The European Space Agency has accomplished one of the greatest engineering and scientific achievements in human history this past week. Not only did it get a space vehicle into orbit around a comet travelling at more than 55,000 km/hr (34,000 mph), it landed a probe on the very rough surface of that comet. Outstanding, brilliant, superb… […]
Harold Camping has been dead for almost a year, but his legacy lives on. Not just in the broken dreams of his deluded followers, but in the many lives he destroyed through his madness. You would have thought that, having predicted the end of the world several times, and been wrong each one, because of the […]
Homeopathy. It’s absolute bunk. But you already know that. All those forms of ‘magic medicine‘* are bunk, of course, but homeopathy has a special place reserved for it in the kingdom of codswallop. Codswallop is dangerous to the mind, and often to your wallet, but homeopathy compounds that by being dangerous to your health, too, […]
In his dialogue, Crito, Plato has Socrates gently admonish his friend, Crito, for his concern over what the uneducated public might think, or might spread by rumour and gossip, and encourages him instead to focus his attention on those ‘reasonable people’ who know the facts and in doing what is right: “Why, my dear Crito, should we pay […]
Last night at council I referred to seeing what I believed was a post hoc fallacy in a report, or more properly a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Yeah, I probably annoyed some folks in the audience because I used Latin words and that confused them. But hey, they already think I’m a jerk because […]
Years spent in the media, plus decades of independent practice as a writer and social critic honed my native skepticism into a protective psychological barrier against a wide range of social ailments and inappropriate, often dangerous beliefs. It has made me question motives, statements, logic and conclusions, and search for the underlying truths. It motivated me to explore, […]
“Hide witch hide, the good folks come to burn thee; Their keen enjoyment hid behind a Gothic mask of duty.” Jefferson Starship: Mau Mau (Blows Against the Empire, 1970) I was thinking about those lines recently. They seemed appropriate given the events in town since last spring. I was also thinking about what Gord Hume […]
I was amused by a recent comment I had voted “95%” the same as others on council. This was followed by the inevitable accusation of “block voting.” The complainer apparently wants everyone to vote in some helter-skelter manner. God forbid we should all agree on anything. It’s a tired old campaign tactic: to accuse your opponents of being […]
In 1787, the Empress Catherine II took a long trip to the Crimea along the Dnieper River. She wanted to see how her subjects lived. Not wanting her to see the actual poverty and hardships of the peasants, her lover – and the region’s governor – Grigory Potemkin, had pretty, fake villages of canvas and […]
I am dismayed over the general collective amnesia that has once more taken hold of political leaders and the public over the latest so-called world threat. In the solution being embraced, few seem to remember the abject failure of past incursions in the Middle East, incursions that only gravely exacerbated existing problems. It is as if hysteria has replaced critical thinking.
But my dismay is ameliorated, however slightly, by evidence that at least some have retained their faculties sufficiently to call into question the current prevailing ‘wisdom’ that says ISIS is a clear and present danger to all of us, (Read more…)
Plato records the trial and death of Socrates in four dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito and Phaedo. I’ve been reading The Apology this week and finding in it references that reflect well in today’s world, particularly in politics.* In The Apology – which meant defence in Greek, not saying sorry as it does today – Socrates defends […]
As medicine, reflexology is bunk. Just like iridology and phrenology. Of course, you knew that. But not everyone does. Reflexology popped up recently in a shared post on Facebook (a popular venue for moving codswallop and cat photos from one user to another at the speed of light…). Coincidentally it appeared right after a post promoting a […]
In the July/August edition of Pets Magazine (the Cat Care issue) there are two articles that caused me concern. One is “The Loyalty and Bravery of a Cat” (p.28), the other is “Quick-Thinking Cat Saves the Day.” (p.26). The latter is a pet profile from the Purina Hall of Fame that honours pets for “extraordinary […]
I had read about the “trolley problem” in the past, but not given it much thought until recently when I saw Thomas Cathcart’s little book of that name in the philosophy section of an Indigo bookstore. It’s subtitled, “Would You Throw the Fat Guy Off the bridge? A Philosophical Conundrum.” I, of course, was so […]
“The unexamined life,” Socrates declared in his trial, “is not worth living.” His student, Plato, wrote down those words in his account of Socrates’ trial and death, in the book, Apology.* Socrates was speaking for himself and about the value of his life as a thinking person. He was on trial in 399 BCE for impiety – […]
A recent trip to Toronto to see family and friends – and celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary – also netted me a treasure trove of books, thanks to the proximity of a new/used BMV bookstore to our hotel. And, of course, Susan’s patience while I browsed the shelves. Several times. I managed to find a […]
They’re already facing some serious challenges coming their way before all that long, let’s teach them the difference between absurdity and reality, the gift of critical thinking. That’s been heavily drummed out of us these past two or more decades and it shows in the mess we’ve created during that interval.
Dan Arel, in his book “Parenting without God,” argues that, in a society “ruled by absurd religion and other dogma,” critical thinking is more important than ever.
One important thing to teach our children is how to think critically. It is easy to tell them they (Read more…)
In the mid-1990s, journalist David Denby took on a personal challenge to return to Columbia University for a year to take two courses, both focused on reading the “great books” of the Western canon. The results and his observations – along with an entertaining bit of biography about his journey – is told in Great […]
Michel de Montaigne wrote in his usual self-deprecating but sardonic way: If other men would consider themselves at the rate I do, they would, as I do, discover themselves to be full of inanity and foppery; to rid myself of it, I cannot, without making myself away. We are all steeped in it, as well […]