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Author Topic:   Fundamentalism versus Critical Thinking
Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13043
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 1 of 159 (386100)
02-19-2007 4:12 PM


Having recently been spurred on by viewing the Sam Harris at Idea CIty '05 video, which I viewed.

I wanted to discuss the basic differences in the thinking process between critical thinking and Fundamentalism. I am, of course, interested in these topics since my background originated in the American Charismatic and Fundamentalist Christian belief system. Despite considering myself somewhat open minded when it comes to critical thinking and new paradigms and ideas, I find myself in agreement with religious fundamental thinking as well ...at times.

I would like to think that I learn from many sources besides the Bible. I have chosen to allow myself to examine other thinking processes besides the one that I am most comfortable with. Hopefully, the dialogues generated in this topic will give me further insight into how other people interpret these same topics. So far, I have learned (or think that I have learned that Fundamentalism, by definition, is an attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.

quote:
The American Heritage Dictionary defines fundamentalism as a usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

In contrast, I have begun to examine the roots of the thought process known as Critical Thinking. Many of the members of EvC who were taught the disciplines which allowed them to excel in their fields of study were also taught the art of Critical Thinking.

quote:
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

Critical thinking is that mode of thinking — about any subject, content,or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.

Our basic concept of critical thinking is, at root, simple. We could define it as the art of taking charge of your own mind. Its value is also at root simple: if we can take charge of our own minds, we can take charge of our lives; we can improve them, bringing them under our self command and direction. Of course, this requires that we learn self-discipline and the art of self-examination. This involves becoming interested in how our minds work, how we can monitor, fine tune, and modify their operations for the better. It involves getting into the habit of reflectively examining our impulsive and accustomed ways of thinking and acting in every dimension of our lives.


I still define myself as a believer in Jesus Christ, however....and just as fundamentalism scares the American Secularist, unchecked skepticism scares me and those like me who are attached to our beliefs. One example that I read at EvC recently came from my online friend and fellow EvC member, Schrafinator. In message 69 she makes the statement that

quote:
Well, there is little to no evidence that Jesus existed, so to talk to a child as if he did exist is a lot like insisting that the kid believe without any reason to, other than the parent wants them to believe it.
This was very uncomfortable to me, but Nator did qualify her remark.
quote:
I think that one can teach children anything you want as long as you make it clear that they have to learn to be critical thinkers and not just accept things because an authority figure tells them it is so.

They should be taught that what they believe is up to THEM, not anybody else.


I suppose that my current view and belief on all of this is that it is better to teach a child to think critically about religious beliefs as well as any other topics in life rather than to teach them to think fundamentally regarding such matters.

Im not sure where this topic should go. ;)


Replies to this message:
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Message 2 of 159 (386101)
02-19-2007 4:13 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Taz
Member (Idle past 1581 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 3 of 159 (386106)
02-19-2007 5:26 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Thugpreacha
02-19-2007 4:12 PM


Phat writes:

I wanted to discuss the basic differences in the thinking process between critical thinking and Fundamentalism. I am, of course, interested in these topics since my background originated in the American Charismatic and Fundamentalist Christian belief system. Despite considering myself somewhat open minded when it comes to critical thinking and new paradigms and ideas, I find myself in agreement with religious fundamental thinking as well ...at times.


I beg to differ in regard to the bolded phrase.

But truthfully, I wrote a very long paragraph before I decided to erase it all and write this very simple reply. Either of these approaches to the questions we have can be helpful at times. They sort of act as shoes for you to walk in. It would suck to only have one shoe to walk in while leaving the other foot bare.

In other words, there is a time and place for either of these approaches. A bleedinly obvious example of when critical thinking isn't helpful at all is in the heat of a battle. You simply don't sit down and try to calculate the paths of the projectiles flying at you. You simply don't sit down and try to come up with an explanation for the fundamental differences between your two nations that have resulted in this conflict. You simply don't sit down and try to fit how this battle fits in with Kantian view. You just do what you've been told to do and try to slaughter your enemies.

I would like to think that I learn from many sources besides the Bible. I have chosen to allow myself to examine other thinking processes besides the one that I am most comfortable with. Hopefully, the dialogues generated in this topic will give me further insight into how other people interpret these same topics. So far, I have learned (or think that I have learned that Fundamentalism, by definition, is an attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles.

The biggest problem that I can see with fundamentalism is that sometimes principles need to change to make people's lives better, and fundamentalism more often than not just won't allow such changes to occur.

Take the flood story for example. By all practical purposes, the events surrounding the flood are just too illogical for it to be considered as valid history, yet there are millions of people that believe in the fairy tale no matter what. Even a creationist like riverrat has even admitted that it's possible only because there's a goddunit factor somewhere along the line.

I still define myself as a believer in Jesus Christ, however....and just as fundamentalism scares the American Secularist, unchecked skepticism scares me

Phat, you need to be careful with your usage of terms here. Unchecked skepticism is an oxymoron. You're coming quite close to a strawman presentation.

I suppose that my current view and belief on all of this is that it is better to teach a child to think critically about religious beliefs as well as any other topics in life rather than to teach them to think fundamentally regarding such matters.

According to certain sources here who have known you (or rather your thought process) a lot longer than I have, you were once little better than the typical preacher who tries to tell his flock that he knows more about biology than working biologists. You've gotten better over the years, and I commend you for it. But I want to point out that your case is a perfect example of what fundamentalism does to a person's intellectual well being.

Some months ago, you and I had a discussion on your supposed contact with god. You were half asleep and you felt (not heard) a very powerful voice that seemed to have touched you. At the moment, you knew that it was god who have touched you and you were blessed. Being a skeptic that I was, I went ahead and started checking your story. I asked you if you tried to record this "voice" and you said no. I asked you if you tried to remember what this "voice" said, and you said no. I asked you if anyone else heard it and you said no. I asked you if you tried to at least write down the experience to avoid any possibility of false memory syndrome in the future and you said no. I asked you beside saying you "felt" god's presence if there was anything else you could tell me about it and you said no.

In other words, there was nothing tangible for me to go on other than your words that you "knew god was there".

I don't know if I made this clear back then, but I'll try to make it clear now. It's not that didn't or don't believe you. It's that being a skeptic I really need more than your word on it. What would you think if I tell you I saw some pink goblins running around my house while I was half asleep?

Now, your case is a mild one. You did not go out and condemn people or become a doomsayer. But there are many people out there who have "felt" this god's voice and become self-proclaimed prophets... like Pat Roberson. In other words, you continue to believe that you were touched by god solely on faith, which to me sounds like unchecked fundamentalism.

This brings me to another point. It really doesn't matter if you teach your child to think critically about religion. All religions require one to have a leap of faith. You can't be religious and think critically about it at the same time. And again, I just point to you as a perfect example of what I mean. I have no doubt that you think you are critically thinking about all these so-called questions in/of life. But you continue to demonstrate to me that you take things more on faith than anything else, and you are a full grown adult. Just how do we expect a child to approach something as inherently fundamentalist as religion and expect him to think critically?

By the way, on the god touching you thing, anything can happen in dreams. I once had a dream that I saw a 4-dimensional object. I also once had a dream that I took the derivative of an ipod. It made perfect sense while I was asleep. It still made a lot of sense shortly after I woke up. I spent the whole day trying to redo the problem on paper what I saw in my dream and just couldn't make any sense out of it. After all, how the hell do you mathematically take the derivative of an ipod?


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4242 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 4 of 159 (386118)
02-19-2007 7:38 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Taz
02-19-2007 5:26 PM


Tazmanian Devil writes:

In other words, there is a time and place for either of these approaches. A bleedinly obvious example of when critical thinking isn't helpful at all is in the heat of a battle. You simply don't sit down and try to calculate the paths of the projectiles flying at you. You simply don't sit down and try to come up with an explanation for the fundamental differences between your two nations that have resulted in this conflict. You simply don't sit down and try to fit how this battle fits in with Kantian view. You just do what you've been told to do and try to slaughter your enemies.

And a bleedingly obvious example of critical thinking having a place in religion; the examination of conscience, or in other words, what have you done today that could have been better? This may not be thinking critically about religion, but many times IN religion you are asked to think critically about yourself. Having some fundemental belief in your own salvation does not improve a person.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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nator
Member (Idle past 459 days)
Posts: 12961
From: Ann Arbor
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 5 of 159 (386129)
02-19-2007 8:20 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Thugpreacha
02-19-2007 4:12 PM


Taz's response was excellent, but I do have a comment.

What is wrong with "unchecked skepticism"?

IOW, why should skepticism ever be "checked"?

In my mind, the world would be a much, much MUCH better place if skepticism was far more prevalent, and credulousness was rare.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Thugpreacha, posted 02-19-2007 4:12 PM Thugpreacha has responded

Replies to this message:
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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13043
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 6 of 159 (386141)
02-19-2007 8:54 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by nator
02-19-2007 8:20 PM


Nator writes:

In my mind, the world would be a much, much MUCH better place if skepticism was far more prevalent, and credulousness was rare.

Why?

Speaking of behalf of the fundamentalist camp, I feel that one of the reasons why we cling so adamantly to our religious beliefs (and fear questioning them) is because we need to have a bedrock in which to sink our anchor.

The idea that God exists and that Jesus Christ is Gods character who lives today and who is an unshakeable source of comfort, encouragement and wisdom is very comforting to my soul.

Perhaps in a larger context, a fundamental and unshakeable faith is the reason why people cling to ancient beliefs. If you call our belief a myth, we take offense. If you call our belief irrational, we take offense. If you challenge our right to indoctorinate our kids in order to give them a bedrock assumption, we take offense. Critical thinking by definition does challenge assumptions, however.

quote:
Our basic concept of critical thinking is, at root, simple. We could define it as the art of taking charge of your own mind. Its value is also at root simple: if we can take charge of our own minds, we can take charge of our lives; we can improve them, bringing them under our self command and direction. Of course, this requires that we learn self-discipline and the art of self-examination. This involves becoming interested in how our minds work, how we can monitor, fine tune, and modify their operations for the better. It involves getting into the habit of reflectively examining our impulsive and accustomed ways of thinking and acting in every dimension of our lives.

This whole idea of taking charge of our own minds is a bit like the "ye shall be as gods" conundrum.

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Taz
Member (Idle past 1581 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 7 of 159 (386146)
02-19-2007 9:33 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by nator
02-19-2007 8:20 PM


There often is a misunderstanding among non-skeptics of what skepticism is. When they hear the word "skeptic" they automatically assumes that a skeptic is one who denies everything. They assume that a skeptic goes through life not believing in anything. Perhaps this is what phat meant when he referred to "unchecked skepticism"?

Furthermore, I sometimes get the feeling that people of faith automatically assume that skeptics are always out to get them and their religions. While some of it is true, it is still not what skepticism is about.

Perhaps we should try to explain what skepticism is, what makes us skeptics, and why we have chosen to be skeptics?


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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13043
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 8 of 159 (386148)
02-19-2007 9:46 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Taz
02-19-2007 9:33 PM


Shout Outs to Mr. Dictionary!
Websters writes:

skepticism n
1 : a doubting state of mind
2 : a doctrine that certainty of knowledge cannot be attained
3 : doubt concerning religion

Certainty of knowledge cannot be attained only if you don't believe that God can be real and personal. I concede that it is unprovable, however.


This message is a reply to:
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Taz
Member (Idle past 1581 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 9 of 159 (386149)
02-19-2007 9:47 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by anastasia
02-19-2007 7:38 PM


anastasia writes:

And a bleedingly obvious example of critical thinking having a place in religion; the examination of conscience...


It really seems like you are trying to equate religion with conscience, which for some darn reason I am having a lot of doubts for.

After all, if conscience really comes from religion, then I must point out the fact that religion couldn't prevent centuries of witch burnings, decades of terror inflicted upon black people in this country, and your own intolerance of those different from you.

or in other words, what have you done today that could have been better?

I don't think this is critical thinking at all. I think this belongs more to common sense.

This may not be thinking critically about religion, but many times IN religion you are asked to think critically about yourself.

I don't know... When I was a part of religion, it seemed like all the questions that I was asked were questions like "who can you hate today?" and "how are you going to tell them they're going to hell?"

Sorry, but I choose to be a good person, live my life as a good person, and perform good deeds for and upon others. Life is too short for me to try to find the next group of people I could oppress.

Having some fundemental belief in your own salvation does not improve a person.

See, even among christians that is up for debate. I know that catholics think the protestants aren't really christians and vice versa, but speaking as an outsider I really can't tell who's right.

While I was driving home the other day, I had the radio tuned to a local christian station. The speaker was talking about the subject of salvation and what makes a good person, and he was saying the opposite of what you said. He basically said that ever since he knew he was a "child of christ" he had become a much better person. He knows his own salvation... etc. etc.

Edited by AdminPD, : Font Size


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Taz
Member (Idle past 1581 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 10 of 159 (386151)
02-19-2007 9:51 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Thugpreacha
02-19-2007 9:46 PM


Re: Shout Outs to Mr. Dictionary!
Are you one of those that looks up the word "biology" in a dictionary and afterwards claim yourself to be a biologist because you know what the dictionary says biology means?

If it is as simple as what you making it out to be, there wouldn't be any need for school. Everybody would be going around with webster's dic and looking up words to professionalize themselves in whatever area they decide to look up in the dictionary.

By the way, that's a poor definition of skepticism. I can understand how that fuels the misunderstanding.


This message is a reply to:
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nator
Member (Idle past 459 days)
Posts: 12961
From: Ann Arbor
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 11 of 159 (386152)
02-19-2007 9:53 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Thugpreacha
02-19-2007 8:54 PM


quote:
Speaking of behalf of the fundamentalist camp, I feel that one of the reasons why we cling so adamantly to our religious beliefs (and fear questioning them) is because we need to have a bedrock in which to sink our anchor.

And I think that you have taught that you need religion, but you don't really.

What people need is their basic needs met, and a good moral code. Religion is not needed for either of these things.

Currently, there are several very secular societies in the world who's citizens are productive and moral. Religious belief in those cultures is rare, and fundamentalism is practically nonexistent. Those societies have some of the least violent, most egalitarian, best educated, and highest standards of living on the planet.

quote:
The idea that God exists and that Jesus Christ is Gods character who lives today and who is an unshakeable source of comfort, encouragement and wisdom is very comforting to my soul.

OK.

That idea is utterly irrelevant to the vast majority of Swedes, though, and they seem to get along great without it.

Why do you think that is?

quote:
Perhaps in a larger context, a fundamental and unshakeable faith is the reason why people cling to ancient beliefs. If you call our belief a myth, we take offense. If you call our belief irrational, we take offense. If you challenge our right to indoctorinate our kids in order to give them a bedrock assumption, we take offense. Critical thinking by definition does challenge assumptions, however.

I'm sure you do take offense.

The thing is, am I wrong?

If you can't show that I'm wrong, then what does that make me?

Nowhere is it written that just becasue some nonsense is named "religion" that it suddenly isn't nonsense anymore.

All religion is nonsensical and irrational, by definition.

Don't blame me. I don't believe the stuff.

quote:
This whole idea of taking charge of our own minds is a bit like the "ye shall be as gods" conundrum.

OK.

Are you saying that God likes his people to be dull-witted, stupid followers?

Edited by nator, : No reason given.


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nator
Member (Idle past 459 days)
Posts: 12961
From: Ann Arbor
Joined: 12-09-2001


Message 12 of 159 (386156)
02-19-2007 10:04 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Thugpreacha
02-19-2007 9:46 PM


what 'skepticism' really is
http://www.skeptic.com/about_us/discover_skepticism.html

I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.

—Baruch Spinoza

Some people believe that skepticism is the rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse “skeptic” with “cynic” and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.

Skepticism has a long historical tradition dating back to ancient Greece, when Socrates observed: “All I know is that I know nothing.” But this pure position is sterile and unproductive and held by virtually no one. If you were skeptical about everything, you would have to be skeptical of your own skepticism. Like the decaying subatomic particle, pure skepticism uncoils and spins off the viewing screen of our intellectual cloud chamber.

Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, which involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement. But all facts in science are provisional and subject to challenge, and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions. Some claims, such as water dowsing, ESP, and creationism, have been tested (and failed the tests) often enough that we can provisionally conclude that they are not valid. Other claims, such as hypnosis, the origins of language, and black holes, have been tested but results are inconclusive so we must continue formulating and testing hypotheses and theories until we can reach a provisional conclusion.

The key to skepticism is to continuously and vigorously apply the methods of science to navigate the treacherous straits between “know nothing” skepticism and “anything goes” credulity. Over three centuries ago the French philosopher and skeptic, René Descartes, after one of the most thorough skeptical purges in intellectual history, concluded that he knew one thing for certain: Cogito ergo sum — I think therefore I am. But evolution may have designed us in the other direction. Humans evolved to be pattern-seeking, cause-inferring animals, shaped by nature to find meaningful relationships in the world. Those who were best at doing this left behind the most offspring. We are their descendents. In other words, to be human is to think:

Sum Ergo Cogito —
I Am Therefore I Think.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4242 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 13 of 159 (386163)
02-19-2007 10:30 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by nator
02-19-2007 10:04 PM


Re: what 'skepticism' really is
nator writes:

Skepticism has a long historical tradition dating back to ancient Greece, when Socrates observed: “All I know is that I know nothing.” But this pure position is sterile and unproductive and held by virtually no one. If you were skeptical about everything, you would have to be skeptical of your own skepticism. Like the decaying subatomic particle, pure skepticism uncoils and spins off the viewing screen of our intellectual cloud chamber.

Heavens, sounds like part of a Rob speech. Law of non-contradiction or some such 'all skeptics deny the possiblity of trust being true'. Just joking here.

Honestly, if Phat hadn't come along and dirtied things up with his talk of being afraid to leave his faith, which may be true and fine, but not in the best interests of the conversation...I would have said that this was a good definition of 'unchecked skepticism'. If you are sooooo skeptical that it has BAD affects, where you can't find anything meaningful, that would be un-useful. As Spinoza said, no one really adheres to this level of skepticism.


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BMG
Member (Idle past 2452 days)
Posts: 356
From: Southwestern U.S.
Joined: 03-16-2006


Message 14 of 159 (386164)
02-19-2007 10:33 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Thugpreacha
02-19-2007 4:12 PM


I believe critical thinking is difficult to define. When researching the topic one comes to the conclusion that critical thinking could have several defintions, with all of them having some share of correctness.

Critical thinking could be a "tool of inquisition". A method of gathering evidence, weighing, analyzing, comprehending, synthesizing and eventually deciding whether the evidence is worthy to be accepted or rejected.

But critical thinking could also be defined by personality traits held by the critical thinker. A critical thinker is one who possesses a keen inquisitiveness and a hunger for reliable and accurate information. They are questioning but open to new and varied ideas.

Furthermore, critical thinkers are just as thorough and questioning of their own beliefs and conclusions as they are of others. They mitigate biases so as to keep an open-minded and honest outlook on information.

Sorry for the tirade, I'm a bit keyboard happy tonight.


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BMG
Member (Idle past 2452 days)
Posts: 356
From: Southwestern U.S.
Joined: 03-16-2006


Message 15 of 159 (386166)
02-19-2007 10:48 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by nator
02-19-2007 9:53 PM


And I think that you have taught that you need religion, but you don't really.

I don't know Schraf. If Phat and others feel comforted with a belief in an afterlife, a God, etc. then it seems a bit presumptuous to claim that "they don't really need it".

It just seems troublesome and difficult to tell people what they do or do not need in terms of emotional and/or spiritual support.

What people need is their basic needs met, and a good moral code. Religion is not needed for either of these things.

But if people rely on an organized or "disorganized" religion for a "good moral code" then who are we to tell them "religion is not needed for...these things"?

Please don't get the wrong idea, Schraf, I far too often agree with your posts; including this one, to a certain extent.

Edited by Infixion, : Change in second sentence.


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