Sunday, January 16, 2005

critical thinking

Ann Althouse commented this morning on a new book, Blink, quoting at some length a counter-administration rant enumerating all the "snap judgments" that are (supposedly) sending us to Hell in a handbasket:

Apparently, the key to success in these pre–deluge years is going to be the ability to make ever–snappier snap judgments. Go to war or not? No problem, the fix was in before any of the evidence was gathered. Undo seventy years of lawmaking that makes most Americans’ lives less of a desperate struggle? We’re getting right to it! Destroy vast tracts of irreplaceable wilderness in order to feed our money addiction? Sure, who needs them, they’re not worth anything!

(Althouse cops out and doesn't comment one way or the other regarding the rant, since it was written by her ex-husband. This leaves me free to believe that such rants are the reason that RLC and Althouse are no longer married, whatever the case may be.)

Serendipitously, I came across Thomas Sowell's column, I beg to differ, over at As usual, Sowell is a font of common sense and clear-headedness; this column describes the importance of being able to debate an issue on its merits, and the dangers of being swayed by rhetoric:
Dictators often gained total power over a whole nation by their ability to arouse emotions and evade thought.

Watch old newsreels of Hitler and watch the adoring and enraptured look on the faces in his audience. Then read what he said and see if it makes any sense whatever. Yet he convinced others -- and himself -- that he had a great message and a great mission.

In real world conversations, of course, you can't bring up Hitler without everyone recoiling in horror, thereby shutting down any kind of discussion of the point you were trying to make. But Sowell's point is not to say that people who engage in this emotionalism are ruthless fascist murderous psychopaths like Hitler, just that they're using one of his best techniques to manipulate the situation.

The worst thing is, these people get away with it all the time, or worse, they're lionized for "standing up to authority," or some other such nonsense. One good thing is there are still a lot of people out there who can, and do, think critically, on both sides of the political aisle. The best thing is now the blogosphere gives them a platform.


ChaiTime said...

Funny, I just wrote a blog entry in my ChaiTime Blog about this very thing...only on a smaller, personal scale.

Sheik Yerbootie said...

The simple truth is that critical thinking skills have morphed into PC thinking skills.