Monday, September 20, 2010

Emphasize Critical Thought Outside Science

A common criticism of New Atheists is that in our ranks scientists are over-represented relative to society at large. This is true, though it seems less true every day, and that's emphatically a good thing. Any social movement wanting to have an impact on society at large must be somewhat disseminated, demographically. Science is hard. Therefore, if you're not into science on its own merits, you won't like it. That's okay, because critical thinking is good for other realms than science.

So, when I think of analogies or concrete examples of arguments, I really try (often unsuccessfully) to avoid astronomy, evolution, physics, etc., just because people can glaze over if they don't already like astronomy, evolution, physics, etc. But this is important beyond rhetorical purposes. If we can get more people to realize that what atheists have done to their broader worldview is just the same thing that most of us do with to be successful at the mundane tasks of our daily lives, we've made a step in the right direction. So here are just a few non-science places where we use critical thinking. If you read this and think of more, please comment.

- Personal finance: mortgage, credit card, car shopping

- Sports: betting/score prediction, play calling/strategy (use a sport that they care about, but teams that they don't)

- Fixing stuff in the house: plumbing, electrical, pest control

- Workplace decisions: vendor selection, hiring and firing, measuring effectiveness

Some of this will seem like no brainers to most theists - "Well of COURSE I systematically investigate problems component by component, eliminate superfluous assumptions, try to ignore my own biases, and maintain a healthy suspicion of people with vested interests and poor past track records of prediction, performance or truth-telling." Yes! Exactly! Wonderful! So why limit that to shopping for a used car?

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