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Sat, 23 Jan 2021
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The death of critical thought by 1,000 cuts

death of critical thinking
The death of critical thought has been a slow and painful process, one by 1,000 cuts rather than one ushered in overnight, but certainly one that is prevalent around the world today. One of the most difficult debates one can ever have with another person is to convince someone that he or she does not understand something that he or she firmly believes he or she understands. And such misguided delusions lead to delusional arguments:

"So, where did you go to school?"

Usually, such empty-calorie questions are posed by graduates from the "elite" schools around the world in the hopes that they can browbeat a person into conceding to them based on academic pedigree alone. Academic pedigree has nothing to do with critical thinking skills unless one attended a specialized school focused solely on critical thinking.

"What did you major in?"

Comment: While the above provides some needed common sense and good reasoning to current issues, it also points to the plethora of rhetorical fallacies that individuals - in every sphere of life - often resort to in order to convince others of their position or "truth".

As the article suggests, seeing through how such fallacies are employed (especially towards social and political ends) can help empower us to see through the lies and, hopefully, make better decisions for ourselves and those in our care and sphere of influence.

If knowledge is truly power, and if the strength of our being and of our very souls is dependent upon our alignment with Truth and Objective Reality, then we'd do well to re-familiarize ourselves with the ways in which we are lied to on a more or less daily basis.

The list of known rhetorical fallacies below may be used as just such a tool in the effort to think more critically and strengthen ourselves for the Big Lies coming down the road. And by all means do think critically on the examples given to demonstrate each fallacy. They may not all be correct!
Rhetorical Fallacies

Rhetorical fallacies, or fallacies of argument, don't allow for the open, two-way exchange of ideas upon which meaningful conversations depend. Instead, they distract the reader with various appeals instead of using sound reasoning.

They can be divided into three categories:

1. Emotional fallacies unfairly appeal to the audience's emotions.

2. Ethical fallacies unreasonably advance the writer's own authority or character.

3. Logical fallacies depend upon faulty logic. Keep in mind that rhetorical fallacies often overlap.


Sentimental Appeals use emotion to distract the audience from the facts.
Example: The thousand of baby seals killed in the Exxon Valdez oil spill have shown us that oil is not a reliable energy source.

Red Herrings use misleading or unrelated evidence to support a conclusion.
Example: That painting is worthless because I don't recognize the artist.

Scare Tactics try to frighten people into agreeing with the arguer by threatening them or predicting unrealistically dire consequences.
Example: If you don't support the party's tax plan, you and your family will be reduced to poverty.

Bandwagon Appeals encourage an audience to agree with the writer because everyone else is doing so.
Example: Paris Hilton carries a small dog in her purse, so you should buy a hairless Chihuahua and put itin your Louis Vuitton.

Slippery Slope arguments suggest that one thing will lead to another, oftentimes with disastrous results.
Example: If you get a B in high school, you won't get into the college of your choice, and therefore willnever have a meaningful career.

Either/Or Choices reduce complicated issues to only two possible courses of action.
Example: The patent office can either approve my generator design immediately or say goodbye forever to affordable energy.

False Need arguments create an unnecessary desire for things.
Example: You need an expensive car or people won't think you're cool.


False Authority asks audiences to agree with the assertion of a writer based simply on his or her character or the authority of another person or institution who may not be fully qualified to offer that assertion.
Example: My high school teacher said it, so it must be true.

Using Authority Instead of Evidence occurs when someone offers personal authority as proof.
Example: Trust me - my best friend wouldn't do that.

Guilt by Association calls someone's character into question by examining the character of that person's associates.
Example: Sara's friend Amy robbed a bank; therefore, Sara is a delinquent.

Dogmatism shuts down discussion by asserting that the writer's beliefs are the only acceptable ones.
Example: I'm sorry, but I think penguins are sea creatures and that's that.

Moral Equivalence compares minor problems with much more serious crimes (or vice versa).
Example: These mandatory seatbelt laws are fascist.

Hominem arguments attack a person's character rather than that person's reasoning.
Example: Why should we think a candidate who recently divorced will keep her campaign promises?

Strawperson arguments set up and often dismantle easily refutable arguments in order to misrepresent an opponent's argument in order to defeat him or her
Example: A: We need to regulate access to handguns. B: My opponent believes that we should ignore the rights guaranteed to us as citizens of the United States by the Constitution. Unlike my opponent, I am a firm believer in the Constitution, and a proponent of freedom.


A Hasty Generalization draws conclusions from scanty evidence.
Example: I wouldn't eat at that restaurant — the only time I ate there, my entree was undercooked.

Faulty Causality (or Post Hoc) arguments confuse chronology with causation: one event can occur after another without being caused by it.
Example: A year after the release of the violent shoot-'em-up video game Annihilator, incidents of schoolviolence tripled — surely not a coincidence.

A Non Sequitur (Latin for "It doesn't follow") is a statement that does not logically relate to what comes before it. An important logical step may be missing in such a claim.
Example: If those protesters really loved their country, they wouldn't question the government.

An Equivocation is a half-truth, or a statement that is partially correct but that purposefully obscures the entire truth.
Example: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." - President Bill Clinton.

Begging the Question occurs when a writer simply restates the claim in a different way; such an argument is circular.
Example: His lies are evident from the untruthful nature of his statements.

A Faulty Analogy is an inaccurate, inappropriate, or misleading comparison between two things.
Example: Letting prisoners out on early release is like absolving them of their crimes.

Stacked Evidence represents only one side of the issue, thus distorting the issue.
Example: Cats are superior to dogs because they are cleaner, cuter, and more independent.
Further Resources: Lunsford, Andrea A. and John Ruszkiewicz. Everything's an Argument. 3rd ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's,

Undergraduate Writing Center, The University of Texas at Austin UWC
website: uwc.fac.utexas.edu
Last revised by Christine Acker, June 2006


Scientists shed light on how and why some people report 'hearing the dead'

Victorian spirit photography
© William Hope, c. 1920/National Media Museum Collection/Flickr
An example of Victorian spirit photography.
Spiritualist mediums might be more prone to immersive mental activities and unusual auditory experiences early in life, according to new research.

This might explain why some people and not others eventually adopt spiritualist beliefs and engage in the practice of 'hearing the dead', the study led by Durham University found.

Mediums who "hear" spirits are said to be experiencing clairaudient communications, rather than clairvoyant ("seeing") or clairsentient ("feeling" or "sensing") communications.

The researchers conducted a survey of 65 clairaudient spiritualist mediums from the Spiritualists' National Union and 143 members of the general population in the largest scientific study into the experiences of clairaudient mediums.

They found that these spiritualists have a proclivity for absorption - a trait linked to immersion in mental or imaginative activities or experience of altered states of consciousness.

Mediums are also are more likely to report experiences of unusual auditory phenomena, like hearing voices, often occurring early in life.

Many who experience absorption or hearing voices encounter spiritualist beliefs when searching for the meaning behind, or supernatural significance of, their unusual experiences, the researchers said.


Brain paralyzes you while you sleep

Researchers at the University of Tsukuba in Japan have discovered a group of neurons in the mouse brainstem that suppress unwanted movement during rapid eye movement sleep.

Mice in Research Lab
© University of Tsukuba
Tsukuba, Japan -- We laugh when we see Homer Simpson falling asleep while driving, while in church, and while even operating the nuclear reactor. In reality though, narcolepsy, cataplexy, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder are all serious sleep-related illnesses. Researchers at the University of Tsukuba led by Professor Takeshi Sakurai have found neurons in the brain that link all three disorders and could provide a target for treatments.

REM sleep correlates when we dream. Our eyes move back and forth, but our bodies remain still. This near-paralysis of muscles while dreaming is called REM-atonia, and is lacking in people with REM sleep behavior disorder. Instead of being still during REM sleep, muscles move around, often going as far as to stand up and jump, yell, or punch. Sakurai and his team set out to find the neurons in the brain that normally prevent this type of behavior during REM sleep.

Working with mice, the team identified a specific group of neurons as likely candidates. These cells were located in an area of the brain called the ventral medial medulla and received input from another area called the sublaterodorsal tegmental nucleus, or SLD. "The anatomy of the neurons we found matched what we know," explains Sakurai. "They were connected to neurons that control voluntary movements, but not those that control muscles in the eyes or internal organs. Importantly, they were inhibitory, meaning that they can prevent muscle movement when active." When the researchers blocked the input to these neurons, the mice began moving during their sleep, just like someone with REM sleep behavior disorder.


The Woke Breaking Point

man facepalm
Almost everybody has a Woke Breaking Point. A point of Peak Woke. Or, at least, they should.

There should always be a line that, once crossed, signifies to someone that the ostensibly good or noble thing they currently support has soured or, as the case may be, gone completely bad. We all know the history of the twentieth century (or, so I delude myself into believing). Certain features of the Woke ideology, even if only on its extreme fringe, show shocking potential for being a totalitarian nightmare unfolding before our eyes, especially because so many good and decent people so vigorously (and viciously) support it all of a sudden. Even the rapidity with which it is spreading is disorienting, and thus alarming.

I realized the importance of establishing a "Woke breaking point" the other night while discussing the bizarre defenses of our current era with a brilliant friend. We were talking about the people in our lives who have hit their Woke breaking points and those who haven't. It struck me that many of the people in my life who remain sympathetic or outright denialist about the excesses of the Woke (Critical Social Justice) movement haven't grappled with the possibility that it isn't quite the noble and necessary cause that it sells itself to be.

What I realized is how very helpful it is for people, rather than becoming confrontational, to encourage their Woke-sympathetic friends to start identifying and naming what their non-negotiable lines will be. People's lines will — and should — vary, but as things get increasingly extreme, they will also get crossed more and more certainly. Knowing the line has been crossed, however, takes knowing there is a line and where it is.

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MindMatters: Dr. George Simon: The Character Disturbance Epidemic and What We Can Do About It

george simon
In 1996 Dr. George K. Simon wrote and self-published In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, almost single-handedly changing the 'self-help' landscape in the U.S. The book remains a best-seller. With decades of clinical research under his wing, Dr. Simon saw that a very large percentage of psychological and emotional issues people suffered from were due to the effects of the extremely manipulative individuals in their lives. Learning to recognize the signs and behaviors of such people would have to become a part of the process of not only protecting oneself from such persons, but also healing from their deleterious effects. Building on these insights, Simon went on to write Character Disturbance: The Phenomenon of Our Age, further explaining the gamut of what character-disturbed behavior looks like, both in others and in oneself.

This week on MindMatters we interview Dr. Simon about his work and the frameworks that have helped thousands to understand their relationships, as well as provided assistance for those wishing to look into the mirror of their own weaknesses, narcissism and failures of character - reminding us that while it's valuable to see the egregious behavior of others, it is also crucial to be able to recognize and correct our own failings.

Dr. Simon's website: drgeorgesimon.com

Running Time: 01:29:00

Download: MP3 — 81.5 MB

Bad Guys

The failed strategy of lockdown sceptics: We appealed to reason, not emotion

london lockdown protest
© Getty Images / Peter Summers
FILE PHOTO: Police officers move crowds in Soho on November 4, 2020 in London, England. Non-essential businesses, including pubs and restaurants, will be forced to close from Thursday, Nov 5, following a new national lockdown in England.
It must surely now be evident to all of us 'sceptics' that we have failed. Despite our efforts, the message simply has not got through. While there is clearly a sizeable minority of the population who feel as we do, it really is only a minority. This has been brought home to me very strongly while away visiting family over Christmas. While most of my relatives and old friends have been happy to meet up, they are simply uninterested in getting to the bottom of what has happened over the past year. If the virus comes up in conversation at all, it is only in reference to overcrowded hospitals, discussed with sad shakes of the head and much tut-tutting.

We have to face facts: most people simply accept the mainstream narrative, and with the prospect of the magic spell of a vaccine in the offing, there is little incentive for them to change their minds. The thinking of the great majority of our fellow citizens can be summarised as: a few more months of this and then it will be spring, things will be back to normal, and we can forget about all of this.

Why is it that so few of our fellow citizens seem willing to even listen to arguments which we find so convincing? There are undoubtedly lots of reasons, but I think it is at least in part due simply to a failure of strategy on the part of sceptics. That is, we have made arguments that are either factual or which appeal to our love of liberty. Neither of them has had much traction amongst the populace at all.

First, the problem of making the factual case. I am an academic, somebody who discusses ideas and encourages students to investigate and debate facts for a living. So this has been a very bitter pill for me to swallow indeed, but the reality is that most people are just not actually interested in finding out the truth for themselves. They are much more interested in conforming with what they perceive to be what one could call the 'moral truth' - the prevailing moral norm. The prevailing moral norm of 2020 is: lockdowns are the ethically right thing to do because they keep vulnerable safe from dying. To argue against that moral norm is, by definition, both immoral and abnormal. This is the most salient factor in governing behaviour in our society right now.

Comment: In precise terms, they have created a paramorality - one that looks moral but in fact is not, because it has no basis in reality.


Level 3 Thinking: A unified theory of self-improvement

mountain view peace meditation
I spent the last month revisiting my notes from 200-some books. As I moved through topics spanning health, entrepreneurship, philosophy, learning, and everything else I've been interested in, I couldn't help noticing some trends, some categories of thought the books could be organized into.

When I started reading more energetically, I focused on practical, how-to style self-improvement books. The Power of Habit. I Will Teach You To Be Rich. The $100 Startup. Popular books that promised to teach me a "hack."

Eventually, I grew bored of books that could be condensed to a blog post and pursued higher level books. Peak. Seeking Wisdom. The Monk and the Riddle. Books that provided a broader understanding, a richer context for their ideas.

Comment: Further reading: and listening:


Study finds 4 psychopathic personality traits linked to racial prejudice, right-wing authoritarianism

corporate psychopaths
A new study published in the latest edition of Personality and Individual Differences highlights the relationship between psychopathic tendencies, pathological personality traits and prejudicial views. Research suggests people with "calloused, deceitful, and manipulative interpersonal styles" are more prone to align with the beliefs of right-wing authoritarianism, according to PsyPost.

Sandeep Roy, a doctoral candidate with a major-applied focus on clinical psychology at the University of North Texas, explained the correlation between the two.

"My interest in the relationship between pathological personality traits, such as those captured by psychopathy, and prejudicial tendencies originated from my experiences working with offenders in the Arizona correctional system prior to graduate school," said Roy.

Comment: The four traits identified above fit into the 'dark triad' of psychopathy

'Far right' as a political category is not to be confused with 'conservative' values:


General anesthesia and normal sleep affect brain in an amazingly similar way as consciousness fades

Brain Studies
© University of Turku
What happens in the brain when our conscious awareness of the surrounding world and of ourselves fades during general anesthesia and normal sleep? This fundamental question was studied with novel experimental designs and functional brain imaging by Finnish scientists. They succeeded in separating the specific changes related to consciousness from the more widespread overall effects, commonly misinterpreted as the neural correlates of consciousness. The effects of anesthesia and sleep on brain activity turned out to be surprisingly similar. These novel findings point to a common central core brain network that is fundamental for human consciousness.

Explaining the biological basis of human consciousness is one of the greatest challenges of science. While the loss and return of consciousness, as regulated by drugs or physiological sleep, have been employed as model systems in the study of human consciousness, previous research results have been confounded by many experimental simplifications.

- One major challenge has been to design a set-up, where brain data in different states differ only in respect to consciousness. Our study overcomes many previous confounders, and for the first time, reveals the neural mechanisms underlying connected consciousness, says Harry Scheinin, Docent of Pharmacology, Anesthesiologist, and the Principal Investigator of the study from the University of Turku, Finland.


The 'F Scale': Theodore W. Adorno's 'authoritarian personality' revisited

Theodore W. Adorno
Revisiting Theodore W. Adorno's work on the 'authoritarian personality' and the 'F Scale' reveals that in 2020, it is actually liberals, progressives and the so called 'Left' that manifest 8 out of the 9 most problematic, antidemocratic and authoritarian attitudes.

The theory of an authoritarian personality was introduced in the 1930s in an attempt to explain the mass appeal of fascism and right-wing ideologies. It came to life in the wake of a sharp rise in the popularity of fascist movements in many European societies in the inter-war period.

At the time, many European ideologists and intellectuals were deeply inspired by Marx and Freud. Marxism predicted that the great depression would translate into a vast shift in working class conciousness, materialising into a global socialist revolution. Of course, this didn't happen. The economic crisis resulted instead in mass support for nationalist and fascist movements that were often deeply anti-Semitic.

The rationale behind the above deviation from the Marxist prophecy borrowed some Freudian theoretical mechanisms. 'People are authoritarians' was the given 'explanation': under certain threatening conditions 'authoritarian characters' are emotionally and cognitively vulnerable to the appeal of fascist and nationalist ideologies.

During the 1930s a score of Jewish Germanic intellectuals mainly (but not at all) associated with the Frankfurt School (e.g., Wilhelm Reich) were committed to point at the psychological and socio-economic conditions responsible for the making of the Authoritarian personality.