South Africa: Flim Flam country

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Rigil Kent (February 22, 2009, 16:30:37 PM):
There is much truth in Sentinel's signature quote:

Quote
"The problem with the World is stupidity. I'm not saying there should be a capital punishment for stupidity, but why don't we just take the safety labels off of everything and let the problem solve itself?" George Carlin

Simply let natural selection run its course, as it has done through several millennia, without the help of sceptics.

Do we really have an ethical obligation to teach scepticism? Will it not be equally repulsive and akin to Christians trying to convert the secular?

I think you either seek the truth by your own accord, or you don't. Scepticism can't be taught.

Mintaka
Mefiante (February 22, 2009, 18:40:55 PM):
Unfortunately, natural selection won’t do the job, or if it does, it’ll take a really long time. If it could, we’d’ve lost our propensity for imprecise and undisciplined thinking already. One must remember that such loose and fuzzy thinking confers on those who practise it a huge survival advantage, namely that we react quickly instead of hanging around, trying to figure out exactly what’s going on. The situation is summarised by the saying that it’s better to run away from a tiger who isn’t there than it is to check and then find out that there really is one. Natural selection only cares about things that either improve or impair survival advantages, not those that are in those terms neutral. Superstitions may have had some advantageous origin in the past but today they merely make people look stupid to others without affecting their survivability, but that doesn’t mean they lose any of their momentum.

As for an ethical obligation to nurture critical thinking, I think we owe it to future generations not to screw up the world too much for them. Presently, we’re doing lots of things wrong that we could do considerably better if only some critical, consequent thinking was applied. Planned parenthood and curbing rampant consumerism are just two obvious examples. But no, we have various religious and cultural barriers which it is more important to respect than safeguarding the planet’s future.

'Luthon64
Rigil Kent (February 22, 2009, 19:16:22 PM):
Quote
The situation is summarised by the saying that it’s better to run away from a tiger who isn’t there than it is to check and then find out that there really is one.

Fair enough, but remember that the environment is changing. A human child's survival depends less on believing that a river has crocodile, and more on distrusting strangers, witch doctors and alternative medicines. The future environment may well start to favour critical thinkers.

But you raise a point in that this evolution may very well take longer than the time needed to completely stuff up the planet.

Mintaka
Mefiante (February 22, 2009, 19:51:08 PM):
The future environment may well start to favour critical thinkers.
I wish I could be that positive. The problem is that science and technology, including evidence-based medicine, have been and continue to be so singularly successful that they can carry along enormous amounts of deadwood. In western societies, for example, most children with serious afflictions who do not respond to woo-woo medicine (actually, their own bodies’ healing abilities) inevitably end up in a modern hospital’s emergency ward when their situation becomes critical. There, they are in most cases saved, only to be subjected to more woo-woo later on. That is, the parents won’t learn, so how can one expect that the children will? In tribal societies, no one much cares if a child dies in the service of some ancestral ritual.

One can reasonably ask how it is that educated people – and by that I mean university graduates in applied sciences – can buy into Feng Shui and assorted other forms of lucky-charm nonsense. The answer is that they can and do because, firstly, it satisfies, at least temporarily, their craving for the mysterious and mystical, and secondly, it makes no essential difference to their ability to survive. That is why superstitions continue to be rife even in the most sophisticated societies. The superstitions are just of a different order of merit, that’s all.

I think that general stupidity will persist more or less at the current relative level simply because there’s enough leeway in the system to allow it.

'Luthon64

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