool kids do instead.

Go Bulls!

No comments: