FTBCon Critical Thinking Panel

For those who did not get to see the panel on critical thinking that I moderated on Friday night with Julia Galef, Dan Fincke and Jeremy Beahan, I’ll post the video below. I thought it went very well, though I wish we had scheduled it for two hours instead of one. There was so much more to talk about.


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  • jameshanley

    FTB promotes critical thinking? Good to know. After reading Greta Christina’s post about the Trayvon Martin case, where she said anyone who dared to have a different view should never comment on her blog, I’d begun to doubt it.

  • Michael Heath

    James Hanley writes:

    FTB promotes critical thinking? Good to know. After reading Greta Christina’s post about the Trayvon Martin case, where she said anyone who dared to have a different view should never comment on her blog, I’d begun to doubt it.

    Using one uncited anecdote from one individual to smear an entire group is itself an obvious failure in critical thinking. Especially in a culture where even those considered to be rational demonstrate a failure in thinking from time to time.

    As for Ms. Christina, while I can’t evaluate her thinking skills via her blog since I don’t read it. I did read her book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless. That was one of the best argued books I’ve ever encountered.

    The fact her book was soundly argued was a big surprise to me. I presumed prior to reading it her argument would be more polemical than rational since passion is implied in the title. Instead I actually observed what I find to be a rare and exceedingly difficult standard to meet, someone who could make passionate yet still rational and compelling arguments. It’s far easier to make dispassionate arguments as I observed from Ed and his guests in the first 40 minutes of Ed’s linked-to panel discussion.

    Andrew Sullivan is another person I find that consistently meets this rare standard I think Christina achieved in her book, though his passion also causes him to make more errors. A good analogy would be that Sullivan is a prolific home-run hitter that’s the type that’s also known to strike-out because one of his greatest strengths at promoting his arguments, passion, can also be one of his greatest weaknesses.

    So even if Ms. Christina did make a bad argument in regards to George Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin in the chest with his gun, that alone is hardly compelling evidence she’s incapable of thinking critically, let alone evidence that perhaps all the bloggers at FTB can’t think straight.

  • Michael Heath

    Here’s the blog post that James Hanley refers to: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/07/15/trayon-martin-george-zimmerman-freethought/

    Here’s what Greta Christina writes:

    I am not willing to host a debate about [Zimmerman killing Martin] on my blog. I am willing to host many debates on my blog, about many issues. I am willing to make my blog into a place for people to express many ideas and opinions with which I passionately disagree. This is not one of those issues, and this is not one of those times. If you have anything at all to say about this that even remotely hints at implying that what George Zimmerman did was remotely defensible, or that this verdict was anything short of grotesque… do not comment in my blog. Now, or ever. Do not read my blog. Do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Do not attend my talks. Do not buy my books. Get the fuck out of my life, now. Thank you.

    I agree with James that this policy and attitude is a gigantic whiff by Ms. Christina. However and again, one defective argument is a standard I don’t find anyone capable of meeting. So to imply Ms. Christina, and perhaps all the bloggers at FTB doesn’t promote critical thinking based on this one blog post is still an absurd rhetorical question to raise.

    That’s in spite my concluding it’s obvious that Mr. Zimmerman acted in a negligent manner that had him killing Mr. Martin, and therefore justice requires that Zimmerman be convicted for murdering Mr. Martin. (I’m parsing justice as different than the legality of the shooting based on FL law and the constitutional protections we’re afforded by the U.S. Constitution.)

  • That’s quite the straw-Greta, and by extension straw-FTB, you’ve got going there, James Hanley.

    I must have missed the memo where any commentary on any subject had to be allowed to stand on any blog, anywhere, or that individual bloggers couldn’t draw lines in the sand, however irrational, about what sort of commentary they would allow on their blog, or what sort of people they want in their life.

  • jameshanley

    Wow, has Ed’s blog changed so much since I used to hang out here that snarky jokes are verboten? Does free thought now require humorless pedantry?

    But I have to thank Michael Heath for managing to not drag in either global warming or the Koch brothers. That’s a plus. 😉