"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

A Complete Lack of Critical Thought

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I was reading through facebook posts some of the ongoing saga of Gabi Schiller, and her father’s battling to bring to light some absolutely horrific social media commentary concerning a post he made about her scholarship to play softball. Originally I had linked that post on my facebook page but took it down when I looked again at some of the language that was displayed. Although the article was highly critical of the language, it was awful enough that I could not leave it up.

My first thought was disgust – I worked in a rather male-dominated world for two decades, including attending a military college, being an engineer and (the great honour) of being an armament officer for most the latter 15 years of that career. Armourers were a group I won’t even attempt to categorize except to say that most of my really memorable experiences in uniform came through working with that amazingly skilled (and sometimes quite crude) group. I recall my first armament mess dinner when the guest speaker (himself an armament officer of many years) concluded his talk to great cheers when he said, “If you ain’t an armourer, you ain’t sh-t.” Even coming from that world, where my 19th birthday present was being dropped in a bag, naked and painted white, at the downtown McDonalds in Victoria, I never encountered the type of language I read in the social media posts about Gabby Schiller.

I hope no armourers take that up as a challenge…(and while the fitters were often out there too, I never heard that type of language from that group either)…

How is it possible that public figures (one is now suspended, and the other fired for these comments) feel it is appropriate to joke about rape on social media?

Today I ran across this article in the New York Times, titled “Why Our Children Don’t Think there are Moral Facts” that perhaps explains why social media is at times a complete cesspool of immorality and evil.

The philosophy prof that wrote that article, Justin P. McBrayer, discovered this when he observed two signs on the wall at his son’s second-grade open house ( a binary universe where everything is fact or opinion):

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

McBrayer went on to observe that most of the rules in the school’s code of behaviour would fall into the school’s definition as ‘opinion’ and therefore only relative truth.  What does it mean when the teaching of moral behaviour in a grade school is immediately undercut by their efforts to emphasize that opinion is not an authority?  That sort of intellectual duplicity is only possible within a thought system that allows mutually countradictory assertions to hold equal validity.  (for example, A and not A cannot occupy the same space at the same time)

One of the articles referenced laments the great lack of engagement with great literature, and how this has produced a generation of morally relative students whose best argument for anything is, “Everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want.”  Lord have mercy.

I won’t even attempt to summarize what are excellent articles written by people who have given some deep thought to the question.  I will lament that the trend I saw identified in an older article, “Samantha Shrugged” seems to be even more firmly in place than before.

Take note specifically of that second article’s critical comment on post-modernism.  In spite of encountering impassioned defences of the usefulness of post-modern approaches, I have to say that the overall impact on the culture has been to completely gut any concept of truth, objective, absolute truth, in common discourse.  Read “Samantha Shrugged” to see what I mean, particularly the line about it being one’s right to believe what is objectively not true (like the earth is flat).

The writer draws this out as the logical extension of developing thought from the Englightment onwards:

Over the last three centuries, however — a span of time that witnessed the rise of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, the dawn of Naturalism and Modernism, and the dominance in our time of Post-Modernism — the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of Western Culture have been shaken, eroded, and ultimately rejected altogether by new, man-centered ways of viewing reality. The rise of science and the unrivaled hegemony of the scientific method — advancements that undeniably increase technological and material comforts for countless billions of human beings — also destroyed the very premises on which moral truth and consensus had been constructed. …

Thus there can never exist the possibility that a professor or student might take seriously the faith claims and moral injunctions of Judeo-Christianity. To do so would immediately expose the “believer” as illogical and absurd.

This commentator links the two issues together, as I do, that a complete lack of any ability to critically think is the starting point of an open door for amoral behaviour.

This also reflects my daughter’s experience at a defensive driving course.  This was a part of her driving training, but she discovered that almost all the other course attendees were there to avoid losing their driver’s license due to excessive demerits.  The one consistent facet of her experience was the willingness of all those others (who, you have to note, were there because they had objectively been repeatedly assessed as not understanding traffic laws) to argue points of law with the instructor.  “Well, that’s just stupid.” was the common rebuttal.  There are some stupid laws, but a thinking person’s approach is not to argue, but to follow the law because it supports the greater good, and acknowledging that their opinion on a law might very well be wrong.  As CS Lewis pointed out, failing at that sort of basic level of reasoning is just like the lunatic sitting in his cell with his eyes tightly closed chanting, “There is no sun.”

And on that note, a word from Lewis’ The Silver Chair on the importance of being able to think critically:

Then came the Witch’s voice, cooing softly like the voice of a wood-pigeon from the high elms in an old garden at three o’clock in the middle of a sleepy, summer afternoon; and it said:

“What is this sun that you all speak of? Do you mean anything by the word?”

“Yes, we jolly well do,” said Scrubb.

“Can you tell me what it’s like?” asked the Witch (thrum, thrum, thrum, went the strings).

“Please it your Grace,” said the Prince, very coldly and politely. “You see that lamp. It is round and yellow and gives light to the whole room; and hangeth moreover from the roof. Now that thing which we call the sun is like the lamp, only far greater and brighter. It giveth light to the whole Overworld and hangeth in the sky.”

“Hangeth from what, my lord?” asked the Witch; and then, while they were all still thinking how to answer her, she added, with another of her soft, silver laughs: “You see? When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me. You can only tell me it is like the lamp. Your sun is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp. The lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children’s story.”

“Yes, I see now,” said Jill in a heavy, hopeless tone. “It must be so.” And while she said this, it seemed to her to be very good sense.

Slowly and gravely the Witch repeated, “There is no sun.” And they all said nothing. She repeated, in a softer and deeper voice. “There is no sun.” After a pause, and after a struggle in their minds, all four of them said together. “You are right. There is no sun.” It was such a relief to give in and say it.

Suddenly Gabi Schiller’s experience, and the dental studies on our east coast (who also thought it appropriate to make rape jokes about their classmates), along with the growing attractiveness of jihad tourism (on either side), and all of the college cheating scandles we’re hearing of…all start to make more sense.

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38, ESV)

What is truth, indeed.

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Written by sameo416

March 4, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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