Monday, June 15, 2015

Common Failures of Critical Thinking

There's striking similarity between theists and conspiracy nuts when it comes to the failures of critical thinking used to argue the belief. I see the same sorts of arguments from Christians and Muslims alike.

  • "Atheism is bad." 
  • "Without my religion, how can you be moral?" 
  • "Atheists just chose atheism to avoid responsibility to god."
  • "There must be an explanation for this unexplained event" (hint: It's mine)

These seem to be the central failed arguments of irrational thinking, and there's STRIKING similarity across all theists and conspiracy theorists.I'm not sure which camp to put "Ancient Aliens" in. It's somewhere between a religion and a conspiracy theory.

FailureTheistConspiracy NutIssue
Future EvidenceWhen you die, you'll see you were wrong!Some day the truth will come out!Claims to be right despite not possessing any evidence
You can't prove me wrongCan't prove god doesn't exist!Can't disprove the planes were real!Shifting the burden of proof
Something isn't known so I'm rightUnknown/unusual phenomena x proves god is real.Unexplained 9/11 detail proves CIA's involvementOften, the "unknown" is actually well known to experts.
Unpleasant ramifications of disbeliefIf my religion is false, the conclusions are unpleasant so it must be true.If you reject my chemtrail claim, you're being poisoned.As if the unpleasant ramifications of disbelief make it true!

I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones that seem to come up all the time. So I suppose the thing to do is think about how to be sure YOU don't fall victim to these sorts of errors.  Ask or reming yourself: 
  • What assumptions am I making about evidence I haven't actually seen
  • What evidence would convince me I'm wrong?
  • It's not good enough to show my opponent is wrong. If I'm making a positive claim (something is true), I must show I'm right.
  • Whether I like the ramifications of a fact or not has NO bearing on its truthfulness. 
On that last point, it's valuable to notice when you have strong feelings about the truth of a claim. For me, this sets of little mental warning bells. "Be Careful! You're susceptible to confirmation bias here"

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