FTBConscience Starts Tonight

FTBConscience, the first entirely online atheist/skeptic conference that I’m aware of, kicks off this evening (at least where I am) with a talk by David Silverman. I’ll also be appearing on that panel to say a few introductory words. Then at 9 pm EST, I’ll be moderating a panel on critical thinking with Jeremy Beahan, Julia Galef and Dan Fincke. The first link above is to the website for the conference, where you can get the full schedule. The other links are to the Google+ event pages for those two panels, from which you should be able to link to the streaming video on Youtube for them once they get started. You can ask questions for a Q&A session at the end of the discussion by going to the Pharyngula chat room (instructions here) or by leaving them as a comment on this thread after the session starts. Be there or…don’t be there. Your choice.

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  • Michael Heath

    I’m an advocate that we teach critical thinking as a stand-alone topic at all educative levels.

    I think the first twelve minutes reinforces that position. That’s partly because formal training on the subject results in our being more aware of the level of reasoning we’re using to derive our positions. Unless we can separate the critical thinking process we’re deploying and actively and consciously gauge our performance to derive our positions, we’re prone to the logical fallacies we’ve inherited.

    Dan Fricke’s point at 10:26 illustrates; we’re prone to follow the herd even after being informed doing so is harmful. Dan partly defends the herd mentality by noting a lot of past assertions turn out to be false, while the herd continues to exist and therefore provides a compelling position. But we also know we can take better positions on many topics; where I think weighing our conclusions is superior not only if we’re trained to think critically, but perhaps even more importantly, able to simultaneously gauge the quality of our thinking when considering a particular position.

    E.g., twenty-five years ago the herd thought gay marriage was harmful to society. But when we gauge the strength of the anti-gay argument, which approaches zero as we observe in the Prop. 8 case at the District court level, we’re more prone to support gay marriage simply by weighing the quality of critical thinking between the best arguments for and against gay marriage. That in this case, the old herd was always wrong.