Think Critically, or Die

The Bad Astronomer is concerned about stupidity, and so am I. Here is his post about the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and its effect on the less-than critical thinker:
Uncritical thinking kills

When I saw this website, I laughed. I couldn’t help it; it’s a funny idea.

That webcam site is a joke. It’s not real, it’s a satire on people who think the LHC would cause the end of the world. I laughed when I saw it.

But I’m not laughing now.

In India the other day, a young girl, distraught with fear that the world was ending when the LHC turned on, killed herself. She died, because she didn’t understand the truth.

Now that site is less funny, isn’t it? All over the world, in all different countries, people are raised to believe in superstitious nonsense, and raised to believe with all their hearts that it’s real.

And when we do that, we do far more than remove people from reality. We leave them vulnerable to all manners of nonsense, from believing in fairies to truly and honestly thinking the LHC will destroy the planet. People don’t learn how to think critically, and then they drink homeopathic water instead of taking real medicine, they chelate their children, or they deny their children vaccinations. And when that happens, people die. Children die.

I’m a parent. I sometimes think the most important thing I can do for my daughter is love her, keep her healthy, protect her. But in all of those, there is an overarching responsibility for me to teach her how to live in the real world. And that means showing her how to think. Not what to think, but how.

Question authority. Be skeptical of claims. Ask for evidence. Apply good logic. Avoid bad logic. Analyze the results. Look for bias.

And doubt. Doubt doubt doubt. It’s one of the greatest strengths of the human mind, and perhaps the least used of all.

There is plenty of blame to lay for the death of one young girl. We can blame the crackpots promulgating the LHC = death garbage. We can blame the culture she was raised in, where superstition can be treated like natural law — much like every culture across the planet. We can blame the media, for choosing to focus on the nonsense instead of the tremendous and wonderful and awe-inspiring inquiry into nature the LHC is performing. We can blame the schools, the environment, the world itself.

But the blame lies in us. Too many people choose not to think. But our technology, our society, our impact is vast, and now, today, in this world, that choice is one we can no longer afford.

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