Edev_501 Response wk9_6

I particularly appreciated her caution based on the readings of Paul, Elder and Scriven that critical thinking may be seen “as a set of virtues if that is understood as moral virtues” (Mulnix, 2012, p. 466). This echoed my own impressions about a lot of texts on critical thinking, such as Brookfield and Moon.

There is an unnamed1 subtext at play here that is affecting much of the work certainly in the United States and to a lesser extent in the countries of the UK and other English-speaking areas. I can’t speak to other regions except to say that this subtext is a non-issue in Japan. This subtext is the rise of atheism/ modern humanism with its concurrent rise in scientism against which Christian creationism and intelligent design arguments are currently fighting for dominance in US schools.

The argument that atheism fails because it has no moral and theoretical underpinning is a non-sequitur which introduces so many straw men and red herrings that attempting to debate this issue is a waste of time. However, the upshot is that (how I view it anyway) the rise of the naming of critical thinking as a movement is partially done to give humanism/ atheism its moral and philosophical root.

Personally as an atheist, there is an aspect of this that ashames me. In Japan and in Scotland (my two countries) it is perfectly acceptable now to ‘admit’ to being an atheist. In other parts of the world, the same sentiment can be life-threatening. Many media personalities in the atheist world hide under terms such as ‘sceptic’ (US skeptic) and ‘humanist’ and will not say publically that they are atheist. At the same time, they promote critical thinking in their blogs as a de-facto moral stance. I won’t provide any sources because there are literally thousands of blogs on this topic. A Google search on “atheism and critical thinking” will suffice. I’m ashamed of this because of the inherent cowardice; the pretence of ‘being scholarly’ allows writers to promote egalitarian critical thinking while never stating a crucial and critical theory (in the sense of societal change): the refusal to be open about a purpose of critical thinking. The irony drips like honey from a spoon.

Zuckerman et al. (2013) produced a meta-study that tied in many of the threads in the intelligence-religiosity debate. They find a strong correlation between intelligence and non-religiosity. They are impeded in their discussion on atheism because:

“it is rather difficult to write about atheism because, unlike theism, it does not produce (religious) relics and is not associated with (religious) customs” (Zuckerman et al., 2013, p. 345).

If such a study is done in five years, I predict that the rise in atheist blogs will produce enough artefacts for study.

In terms of leadership development, Zuckerman et al., point to precollege students’ stronger religiosity compared with graduates. If epistemological development is successful in learners, the move away from reliance on intuitive processes as the base for action towards more rational processes is likely to lead more towards a non-theist mind set (Shenhav et al., 2012). Against this is the notion that leaders need to use powerful rhetorical methods to motivate subordinates (Saee, 2005). Using non-theist rhetoric in an embedded religious society is unlikely to prove effective.

Is critical thinking being uncritically accepted as a tool for subverting religiosity, or is the move away from religiosity as evidenced in the West a natural development of scientific thinking?2

[1] Unnamed subtext to me. If you know the name, please let me know.

[2] I realise that there is a logical middle ground, but that is, I believe, a fallacy.

Mulnix, J. W. (2012). Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking. Educational Philosophy & Theory, 44(5), 464-479.

Saee, J. (2005). Effective leadership for the global economy in the 21st century. Journal of Business Economics and Management, 6(1), 3-11.

Shenhav, A., Rand, D. G., & Greene, J. D. (2012). Divine intuition: Cognitive style influences belief in God. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 141(3), 423-428.

Zuckerman, M., Silberman, J. & Hall, J. A. (2013). The relation between intelligence and religiosity: A meta-analysis and some proposed explanations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 17(4), 325-354.



About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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