Critical Thinking as Productive Questions


1.  What standards do we require before we say "Well that proves it."?

2. Why do we believe so many things for which there is slim proof?

3. Why do people seem so willing to try to persuade others regardless of how puny there proof might be?

2 things stimulated these questions.  First, the justifiably eminent psychologist, Jerome Bruner, argues that one of the defining proclivities of humans is the acquisition of beliefs. Here he is not speaking about religious beliefs in particular. Beliefs come in many hues.

The 2nd stimulus is the song "Mormons Just Believe" from the play, The Book of Mormon.  The structure of the song is a series of outlandish contentions, each followed by "But Mormons Just Believe." Why highlight Mormons?  As I listened, I did not find their beliefs to be extraordinary, in the sense that they were different in credibiity from the sub-beliefs underlying so many beliefs, religious and non-religious that we cling to.

Humans hold religious beliefs despite the fact that few humans have bothered to use even the search strategies they would compel themselves to use were they buying a home. Imagine how embarrassed we would be were our friends to realize that when we last hunted for a place to live, we looked at only one home. Yet, among all of the believers in religion I have encountered, few have any in-depth knowledge of more than 1 religion despite the fact that there have been dozens of religions seeking new believers throughout human history. So many of us rush to believe.  At minimum, should all of us not be required to read the provocative Varieties of Religious Experience by William James before we make a commitment to a particular religion. At least then we might have some claim to using due diligence before locking in to a particular set of religious views.

AuthorM Neil Browne