Critical Thinking...Not

So there I was, alone at the table. Just me and my slide whistle and the radio. Until I was interrupted by the Tommy Schnurmacher show on CJAD with a segment on critical thinking. I figured what the ham, why not? The guest was a professor at McGill named Dr. Damiel Levitin.

Boy oh boy it was quite the exercise in exactly the opposite of critical thinking. Basically, all he did was tell the audience to rely on "experts" in mainstream sources like Bell and The New York Times (because the media has been so awesome in the treatment of facts in recent times. From sensationalism to  plagiarists to liars, they've seen and done it all) and to fact check those with 'neutral' sites with investigative journalists like Politifact and Factcheck.

Of course, as any savvy navigator knows, these sites have also faced their own criticism. He claimed the fact checking at the NYT is incredible but when the host pointed out the NYT having to retract not one but two errors on Aleppo (after going smugly after Gary Johnson), he replied basically they do it for most articles and then when pressed again, he said they do it more in the print edition than online.

Hear that sound? That's the sound of a guy who just lost the plot. I wanted to change the channel at this point because it was insulting but I decided to listen on.

It didn't disappoint.

He took it a step further and this is where he commits a logical fallacy. He argued that if you're going to research, for example, meat don't go to 'meat associations' since they're *obviously*  bias.

I argue this is plain absurd. Just because, a scientist who works for an oil company or a research team gets a grant from a company in another industry doesn't  mean their work is compromised. To dismiss this outright is foolish. Besides, I doubt he believes government papers are non-bias so wouldn't this work both ways?

Moreover, it's a little like suggesting don't read Barron's or some other finance publication to learn or be informed on investments and the stock markets. 

However, he's right. You should research what's presented but I've come to learn the mainstream press is actually a laggard and often not accurate in some instances. You have to diligently back check the fact check. I have my own system in place; including trying to find an article or essay from outside North America to offer a perspective from different lenses.

But wait there was more.

He asserted 'there is no other side' in the climate change debate because all the serious scientists have come to a consensus that it's happening. The host, to his credit, smelling he's got a live one, asked 'since when is science done by consensus'? Bingo. He skated around it and then suggested of course people are entitled to take a counter-argument but those people aren't true scientists but people not related in the field of climate.

The science is settled. Eugenicists thought science was on their side too. Just sayin'.

Really? The biggest pimps for climate change are people like Bill Nye (engineer), Neil de Grasse Tyson (physicist), Al Gore (engineer/politician), Paul Ehrlich (biologist). And where they are actually in the field like Michael Mann, their theories (ie Hockey Stick) have been aggressively challenged if not thoroughly debunked. Another is James Hansen with his numerous frightening scenarios about climate.

Might I also add, his favorite NYT employs an economist (with a specialty in a sub-set of the dismal art) to talk about politics in Paul Krugman - who basically is just a shill for progressivism and the Democrat party. And then there's our old friend Thomas Friedman who seems to have amnesia. 

Never mind we have over 100 years of climate prognostications that never happened and never mind the '97% consensus' things has been outed as a fraud, and never mind the data and models have proven to be manipulated and erroneous, and never mind there are plenty of legitimate scientists and blogs and sites who have taken to set the record straight (a simple research into this will bring you into a world of sensible and rational thought) and never mind....bah, never mind.

Here too the host was skillful enough to get the guest to admit scientists have been on the wrong side of history too. Just because a majority agree with something doesn't mean their right.

But hey, there is not other legit counter-point according to this guy.

I went in hoping to sharpen my skills on how to spot a false equivalence or tu quoque better, instead I got some vague, unhelpful, and misguided pointers on how to research.

And he wrote a book on critical thinking? Maybe he has more to offer or perhaps it was a bad day but I was profoundly disappointed in his tips and approach.

You can listen to the interview here. 

I was better off playing with my slide whistle.

Oh. Might I suggest additional reading along with a piece of advice?

Learn to spot bull shit.

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