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In the excellent article "My So-Called Universe", Jim Holt identified himself as a robust scientific realist.  Finally!  A beautifully succinct way to describe how I think!  So I can now describe myself as a robust scientific realist.
Science is just logic and deductive reasoning... i.e. Formalized Rational Thinking.  Critical Thinking is a prerequisite to Rational Thinking.  Here are some thoughts to consider:
Critical Thinking - the path to enlightenment
Before we begin, let me recommend this article as a prerequisite: 

A Brief Guide to Statistical Manipulation

Human brains are exceptional at recognizing patterns in the maelstrom of information that constantly bombards us.  But in today's complex and abstract world, our hunter-gatherer-legacy pattern recognition abilities are easily fooled.  Critical thinking is the learnable skill that sorts 'real' information from the noise of what you are observing.  For daily life, critical thinking is absolutely necessary to clear away the fog of information that surrounds us.

Our distant, pre- human ancestors developed the ability to quickly recognize changes in their environment, both avoiding trouble and gaining strategic advantage.  As long as life stayed simple, this worked just fine.  But, the pre-human experience became more complex than just eating and hiding.

Our ancestor's growing brains developed abstract concepts as a way of manipulating models of their known world.  Now, humans were free to envision and try multiple scenarios... without the investment or risk of physical action.  A side benefit (and risk) of abstraction is to allow creation of entire abstract realities... compounded from the original concepts.  An abstraction not directly grounded in reality is both powerful and dangerous!

The power of compounded abstract reasoning is obvious: you can extrapolate multiple lines of reason as far as knowledge takes you, and with imagination, a little beyond.  You can examine and try multiple concepts, looking for alternate paths to a goal.

The danger lies in disconnecting the foundations of an abstraction from reality.  Once in an abstract reality, it's easy to mistake invalid ideas for valid ones!


So, with the above thoughts in mind, look at our reality today.  Our interconnected society inundates us with a torrent of abstract concepts, many of which have little (if any) basis in fact.  If a concept is packaged to appeal to our personal reality matrix, we might believe it without critical examination.  Without a critical thinking 'filter', we can become infected with a meme (thought virus), and it may just alter our thinking to it's own benefit!  Because most people constantly engage in orgies of 'unsafe-thinking', we need an immune system for our minds... one that can filter out and destroy dangerous memes.

For the purpose of this discussion, a dangerous meme is one that we accept, but isn't true.  A meme that completely destroys a valued concept isn't necessarily bad, if it leads to greater clarity and awareness.

So, how do we practice 'safe-thinking' ?  How does one sort through our shared reality, that tangled mess of derived abstract reasoning, to find what is real?

Most memes spread only when encountering little resistance.  It doesn't take much thinking to stop a meme if it disagrees' with us, we reject it out of hand.  Therefore, a memetic immune system needs to be based on either:  (1) an arbitrary belief system (weak, dangerous, and all too common), or (2) logic and reason.  The scientific method is the ultimate tool for finding truth via logic and reason, so it's the 'logical' choice.


The scientific method

The scientific method is just logic and deductive reasoning... applied rigorously.  You carefully build lines and systems of reasoning from initial, proven assumptions... then you prove the new assumptions.  Our entire civilization was built with logic and deductive reasoning ... so it does work!

There is one true reality for any observation.  A logical (scientific) examination will usually uncover that truth.  A failure to uncover the fundamental truth is probably due to a poorly executed or designed examination (theory).


How does this relate to daily life?

It just means... you have to ask the right questions, and reason your way through the results.  Never accept a new idea as fact without considering it first.  And perhaps you should re-consider some things you currently accept as fact... they may not be true at all!

You must have at least some knowledge (on any subject) before you can even start to think about a new concept within that subject.  Don't assume a new concept is true or not until you reason it out!


Synopsis of the scientific method, in 3 easy pieces:


(1) Every theory must be falsifiable

What you think to be true, must be able to be proven wrong, if your results dictate.  If you are considering something that can't be proved right or wrong, you're asking the wrong question!  If the results trash a cherished belief, so be it. You learned something!

e.g. If you vote for a candidate who promises many things and does the opposite, why would you still believe in them?  Many people vote this way over and over.  People want to believe everything is OK, so they just continue making the same wrong choice!  That's very dangerous thinking !


(2) Observations must be seen several times to be considered real, even in a correctly controlled examination.

One instance of something doesn't prove anything... it could be a faulty or biased observation.  You need more data than that.  Don't just grab onto an idea because it sounds good... stop and think!

e.g. Just because you looked up the street before you pulled up to the stop sign, doesn't mean you can enter traffic before looking again! (Not looking could be a one-time mistake.)  The same idea applies even more critically to any abstract idea... because there are no immediate repercussions to careless reasoning.

People often make several correct steps of logic after an originally wrong assumption, which trashes the whole line of reasoning.  Just don't tell your boss that... take my word for it!


(3) Conclusions can, at best, only answer the question(s) posed by the experiment.

You have to ask specific questions, and realize the answer doesn't necessarily solve anything else, no matter how badly you want it to!  Yes, it requires you to wait for your answer, but then you'll have the real answer... and be further ahead in 'the long run'.  It seems many people just can't wait, so they accept whatever seems plausible, or palatable.

So, don't extrapolate the answers you get to solve something else.  You need to build complex concepts one step at a time.  Too many people have whole belief systems that are messy piles of dangerous memes... 1/2 baked conclusions and fanciful extrapolations that cloud their thinking.  We all learn as we grow... it's just that people often build (and vehemently protect) an entire world view based on incorrect assumptions.

But! Carefully constructed theories CAN answer many questions at once... if the entire structure is falsifiable, and observations prove true.  A multi-faceted, properly executed theory is truly beautiful!


====>   OK, still wondering what the heck I'm trying to say?

Just don't blindly believe in something because you want to.  Investigate a new idea... think about that meme carefully before allowing yourself to be infected.  Hear something that challenges your world view?  Give it a chance... you might be surprised at what you learn!
No individual can be clear about everything, but we can at least TRY!  You will be rewarded with a clearer world view, and a new awareness you otherwise couldn't enjoy!


Why I wrote this

Yes, I am frustrated both with other people and myself for being illogical, but my real reason for posting this to the web is much more serious...

The acceleration of technology is already pushing us into a new and radical existence, and it's urgent that we learn to think clearly... NOW.

The old world is being replaced with a new, complex reality... and continued unclear, illogical thinking could easily endanger the future of our species.  The general public has a fully vested stake in this new reality... because it's happening NOW!  There is no more time to 'get ready'.  This is NOT something we can leave to our children... it has already started, and we are experiencing it with them!


Thanks for taking time to listen to me.  I hope my thoughts made a difference for you, and your outlook on life.

Always strive to... FREE YOUR MIND!



======>   Interesting Articles and Links on Rational Thinking   <======

CSN: Cable Science Network

Bootstrapping Collective IQ:  Bootstrap Institute

Oral and Literate Thinking Styles
A network for "all Science, all the time".  What an awesome idea!  I have hoped for this for years!

Article about CSN: Candle in the Dark


"As much as possible, to boost mankind's collective capability for coping with complex, urgent problems."


The Bootstrap Institute was conceived by Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart to further his lifelong goal of addressing complex and urgent problems.  He is famous for inventing the computer mouse and was the first to use a cathode-ray tube as a monitor. He is also credited with pioneering online computing and email.


I applaud Mr. Engelbart's insight and long-term determination to address one of my primary concerns: developing a way to handle our complex and rapidly evolving reality.  (NO, society has NOT begun to handle this in any systematic or urgent way.)  A robust, world-wide Collective IQ is absolutely necessary for handling and sharing the logarithmic explosion of knowledge, and is urgently needed to ensure the Singularity.



Oral cultures and literate cultures are not capable of the same kinds of thoughts. The thinking that contributed to the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution isn't even possible in an oral culture, but depends on the invention of the thinking technology that is writing.

We are all products of literate cultures. But we are also products of oral cultures and we start as oral creatures before we become literate. The links between thought and spoken language predate any changes wrought by literacy.

You cannot have a logical argument in an oral culture. Logical argument of premises and syllogisms is an invention of literate cultures. Logical argument absolutely depends on having external aids to memory that can be referred to. It is a kind of thinking that becomes possible only when it is possible to lay the argument out in front of your eyes for inspection.

Literate thinking makes it possible to have argument and thinking that is separate from the thinker. You can evaluate the quality of the argument independently of the person making the argument. In oral cultures the message and messenger are tightly coupled.


Aliens Cause Global Warming
A Caltech lecture by Michael Crichton January 17, 2003

After reading this lecture, it's obvious Michael Crichton understands the core values of science better than some prominent scientists.

"I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. 

Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

 Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics... In addition, let me remind you that the track record of the consensus is nothing to be proud of."

Bogosity:  The Problem of Nonsense in Nanotechnology Article:   Rationality: the next competitive advantage

bogosity (bo gos'i ty) n. 1. A false idea or concept; misconception. 2. Inaccuracy; opposite of veracity. [colloquial usage in artificial intelligence community; from bogus.]

flake, n. -ky, -kiness. One who habitually generates, spreads, or believes flagrant bogosities.


Of course, Bogosity runs rampant in many areas of life, but we can't afford it with Nanotechnology...


By Max More at ManyWorlds.com

Don’t lose your head when all about you are losing theirs. Humans have numerous cognitive biases that lead to poor decision-making and increase vulnerability to manipulation by others. 

Even traditional economic theory embodies unrealistic assumptions about rational agents, says Max More. Strategy frameworks informed by economics can carry these assumptions into misdirected practice. By becoming more aware of the cognitive biases and shortcut “heuristics” used naturally by humans, you can avoid falling prey to strategic and decision-making errors.

Carefully used, the same principles of cognitive psychology can improve your persuasiveness and ability to bring about change. Some of this knowledge can also be used to improve the customer experience. This short article quickly identifies a range of these principles. You can find out more about them by investigating the articles and papers related to this one.


Critical Thinking related URLs Definition of MEME


The term "meme" first coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, is any idea, behavior, or skill that can be transferred from one person to another by imitation: stories, fashions, inventions, recipes, songs, ways of plowing a field or throwing a baseball or making a sculpture.

Memetic propagation parallels viral propagation and uses the same tactics:

A virus-host relationship may be symbiotic, indifferent, or destructive, to either the host or virus. A meme-host relationship is the same; the type and ferocity of a meme determines how it propagates, and how fast it spreads.

Article:   Stamping Out Good Science

Benoit Mandelbrot, father of the fractal, August 2004

(By Lawrence Lessig, advisory board member of the Foresight Institute)
"While scientists scheme to direct molecules to build things and invent tricks to make atoms dance, few can imagine an innovation in government policy regarding dangerous science. 
Science thus becomes irrational because we can't imagine government as rational. Simple facts of a political nature, we might say, tweaking and reusing Smalley's warning in a much more depressing context, prevent good science from ever becoming a reality."
I whole heartedly agree with Mandelbrot, and often question how humanity allocates both interest and resources:

"A well-managed corporation devotes some portion of its research and development budget to basic research, in fields of science that underlie its main business.  Isn't understanding the market as important to the economy as understanding solid-state physics is to IBM?

If we can map the human genome, why can't we map how a man loses his livelihood? If millions can contribute a few cycles of their PCs to the search for a signal from outer space, why can't they join a coordinated search for patterns in financial markets?"



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Same Level

Love ] Life ] grand_unified_perception ] [ Rational Thinking ] Freedom and Emergent Behavior ] New Planet Survey ] Politics and emergent behavior ]

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Inferential Distance ] Illumination ] Matrix ] Paranormal brain ] God Part ] Aliens Cause Global Warming ] Brief Guide to Statistical Manipulation ] Reality through stained glass ]