Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Critical Thinking and Accepting the Science of Evolution

Morgan Freeman playing "God"

As an educator, I am always emphasizing to my students that they must develop critical reasoning skills in order to succeed in their studies and in their lives post-graduation.  Critical thinking is an important concept because done correctly, it can lead to a lifetime of self and external knowledge and is an applied set of reason-based thinking skills which is looks to evidence for discovery.

Critical thinking is a conscious lifestyle choice which can lapse if it is not continuously developed. It can also help one see the fallacy and hubris which we as humans tend to create culturally to pacify, goad, impress or subjugate ourselves and others.  Without critical reading, writing and thinking skills our ability to do science and make discoveries in all human endeavors would come to a standstill. 

Where intellectual standstill is common and where freethought is not necessarily warranted, respected or enlivened is in the area of faith and theology. Turn your back on faith and you’re ostracized. Question the tenets of a faith outside of currently accepted boundaries and you are told to just accept rather than think. This, I conclude, is because religious thought is not innovative thought.  It is ultimately recycling of ideas based on unfounded assumptions of human nature, mythology and blind ritual.  

George Burns playing "God"
It was Saint Ignatius of Loyola who stated, “Give me the child at seven and I will give you the man.” This is cult-like indoctrination so necessary to target children as they begin to question their surroundings, can be in both mild and extreme cases a violation of one’s civil and human right to self-determination.

Sociocentric thinking when delivered through the cultural paradigm of organized religion is then modified and changed to fit the social, economic and cultural times which the specific religious philosophy may exist. These ideas, which are not based on evidence, are spread by members of a society, be it a majority or sub-cultural group, clan or tribe which then cyclically creates individual dependence, flocking or schooling behaviors within a group.

Accepting evolution means that we choose to live our lives based on evidence, we accept, question and attempt to understand the natural mechanics of the universe and how they impact organic life on our planet and the universe.  

Brahma playing "God"
To seek a Creator or Intelligent Designer is essentially a fallacy and an implicit acceptance of some faith-based belief system.  It is akin to attributing the building of the pyramids to space aliens.  It requires no evidence or proof, but just enough people to self-delude each other into thinking they are right. It is the uncritical belief which puts one’s psycho-social culture, national pride, and religion above all others and above facts.

The Foundation for Critical Thinking produces many wonderful programs and publications for academics, students and folks to develop and enhance their critical thinking skills.  Here is a modified chart from one of their publications, Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, which I conclude is an excellent primer for anyone familiar or new to training their mind to think critically.

Acceptance of Evolution

Belief in God and/or an Intelligent Designer:

Intellectual Humility:

Understanding that we exist in a timeframe where our personal and culture perceptions are subject change. It is a lack of intellectual pretentiousness

Intellectual Arrogance:

Boastful and unquestioning belief. Facts must fit currently accepted ideas of biblical creation

Intellectual Courage:

Fairly addressing, challenging and facing beliefs, viewpoints and ideas even if they appear absurd.

Intellectual Cowardice:

Following a crowd or historic way of thinking without question. Obedience to an idea, belief or ritual which may be given without evidence.
Intellectual Empathy:

Placing oneself in the shoes of another in an attempt to understand while still perhaps rejecting non-evidence based ideas and beliefs. A non-violent and humanistic point of view

Intellectual Narrow-mindedness:

Believing one is right no matter what the faith-based conviction. Regardless of the competing ideas of other faiths or the scientific conclusion that no extraterrestrial creator was or is necessary to create organic life in the cosmos

Intellectual Autonomy:

To think for oneself based on evidence and not accept any idea, concept or belief without proof

Intellectual Conformity:

Maintenance of the status quo. Use of all means (political, social or economic) to place one's beliefs or a particular group's beliefs above all others.

Intellectual Integrity:

Honestly admit discrepancies and inconsistencies but continue to look for facts to improve ideas based on evidence and reason

Intellectual Hypocrisy:

Deny discrepancies and inconsistencies. Make facts fit a specific non-evidentiary conclusion. Deny overwhelming evidence presented by science in favor of biblical mythologies

Confidence in Perseverance:

Continuance to look at evidence as part of a growing set of knowledge and not ever belief that we can stop looking, questioning or studying ourselves, the planet or the cosmos

Intellectual Laziness:

 Avoid any deeper understanding or conclusions about the nature of the universe outside what part of one's spiritual beliefs, biblical acceptance or theology
Confidence in Reason:

Conclusion that what is reasonable, factual, measurable, countable, observed and able to be studied is a closer to what we accept as "truth" than any religious belief or theology

Distrust of Reason and Evidence:

Consciously or unconsciously not thinking or deciding for oneself. Accepting and perpetuating cognitive dissonance in current and future generations

This does not mean that someone who accepts evolution cannot still be intellectually arrogant, lack empathy in other areas or also lack humility.  Nor does it mean that those who accept biblical creation as fact lack the skills to think critically in other areas of science and in life. 

But accepting the biological, chemical and geologic evidence for evolution is key to understanding so much of science, nature and life. Denying the operation of evolution for the sake of faith is not only unreasonable, but trying to prove a creator exists using the tools of science is salacious and incorrigible. 

God/Jesus playing "God"
This, because Intelligent Design is considered by most scientists and in every court case filed to change science curriculum, to be religion masquerading as science and thus it has been removed when legally challenged. ID as such is not bound by or accepted in the scientific community nor is it a worthy set of ideas, concepts or processes.


  1. I was going to steal the first part to use in my syllabi, till I got to this part: "It can also help one see the fallacy and hubris which we as humans tend to create culturally to pacify, goad, impress or subjugate ourselves and others. " - Students lost at fallacy and hubris :( :( :( :( Because no one got them at 7 :)

  2. Hi TS,

    You can use anything written on this site for your classes. The purpose is to share and create community.

    Always nice to catch up with a friend. You keep writing, too!


  3. How come none of the books pictured in your page margins have titles? ;-)