So I’d like to share a thought with you all, if you’re willing to take a second –
First, a DISCLAIMER: You are hereby warned that the following post will be steeped with sarcasm. Readers, please view with discretion as the following sarcasm is not for the faint of heart.
(That was sarcasm right there, in case you didn’t notice).
I’m in an experimental psychology class this semester and the class, at its roots, is basically all about learning how to think critically and individually, as well as how to evaluate claims. So on the first day of class, as he was going over our syllabus, my professor made the point that the skills we are learning aren’t just for research, but also everyday things (e.g. TV commercials, interpersonal ideas and relationships, etc.).
It’s about not taking everything you read or hear at face value! People tend to adopt the first point of view they hear on any given topic. THIS IS SO DANGEROUS! You must learn to think for yourself and know what makes an idea or a source credible and reliable. It doesn’t matter if a celebrity says something about how their diet is “scientific”; are they a scientist? No; their fame does not make them correct. Even at that, are they respectable scientists that are experts in that exact field? Well, definitely not, but you get the point. Or in other words, politicians should stop trying to be theologians and philosophers, hooray!
Things you should not base your knowledge or opinions on:
1. Intuition – when you “just know” it
2. Authority – you look up to a person so you believe them regardless of their respective merit.
3. Superstition – magical thinking (i.e. something that is a diagnostic criterion for several psychological disorders, btw… Don’t be crazy; drop the superstitions! 😛 Just kidding… But for real though, maybe see a psychiatrist?)
4. Tenacity – hearing it so often it becomes “true” (e.g. views on high fructose corn syrup vs. sugar; the most recent studies are saying there is not much of a difference, last I checked)
5. Rationalism – logical, yes, but far too rigid thinking with black and white rules that are not always befitting (e.g. Christianity, Islam, or pretty much any religion – not all)
6. Empiricism – learning from observation and experience (i.e. just because you’ve seen a phenomenon occur the same way each time does not mean that is the only way it can occur)
A good way to learn is to use the scientific method (which doesn’t only happen in laboratories!), which combines rationalism and systematic empiricism (i.e. structured observation) but still has a rule of falsifiability (i.e. the hypothesis or theory could potentially be disproven — there are no concrete KNOWNS and there are no “UNKNOWABLES”). A study will not be regarded as credible by scientific journals and communities if it doesn’t adhere to these assumptions. Hey, scientists really can be humble!! 😛
So one of my professor’s examples for testing the claims you’ve heard was to “read the Scripture daily to see if what you’ve been told is true” — a preacher’s word is not truth, a writer’s word is not truth (yes, I speak of the Bible itself), and, “The Bible says it; that settles it” is one of the worst phrases on earth, especially when using it to defend your faith – IT ISN’T LOGICAL and people who do not believe what you do are going to see your intuition as insanity. If you’re goal really is to bring them into the church or show them the love of Jesus and you try to convince them using a faulty, stupidly ignorant, and ungeneralizable argument, you are not going to have a good time! Nor a lot of success.
These days, people highly value logical and factual evidence in making a decision about something (such as religiosity), so if you say you want to share the good news, then you have to change your tactics to be appropriate for your audience.
For example, if you want to “prove” that homosexuality is like the freaking worse possible thing on the entire plant of Earth (Seriously, people? Don’t you have something better to do than this? Like, I don’t know, worry about your own damn lives and “righteousness”), then you first need to see if what YOU believe is valid, NOT what someone else believes. Otherwise, you make a fool of yourself and the religion/political/social party you represent. Not a super effective tactic, eh?
To have decent and possibly “successful” debates with anyone about anything at all, you need to educate yourself. I mean, academically and scholarly (e.g. Bible school does not count because it is not based on scholarly evidence that is tangible and can be proven – Also, who here has a had some sort of minister that actually went to college and studied biblical language, culture, historical accuracy, and literalism? This is a legitimate question – comments welcome). In regards to the previous example, the Clobbering passages may be one thing you examine, which you can read about here: http://www.thegodarticle.com/7/post/2011/10/clobbering-biblical-gay-bashing.html
You consider and evaluate things such as the original language, the problems of translation, the various (and contradicting) translations throughout history, the original culture, archaeological findings (which includes human artifacts, not just bones and mummies and whathaveyou), etc. This is to test the source’s VALIDITY. Then you’ll apply that to modern times and see if the information and ideas are have acceptable RELIABILITY (i.e. able to be generalized, same results each time the test is performed regardless of who is doing the testing, does not depend on fabricated “evidence” or on researcher bias, etc.). For example, standardized tests are reliable – that’s why they are called “standardized”. They are the standard testing method for our nations students, in order that we may evaluate their academic performance and progress. (Personally, I think they can be botched due to things like test anxiety and whatnot). Anyway, back on topic…
Let’s use the scientific method! (Yes, it can be used outside of a laboratory! Crazy, right?!)
So your first step is to form a hypothesis (e.g. what you think the Bible says),
Then put it to the test by collecting and analyzing data (e.g. finding out what the Bible really says and observing it directly; then you analyze your source’s credibility, perhaps by comparing what you have observed to the original language and culture, as well as scholar’s proposals),
Now you can draw conclusions (e.g. think critically about the results you have discovered – without bias – to determine if what you had been taught is correct),
Next, you do it again! 😛 (e.g. also continue to educate yourself via a multitude and variety of sources, which by the way, could even come from other religions – learning about Islam taught me a LOT about early Christianity) – this is a test of the validity of your method and results!
Another important thing is to have another person (in science, they are called peer raters) perform the same test on the same hypothesis to see if what they find is identical or similar to the original outcome – this is a test of the reliability of your method and results!
Thank you for reading. I hope you found it stimulating and informative.
I’m always up for an intelligent chat, so if there is something you want to bounce off of me, go for it! I’m open-minded.
Please think and LEARN before you speak because your claims can, in fact, have a great impact on others’ lives – good or bad.
Like scientific or religious claims, for example. Even if a statement is later correct, many people cannot shake the bias of first impression and will continue to see and treat a person in accordance to that impression, which was based on something you said out of ignorance or pride.
Now go do something as awesome as you are, you cool cats! 🙂