THE DANCE OF CRITICAL THINKING AND BELIEF — A NATION IN THE BALANCE.
Reason and logic are seen to be the source of all material progress. They constitute one of the greatest gifts to Homo sapiens. They are the essence of critical thinking, considered the hallmark of knowledge and wisdom. Critical thinking is fact based. Reason and logic are often, and wrongly, equated to sanity.
Most of us have seen apparently completely logical people who are utterly insane. A person may be a genius, but insane (Leopold and Loeb). A cognitively impaired person may be the most sane, lovable, well balanced and happy person you will ever meet (Forest Gump).
Belief does not rely on facts. It is a force of Nature that captures our conscious minds, irrespective of what presumed facts seem to require.
As powerful and productive as reason and logic have proven to be, belief overwhelms and dominates critical thinking.
A common trope is we should avoid discussion in polite company of religion and politics. Why? Both are founded in and controlled by belief. Only on very rare occasion do we find two people capable of an authentic dialectic regarding these subjects. The outcome of engagement of these subjects from different perspectives is normally uncomfortable argument often spiced with anger, hurt feelings, and resulting in estrangement. Belief is a very powerful force in shaping our deepest convictions regarding our truth, values, and personalities.
Today we see political belief systems apparently on the verge of toppling our national government. To be a democracy, or not to be a democracy? Each side projects on the other the label of “irrational and illogical”. With few and notable exceptions, that give us some hope, both are deeply committed to their beliefs, convinced of their omniscient knowing, and closed to any argument, any suggestion of “something to learn”. Believers adopt their beliefs as part of their identity, and are insulted by disagreements they see as personal attacks. Thus, the anger. Anger first, then hatred, then violence.
The antidote is bitter. Few will drink of it. It is humble recognition that, “I could be wrong”, or at least “I might have something to learn”. “After all, I must admit, I do not have divine wisdom. Our secret — I have been wrong before”. How rare is it to find a person previously committed to a powerful belief system who is willing to sip this potion?
If we, as a nation, do not break out of the dominance of belief, find humility, and discuss problems rationally, in authentic dialectic, can we survive as a nation even remotely similar to the one we have known for so many years? Perhaps our first question is, do we want to? If not, why not? If we are not a democracy, then what will we be?
These issues cannot be adequately dealt with under the dominance of a heart felt belief system.
Those who wish to doubt that democracy is under attack may not be lost to finding truth, but it will be a great and dangerous battle. The signs are clear, and all around us, in every state.
As Jim Acosta asks, quoting the “Untouchables”, “What are you prepared to do?”