When Propagandists Promote Critical Thinking

Over at the Friendly Atheist blog, Hemant Mehta has a blog entitled “Lawrence Krauss Talks About How To Become a Better Critical Thinker.”  It amuses me that a propagandist like Mehta would try to promote critical thinking.  It’s like a social justice activist posturing as a defender of free speech.

Mehta quotes Krauss:

… we should never take anything on faith. That’s really the mantra of science, if you want, that faith is the enemy of science. We often talk about a loss of faith in the world today; you don’t lose anything by losing faith. What you gain is reality.

It’s obvious that Krauss embraces faith to uphold his self-perception as a critical thinker.  For he is a man who does not practice what he preaches.

For example, Krauss relies on faith to embrace the New Atheist talking point that religion, on balance, is evil.  I exposed his hypocrisy back in March 2016:

Wright then goes on to make a good point – the reason the New Atheists are into proselytism is because they think religion is evil and cites the subtitle of Hitchen’s book, “How Religion Poisons Everything.” At this point, Krauss agrees, but adds the qualifier “on balance” multiple times. After repeatedly insisting that religion is bad “on balance,” Wright finally asks Krauss, ” Have you done the inventory?” Has Krauss made the effort to score religion in terms of its good and bad effects? Krauss’ reply is classic:

“No, it’s not important enough to do that. I have more important things to do.”

This man thinks he understands critical thinking, but he doesn’t.  Which is not surprising given that he is more of an activist than a scientist.  Critical thinking is incompatible with activism.

Activist Mehta quotes some more from Krauss:

When you’re presented with questions or answers about any problem there are a few questions you can ask yourself, that you should ask yourself right away. First of all, you can ask yourself, ‘Do I like this answer?’ And if you do you should be suspicious because you’re much more likely to accept something that appeals to you whether it’s right or not. So if you inherently like something in some sense that’s a reason to be almost more suspicious of it…

Has Krauss ever asked himself whether he liked the answer that teaching creationism to children is child abuse?  It’s another one of his crackpot notions he holds by abandoning the scientific approach.  Again, this was all explained back on July 2015. 

Mehta then comments:

Or you can just live in your bubble and listen to the news sources that confirm whatever you already think. It’s a lot less complicated.

LOL!  This is hilarious.  Mehta not only lives in a bubble, he is the Bubble Maker and makes money off his bubble.  His blog and FB page are textbook examples of confirmation bias.

Mehta ends with these words of wisdom.

But if you value honesty and reason, accepting comfort over truth isn’t an option.

I would agree.  But there is one catch.  While this is true if Christian theism is true, is it really true if atheism is true?  Why should atheists always value honesty and reason?  After all, they don’t.  Why should atheists accept truth over comfort?

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24 Responses to When Propagandists Promote Critical Thinking

  1. Scott Edwards says:

    Could you be specific about what, if anything, Krauss said in the video that you disagree with?

  2. Dhay says:

    > For he is a man who does not practice what he preaches.

    Let me translate: Krauss talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk.

  3. Kevin says:

    He, like Mehta, spouts off advice for others who don’t believe what he does, but he never applies that advice to his own beliefs, particularly his faith-based New Atheist talking points on religious matters. That’s the problem.

  4. Scott Edwards says:

    Dhay and Kevin, were you replying to what I said? Seemingly yes, but I don’t know because neither comment answers my question.

  5. Regual Llegna says:

    Mehta quotes Krauss:
    “… we should never take anything on faith. That’s really the mantra of science, if you want, that faith is the enemy of science. We often talk about a loss of faith in the world today; you don’t lose anything by losing faith. What you gain is reality.”

    MEANING… You big buffoon! by losing faith you lose your meaning, ideals and philosophies.
    Science is only a body of comparative and probabilistic knowledge, it will never work just how it is for humans. Empiricism overwhelm science and sometimes plain instincts every time, it is what make a science truly settled. Science has no mantra (a religious/ideologic/philosophic word) because science alone has no goal at all.

    Mehta ends with these words of wisdom.

    “But if you value honesty and reason, accepting comfort over truth isn’t an option.”

    It is only me, that see this, or the very initial rhetoric of the new atheists did not appeal perfectly to the cult of the victimhood in wich atheists were a prosecuted minority worldwide. Like many prosecuted minority they saide with allies that will give them optimal comfort, like gnu atheists do with the their version of the ideal of the secularists, to the point that Bernie Sanders does not like that a christian believer be a democratic representative over the idea that others religion that are not christianity are wrong, but he is a atheists socialists using this point of view in a mayority christian nation to control who have access to authority and voice in the goverment.

    “It’s obvious that Krauss embraces faith to uphold his self-perception as a critical thinker.” Gnu Atheists claim that being a critical thinker and atheism are a “natural state” of the human bieng and faith and anything related to beliefs is a mental illness which removes logically the guilt of the people who “suffer that disease”, wich make ableism (arguments that need the idea of disabilities to work) a dogmatic (fundamental/basic) part of all the gnu atheists arguments, if that is true then brag and self label “critical thinker and atheism” yourself should never by important, remarkable, worthy of any praise and will be totally meaningless if you want to archive something more than being “common” and in SJWs terms “supremacists bigotry ideas and beliefs againts the people that suffer disabilities”.

    Scott Edwards says:
    “Dhay and Kevin, were you replying to what I said? Seemingly yes, but I don’t know because neither comment answers my question.”

    You have already received your response, you know it well, accept it.
    Hemant Mehta is simply a career activist with something to lose: money, authority and followers. And Krauss is the same, talking shit outside his feil od work: theoretical physics, a heavy point to the theoretical part that means not settled and no evidence, only circumstantial evidence and a idea opr beliefs about probability without prior knowledge to use as a comparison because is imposible to human to have it without non-instinctual empirical evidence: First-hand experience

  6. Kevin says:

    So to make sure I understand your request, you aren’t concerned about Krauss’ or Mehta’s hypocrisy, but rather are wondering what Michael or someone else here would find to be a flawed statement from the video, even if hypocrisy wasn’t the issue of the OP?

    That would be off topic, but low hanging fruit would be he uses the New Atheist definition of faith rather than the Christian definition (not to mention he makes a lot of faith-based talking points that he presents as facts, but that would be hypocrisy, which doesn’t seem to matter?)

    While factual inaccuracies exist in the video, the purpose of the OP is the blatant hypocrisy and irony of so-called skeptics blindly swallowing propaganda without actually applying it. The New Atheist movement would have never existed if that skepticism was turned inward.

  7. Regual Llegna says:

    Kevin says:
    “… The New Atheist movement would have never existed if that skepticism was turned inward.”

    No as a movement they are exactly as a modern social justice movement, SJWs cult of victimhood, without victimhood they are the “oppressor” and apathetic conformists of the “oppressor”, when they went of board claiming that secualrism was the idelogy of the mayority of the people in the westerns nations they become the enemy of the others SJWs groups.

    In the moment that they change the topic, that of religion, their ideas become worthless in their own ideologies and the proselytization of their brand of “atheism”.

  8. mechanar says:

    one really has to wonder if people like Metha have ever read another book on the subject of faith religion and philosophy in their life after becoming atheists? These talking Points have been refuted in books like “the atheist who dint exist” years ago. than again as Bill clinton once said.

    “The problem with any ideology is it gives the answer before you look at the the evidence. So you have to mold the evidence to get the answer you’ve already decided you’ve got to have.”

  9. Scott Edwards says:

    Kevin: You disagree with the statement “we should never take anything on faith…”? If so, what should we take on faith, and why?

  10. stcordova says:

    “If so, what should we take on faith, and why?” When you are forced to make decisions with incomplete information. This is because we are not ominiscient, and even if all the facts were available to us, we wouldn’t be able to process them all anyway.

  11. Michael says:

    Could you be specific about what, if anything, Krauss said in the video that you disagree with?

    I never said anything about the video. My blog posting addresses the two quotes Mehta supplies and then also two quotes from Mehta himself. It appears to me that my analysis caused you enough discomfort that you have sought to change the topic.

    I’ll reasonably assume my analysis is correct and consider your subject – the entire content of the video.

    My impression was that it is hard to agree or disagree with what Krauss says given he paints such a simple-minded picture of reality. He gives us a cartoon version of both faith and science and his “advice” sounds like some material from some click-bait blog. As a theist, is there some specific point I was supposed to disagree with?

  12. Kevin says:

    Scott: “You disagree with the statement “we should never take anything on faith…”? If so, what should we take on faith, and why?”

    For one thing, the statement “we should never take anything on faith” is itself a faith statement. It could be argued for, of course, but one is not denying reality by disagreeing with that statement. No one is obligated to accept that axiom in order to meet the standards of rationality.

    The main issue I take with it is Krauss is using the standard New Atheist definition of faith – pretending to know what one doesn’t know, or perhaps conflating it with fideism, and putting it in opposition to science, even though it is not. Those are not definitions of faith that I would recognize as applying to myself, nor any other Christian I know or any apologist I have encountered. “Faith” is basically synonymous with “trust”, so imagine Krauss’ statement in that light: “We should never trust anything.”

    Do you agree that we should never trust anything?

  13. Michael says:

    In a matter of a few minutes, both Kevin and stcordova demonstrate more intellectual sophistication than the physicist Lawrence Krauss.
    Building on stcordova’s point, I would simply add that faith is ultimately a choice. That is, after processing all the evidence you can, and considering all the arguments for and against you can encounter, ultimately, you have to make a choice. What do you believe? Who do you believe? And then support that choice by explaining why you believe. We either have to make that choice because we are not all-knowing, or refuse to believe either way and remain purely agnostic.

    Building on Kevin, I would add that the choice is a choice about who and what we trust. Then living on that trust is akin to keeping the faith.
    None of this, as I see it, is specific to religion. Which is why it was so easy for me to spot examples of Krauss’s faith. As an activist who is deeply invested in posturing as if he has no faith, his faith truly becomes a blind faith immune to correction, for he confuses his faith with knowledge. The irony. Those of us who acknowledge our reliance on faith are the ones most open to correction. For as we all know, trust CAN be misplaced. And, what’s more, if trust is inconsistent with experienced reality, it will weaken over time and fall away. But those who think they have knowledge and Speak for Science……?

  14. stcordova says:

    Regarding Krauss specifically in his scientific work, he made this conclusion about the cosmology he swears by:

    “”In the far future all evidence of the big bang will disappear and scientists will think we live in a static eternal universe,” — Lawrence Krauss

    So Kruass admits, that for most of the time in future, our scientific cosmology would be totally wrong. Future generations would have to be reliant on word of mouth testimony and historical records to that will have to be accepted on faith to get the story right because science in the future will get it wrong.

    So if humanity long enough, for Krauss’s claims about the Big Bang to be accepted as right, they will have to be accepted on faith, because Krauss predicts the evidence some time in the future will give the wrong scientific measurements. Poetic justice to Krauss who disdains beliefs handed down through the ages. He predicts a situation I alluded to, where we have incomplete information, and in this case incomplete information as a matter of principle.

  15. Dhay says:

    In the far future all evidence of the big bang will disappear and scientists will think we live in a static eternal universe,” — Lawrence Krauss

    As stcordova points out, only the ones with amnesia and no records. Krauss’ is a particularly implausible, even clueless claim, evidently one targeted at a clueless audience lacking critical thinking skills and inclined to rely on faith in such as himself.

    *

    On a lighter note, I see Krauss’ ScienceDaily article continues:

    Looking out at a night sky twinkling with distant light, it’s a disturbing challenge to imagine that one day – far in the future – we will be alone in a dark empty universe. The rest of the universe will disappear before our very eyes.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090216092715.htm

    Krauss could be referring to the effects of ‘heat death’ or to the effects of the accelerating expansion of the universe.

    Which reminds me of a brief article I wrote on the latter — the accelerating expansion of the universe and its consequences — for my workplace’s satirical magazine, for its January 1900, Millennium Special Edition, an article entitled “Families Drifting Ever Further Apart”:

    Scientists have long known the universe to be expanding, but believed gravity to be slowly but inexorably pulling its far-flung parts back together again, resulting — they thought — in either a slowing of the expansion, or alternatively in a complete reversal into contraction and eventual Big Crunch.

    However, recent discoveries have shown the expansion to be not slowing but accelerating, so that the universe will not only continue to expand forever, but will expand faster and faster as time goes on.

    One result of the accelerating expansion is that distant stars will eventually get so far away their light won’t even get to us any more; they will be so far away that for light to cross the enormous distances between them and us, the light would have to have set out before the beginning of the universe.

    Scientists have predicted that this will happen first to those stars which are farthest from us, which will vanish; then then progressively nearer stars will vanish, until the whole night sky becomes a starless black.

    Our [workplace] scientists have taken the the expansion to its logical ultimate conclusion, which is that the Sun, too, will eventually disappear; then the planets and the Moon; and eventually — if we can continue to get close enough to each other to have children, that is — our children’s children’s children’s … children will lose sight of their own feet.

    But I don’t think I’m half the comedian Krauss is.

  16. Dhay says:

    Scott Edwards > Could you be specific about what, if anything, Krauss said in the video that you disagree with?

    Dhay and Kevin, were you replying to what I said? Seemingly yes, but I don’t know because neither comment answers my question.

    Kevin: You disagree with the statement “we should never take anything on faith…”? If so, what should we take on faith, and why?

    Offers nothing but questions. Is that you, SEBOT?

    http://streetepistemology.com:12347/?qid=1

  17. FZM says:

    Dhay,

    Offers nothing but questions. Is that you, SEBOT?

    Maybe…

  18. FZM says:

    It amuses me that a propagandist like Mehta would try to promote critical thinking.

    In this case maybe his presentation of himself as a champion or advocate for critical thinking is actually a propaganda or rhetorical technique. Assuming their target audiences are likely to view it as something desirable or valuable a person can use their advocacy of critical thinking to lend unwarranted or gratuituous authority to statements they make; i.e. if a person who spends plenty of time and energy self labelling as a champion of critical thinking, saying how much they value critical thinking, people will be likely to assume that the claims and assertions they make are the result of critical thinking or have been tested critically (even if it’s not the case).

    (The critical thinking advocate may also develop or promote assumptions to the effect that a true application of critical thinking will inevitably lead to position X, which happens to be one they themselves hold and are interested in promoting as well).

    Generally I think it’s better to go by looking at the actual practice and results involved in a person’s applications of ‘critical thinking’, rather than their claims about themselves and the abstract concept of it.

  19. Scott Edwards says:

    Attacking the messenger instead of the message naturally prompts the question, “But what about the message?”

    Equivocations on the word “faith” can usually be resolved by considering belief, which encompasses trust and so forth. The fundamental issue whether one should believe something only if there are good reasons to believe it, or whether believing in something without good reason can be justified. William James offered some pragmatic situations in which the latter could reasonably apply, but in most cases we affirm the former.

    And there are reasons to believe that “one should believe something only if there are good reasons to believe it”, namely that believing in untrue things often causes problems. We may express it as a pragmatic aim: We wish to believe in true things and disbelieve untrue things. If someone don’t wish that then that’s their prerogative, but I think it would be hard to justify (outside of James’ prudentialist exceptions, etc.).

  20. Kevin says:

    “What about the message?”

    If the message is essentially tailoring one’s beliefs to conform to evidence, we have someone like Krauss saying that all scientists should be militant atheists and actively pushing the narrative that Christianity is opposed to science and reason. We have someone like Francis Collins saying there is no inherent conflict between science and belief in Christ. Both men are trained scientists who have come to hold incompatible, completely opposite positions on the same topic.

    Who has not conformed his beliefs to the evidence, of the two men I mentioned? How do you know? Who has good reason to believe what they do?

    Even if Krauss’ words are themselves devoid of inaccuracy, his application of them is biased, to say the very least.

  21. TFBW says:

    @Scott Edwards:

    Attacking the messenger instead of the message naturally prompts the question, “But what about the message?”

    To the extent that the messenger is being attacked, it is because of the conflict between the message and the actions of the messenger (i.e. hypocrisy). The basic thrust of the OP is the irony of advice on how to be a good critical thinker being given by someone who does not even live up to his own prescriptions. In general, bad practitioners are not reliable sources of good advice.

    As to the message itself, though, let us focus on the first part quoted: “we should never take anything on faith.” This is asserted as an article of faith. Similarly, “faith is the enemy of science” is asserted as self-evident truth, and Krauss expects us to accept it as such. The position shows strong signs of incoherence even without reference to Krauss’ habit of ignoring his own advice. On what basis are we supposed to accept the proposition, “we should never take anything on faith?”

    Even if we do find some non-faith grounds for accepting the proposition, there is a secondary issue as to whether this is even a useful observation. For a sufficiently anti-intellectual definition of “faith”, the proposition that “faith is the enemy of science” is trivially true, but to then suggest that this tells us anything about religious faith is to equivocate on “faith”, or beg the question that such faith is anti-intellectual.

    I really don’t see that I need to engage the argument beyond observing that it is either incoherent or reliant on the fallacy of equivocation to make its point. Why waste time criticising garbage?

  22. stcordova says:

    Dhay,

    Thanks for your response. You said: “But I don’t think I’m half the comedian Krauss is.”

    Yes indeed. The reason I raised the issue about Krauss’s cosmology is that it shows in principle a situation sometime in the future where the nature about reality cannot be accessible via science. In order for people to align with the truth about origins, they must rely on handed-down human testimony with all the fallibilities of such testimony.

    How does this relate to religion. Suppose Jesus actually rose from the dead and that God, for whatever reason, decided that the way most people on Earth can align with the truth is to accept historical testimony handed down by the church. They must accept testimony with all the risks that are associated with human testimony, such as it could be just fabricated.

    Krauss’s work describes an analogous scenario where truth is inaccessible to science as a matter of principle but accessible only by trusting human testimony, fallible as it may be. Poetic justice.

  23. hikayamasan353 says:

    To be a good critical thinker one should know how to criticize properly. Criticism and activism are incompatible because if criticism and activism meet together, they simply form an “anti”-movement. Like, if we criticize Harley Davidson motorcycles, and try to proactively preach that criticism, it would simply be anti-Harley Davidson campaign. Yes, Big Twin engines have frequent oil leaks, the big mass with weird dynamics make the bike hardly drivable, it’s made with parts made outside of USA (Made in China!!!), but – that’s enough to know. Criticism should be informative, just to make people aware of whatever. Moreover, it’s not just negative, positive criticism exists too, such as in case of Harley Davidson motorcycles, the good points is the brand famousness, distinctive engine design (single pin crankshaft with 2 cylinders make a burble, uneven exhaust sound, commonly described as “potato-potato”) etc. But – it’s already enough. Activism is just all about using points derived from criticism just to make it to the masses and make people accept. Making people accept – it’s propaganda. That’s all.

  24. Dhay says:

    Lawrence Krauss appears to be lousy at philosophy: even Jerry Coyne, himself no whizz, criticised Krauss’ A Universe From Nothing in his 02 April 2012 blog post entitled “David Albert pans Lawrence Krauss’s new book”, stating he agreed “with much of Albert’s take” (ie criticisms.)

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/david-albert-pans-lawrence-krausss-new-book/

    In a recent, 12 July 2017, blog post entitled “Oy! Rebecca Goldstein versus Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus)” Coyne defends himself indignantly against Goldstein’s criticism of himself as ‘a prime example of a “philosophy-jeering scientist”’ by pointing to worse examples of philosophy-jeering scientists:

    Philosophy plays a substantial role in interpreting quantum mechanics and other issues in modern physics, whether or not physicists like Lawrence Krauss admit it (he’s a big detractor of philosophy). …

    And yes, there are some scientists who don’t seem to appreciate the value of any philosophy, for scientists or anyone else: these seem to include Lawrence Krauss and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and it’s clear that I disagree with them.

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/oy-rebecca-goldstein-versus-professor-ceiling-cat-emeritus/

    Looks like, for Coyne, Krauss is the supreme example of a “philosophy-jeering scientist”, much much much worse than Coyne himself.

    *

    Coyne’s — Coyne’s — paraphrase of Golstein’s argument in favour of the value of philosophy is:

    Now Rebecca does a very good job in explaining what philosophy is good for: she says it’s to “maximize coherence”. By that she means the logic and reason of philosophy is good for dispelling incoherent or inconsistent arguments—a method pioneered by Socrates and now given his name.

    Ah, philosophy is all Socratic Method, is it? That will be news indeed to many philosophers. This doesn’t speak well of Coyne’s level of comprehension of what Goldstein was saying.

    *

    Those who don’t jeer at philosophy probably realise that one role of philosophy is to take ideas and to challenge them by subjecting them to detailed close scrutiny, analysis and criticism. It is a paradigmatic example of critical thinking.

    If you diss philosophy, as Krauss famously does, you diss the discipline which exemplifies critical thinking and you diss the promotion of critical thinking.

    Yet Krauss is posturing as promoting critical thinking. Go figure.

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