Critical thinking–a lost art

As many times as we all have seen the film The Wizard of Oz, isn’t it curious that we never hear anybody talking about the obvious glitch in the plot?

The frightfulness of the story centers on Dorothy getting possession of the ruby slippers–which are coveted by the Wicked Witch of the West.  But the witch admits, she can’t just outright KILL Dorothy.  “These things must be done DELICATELY.”  Or else the slippers lose their magic.

Yet how did Dorothy herself wind up in the slippers?  A HOUSE fell on top of their former owner, the Wicked Witch of the East!  How delicate was THAT?

Pointing out inconsistencies is a sign of healthy, alert thinking.  But is critical thinking becoming a vanishing art in American culture?

One of the most pressing crusades of Carl Sagan before his early death was:  for people to engage in critical thinking.

All the way up to his final book published in his lifetime–which book appeared one year before his early death–the astro-physicist from Cornell University lambasted Americans for their lack of skepticism.  His final book written during his lifetime was called “The Demon-Haunted World.”  Dr. Sagan said, Americans are becoming as  uninformed as people of years ago who believed in demons haunting their world.

This anti-intellectualism includes a skepticism over the findings of science.  Many Americans are clueless about what science IS–what constitutes something as being “scientific.”  The number of Americans who do not believe in evolution but DO swear by creationism shows the lack of understanding about science.  People are so gullible as to believe even in such an obvious fabrication as “creation science.”

“Creation”, by definition, involves God.  Belief in God falls outside of the realm of science.  Anybody’s belief in God can not be stated “objectively.”  Only things which can be observed, tested, and predicted are “scientific.”  God is not predictable, testable or observable. That is, the same prediction, test and observation would have to be carried out by not just one person but by any scientists anywhere in the world.  THAT is the level of objectivity required by science.

“Creation science” is a contradiction in terms–like saying “supernatural science.”  Science regards only natural causes for natural phenomena.  The supernatural do not enter into it at all.

But how many people swear by “creation science”?

Another piece of evidence for the sluggishness in many Americans’ thinking has been the popularity of television programs and supposed documentaries about the existence of mysterious creatures–the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, etc.–not to mention the practice of daily newspapers printing as a regular feature–a horoscope.  He said, more newspapers have a horoscope than have a science editor.

Sagan died in 1996 at the age of 62.  He had been contending with a rare type of cancer when– in such a weakened condition–he could not survive an incidence of pneumonia.

Oddly, as much as Sagan criticizes modern Americans, critical thinking is all the easier today for Americans.  We have such easy access to search engines.  For example, google “Loch Ness Monster.”  We read that Nessie was first brought to public attention in Scotland in 1933.  That means, the creature at that time was already an adult–with a long neck sticking out of the lake in the far-northern Highlands of Scotland.  That means–today–Nessie has been spotted for more than 81 years,

Creatures of similar reptilian features are–the alligator and the Kimodo dragon.  The alligator lives up to 50 years; the dragon, 30 years.  The two of them COMBINED wouldn’t equal Nessie’s 81 years since being supposedly seen in 1933.  And the lake monster was already thought to be an adult back in 1933, which means it’s “true” age would be pushing 100 years by now.

It would be easier to think that Phil, the ground hog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has been the same old ground hog since the tradition of seeing his shadow began as a public event in 1887–though ground hogs live only around seven years.

The “foot prints” of Sasquatch were discovered in the far northwest corner of California in 1958.  He, too, would have already been an adult at that point.  The only comparable creatures would be gorillas and bears.  A brown bear (the largest of the bear species) lives around 25 years in the wild.  A male gorilla lives around 35 years in the wild.

Again, both of their life expectancies COMBINED wouldn’t equal Bigfoot’s supposed age by this point of more than 60 years.

I looked up all of this information in the past 20 minutes.  We have that kind of easy access to search engines.

But TV programs and “documentaries” continue to be shown about the existence of Nessie and Bigfoot as well as other matters like aliens building the pyramids and making “snow angels” in farm fields.

One wonders if people watching this level of television bother to vote–and (all the more worrisome) whom they vote FOR.  Is it any wonder that there are so many far-right candidates insisting that evolution and climate change are a liberal plot, vaccinations are a corporate plot–and dinosaurs existed alongside of human beings (until they all drowned in Noah’s Flood)?

I don’t have the figures, but it may be a safe guess that more Americans watch movies more often than read books.  But even watching movies, do people THINK?

I’ve mentioned previously that I visited in 2000 the American Cemetery just off of Omaha Beach, the site of the deadliest fighting on D-Day.  I was being led around by a very knowledgeable guide from the Netherlands, who had settled in Normandy.   He told our group:  Whenever he brings American tourists to the cemetery, somebody always asks, “Where is the grave that was in the movie Saving Private Ryan?”

It’s bad enough that the film, which came out in 1998, wasn’t understood to be fiction.  It’s all the worse that so many people who THOUGHT the film was true–never bothered just simply googling “Saving Private Ryan” to find out if it’s fiction.













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