Critical thinking – a response to a misguided forum post.

Remember the part I said about ‘woo magnetism’ and how it is dangerous? The reason it is important to challenge silly beliefs like dowsing, global warming denial, chemtrails, etc. is that they lead to fuzzy thinking. No one is harmed by dowsers—unless you count the money spent on them. But that lack of critical thinking does lead to beliefs that are harmful.

One of the very first principals of critical thinking is that anecdotes are not evidence. Seeing someone find water using dowsing does not mean it works. If you understood the science behind it you would know that it cannot work. That’s one of the red flags for any ‘amazing breakthrough’ touted in junk email and websites flogging woo. Scientists (and people who use critical thinking) know that people are easily fooled. Confirmation bias, wishful thinking, confounding factors, and luck all influence how you interpret the world. Scientists try to remove the extraneous factors. Woomeisters gloss over them—if they acknowledge them at all.

The lack of critical thinking can have disastrous consequences when it spills over into real life issues. Your wife’s cancer is a case in point. Herbal remedies will not help her cancer at all. That is a fact. What confuses people like you—who don’t understand statistics and science—is that sometimes surgery is enough to stop the cancer. Sometimes cancers go into remission themselves. So an anecdote on a website that is selling some kind of miracle cure ‘that doctor’s don’t want you to know about’ is worthless. I hope your wife overcomes her cancer, but her chances would be much greater if she went to real doctors.

And the science of global warning is not a left-right issue. For reasons that escape me, the people in Foxlimbeckistan have made it into a political issue. But the science is not in any way political.

I’m fairly careful to moderate what I say and I don’t intend to say anything mean about you personally—although it’s possible that I did. But I don’t have much patience with willful ignorance, so you may have interpreted my stridently attacking your ideas and lack of critical thinking as attacking your character or integrity.