Monday, December 29, 2008

Have Skeptics Fallen Prey to Confirmation Bias? Wishful Thinking?



  1. I can understand Mully's frustration, yet I think I sense a tendency to be critical for criticism's sake, itself a confirmation bias.

    I've been attending Critical Thinking Clubs for 8 years and I have yet to hear anyone claim to be a critical thinker. Are they skeptics? Sure, but skepticism does not make one a critical thinker. Those who attend simply aspire to think critically and look at various topics presented objectively. Thus, the CTC attendees get lots of opportunities to do so with topics all over the ballpark.

    Are the CTC attendees Obama supporters? Only to the extent that he appeared to offer the most hope for change and are hopeful that he succeeds living up to his promise for change we can believe in. Yet as of today, Im very sorry to say many of his appointments suggest we're in for more of the same as under Bush....unending military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Stimulus package of very questionable value, a Treasury secretary who appears to be a younger version of Bush's Paulson seeking to keep defunct banks in afloat..... on and on.

    I agree there appears to be many who almost worship fully buy whatever Obama says or does. Ed Schultz, liberal radio host impresses me this way. Yet Ed advertises buying gold. I'd like to ask Ed why he and his advertisers promote the purchase of gold. Gold only has value if the American dollar becomes worthless. The $800 billion Obama/Pelosi Stimulus bill is driving gold to explode to over $1,000/oz. Same thing happened to Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and the UK. So it appears Ed in all his enthusiasm for Obama is admitting by virtue of his advocating gold that Obama's policies are leading America to financial ruin just as it has other countries that followed the same fiscal polices.

    Well anyway I trust Molly to keep up the good work blogging stimulating and challenging us to question everything and think things through regardless of who we offend, Conservatives or Liberals.

    Critical thinking is tough because it's a process rather than an event. Genuine critical thinking conclusions like science are always tentative awaiting further evidence. In contrast, Conservative thought and its religious adherents demand belief in unproveable dogma whic they misleadingly assert are principles. these principles could be regarding the Trinity, baptism, sin, heaven and hell or no new taxes and privatization.

    In my experience this is the principle difference between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives have only ideologically based answers, i.e. no new taxes, anti-abortion, government is bad, etc. etc. Whereas liberals are always asking questions, testing out new ideas, seeking for pragmatic answers. In this sense, our founding fathers were liberals. They questioned the old systems of government and came up with a form of government never tried before.

    Conservatives, especially the religious right hate liberalism because it is the opposite of their way of thinking. They were dragged kicking and screaming into women's sufferage and racial integration. Conservatives want an authoritarian based system rather than 'we the people'.

    Conservatives avoid Critical Thinking Clubs because they find it uncomfortable to think outside the box, to challenge dogma, to accept those who do not embrace their ideology.

    Well I don't know that I've answered Mully's comments but trust that my spur of the moment response has given an added perspective.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. I frequently throw out challenges in my blog that almost always go unchallenged.

    This post wasn't directed specifically at the CTC but more towards the general liberal skeptical community (if there really is such a thing). I don't claim that the CTC is all liberals. Perhaps, only the most vocal of the membership feel that way.

    I've written about the Christianification of the Republican party here in MN but for the life of me, I cannot find the post.

    I found an interesting atheist conservative blogger here:

  3. I think many Obama supporters are more realistic about politics than you give them credit for. Also, perhaps you are lumping too many people into the "liberal" category, people who actually have quite disparate beliefs.

    I supported Obama and I still do. I also have libertarian leanings. There was a time when I supported Republicans because they were fiscally more conservative than the Democratic choices at the time.

    I never expected Obama to echo my libertarian-ish beliefs. He made it clear enough during the campaign that he was a much farther to the left on economic issues than I am.

    However, this was never a reason for my support of Obama, so it didn't matter. The reason why I supported him (and why many people did who are in no way liberals), was because he was the alternative to George Bush and everything Bush stood for.

    Economic freedom is a good thing and socialism is bad, in my opinion. But it is only one part of a larger picture, when you look for a President. Bush and Company were liars, openly and shamelessly blurred the line between church and state in their religious zeal, warmongers, etc. More, they built an atmosphere in which questioning the government was unpatriotic, sticking up for your rights was akin to aiding the enemy. They polarized our country more sharply than any President in my memory, with the "for us or against us" rhetoric. In every way that was important to me, they were bad for the country.

    I wanted a change. Yeah, like many other people I'd love to have a candidate of my own choice, who reflects all my values. But in this two-party system, it's a choice between two people. Obama was the other guy, hence Obama.

    That said, I think you are wrong about Obama on many points.

    His "association" with Wright is a silly red herring. Nothing Obama has said personally shows that Obama in any way shares any of the more radical ideas espoused by Wright. In fact, if you listen to Obama's speech on racism, he said exactly the opposite of what Wright has said on many points. And since when do "critical thinkers" favor guilt by association?

    This is a largely religious country, so I don't expect any President in the near future to not pay lip service to religion. However, if you look at what Obama has actually done, very little can be interpreted as pro-religion. He canceled Bush's stem cell research ban. There are a number of clips of Obama interviews floating around on YouTube, where you can see that his version of Christianity is a much milder, something you do for yourself and don't push on others type of Christianity. And he is strongly in favor of the separation of Church and state. Not so much Mr. Bush.

    Also, you make a mistake if you equate liberals with the anti-war crowd. Some liberals are indeed anti-war, but most are not. They are against stupid, useless wars, such as the Iraq war. Liberals didn't criticize Bush for going to Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban, destroying the actual people who planned 9/11. What they objected to was the war in Iraq, along with Bush's lies (Saddam-9/11 connection, WMDs in Iraq, etc) which he used to justify it. And they objected to the consequent switch in focus from Afghanistan to Iraq, which has enabled the Taliban to come back full force in Afghanistan, and yes, Pakistan too.

    Obama is by no means anti-war either. He said during his campaign that he was going to move the focus back to Afghanistan, and he has. He said he was going to get tough with Pakistan, and he has. Look at Hillary's and Obama's comments this week over the recent Taliban gains in Pakistan.

    In short, I think you are mixing too many different kinds of people under one label, and not understanding their motivation very well either.

  4. @Cyn: Thanks for the comments. I was hoping to get something going here by posting this on reddit. Agree about the red herring but I still question a guy who can sit through 20 years of sermons by that crackpot. I'm not a fan of Bush either, I reluctantly voted for McCain with the hope that he would be less radical than the other choice. So far, I'm not impressed with Obama. To me he seem to be moving from change to change all willy nilly. I've heard his sort of change rhetoric all my life and I'm still looking for some evidence to the contrary.

    I'm not a fan of lumping large groups of people into some convenient category. I have lots of beliefs that would make the hard-cores on both sides cringe and I'm sure there are many like me out there...somewhere.


Be critical. Be nice.

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