Tuesday, October 7, 2014

oh to still be teaching critical thinking

If I were still teaching Critical Thinking, I'd bring in this video for my class to watch, and then we'd slow it down and see if we could figure out when the speakers were making fallacies, what arguments they were actually making, what strengthened those arguments and weakened them, etc. Alas, I'm not still teaching Critical Thinking, although I'd like to again someday soon. Until then, I'm curious to know what y'all think. This is a clip of a discussion between Bill Maher, Ben Affleck, Nicholas Kristoff, and Sam Harris, about Islam/Islamaphobia. I might as well tip my hand right here and now and say I'm firmly on the side of Ben & Nicholas. I think that Ben is so angry (understandably) that he's having a hard time stating clearly what he believes, but right in the last few seconds he and Nicholas say really clearly what they're saying....this conversation is such an excellent example of the kind of racism that condemns black urban people because "statistics show" that black people commit more crimes.


  1. Sorry, I can't get with this. It gets to the heart of what sometimes has me scratching my head about your writings and other progressives' writings: I just don't see how statistics are evil, or how it's helpful to deny the possibility of specific problems being endemic to specific cultures. We talked about this just the other day with suicide. In addition to the demographics already discussed, it could also be noted that suicide in America is a disproportionately white problem. Is it anti-white to acknowledge and try to deal with that? You see what I'm saying?

  2. Bill also highlights another thing that sometimes troubles me: how we as progressives find it easier to condemn someone who fits the "enemy" profile- white, male, rich, evangelical, etc. than someone who forces us to acknowledge complexity and respond with more sensitivity and nuance. A white homophobe is easy to vilify, while a black homophobe is just has an "unfortunate attitude". That sort of thing. We do it semi-consciously, and I think it's well-meaning; we want to rise above any attempts to "divide and conquer" but I think we lose something in terms of perspective. Honestly, sometimes I'm not sure the stereotypical "oppressor" even exists, and by hunting for this person we let ourselves off the hook for the ways that we may be oppressive.

  3. Hey Jonathan, I appreciate your comments. I've been thinking lately about how I post this stuff on my blog but then I don't really explain what I think about it, or I use a kind of short-hand for explaining stuff that actually just leaves a lot of question marks in the minds of my readers, I'm sure. I think it's because at the moment I have a lot of open time on my hands, and in that time I've been thinking and reading a lot (like, much more than I normally do), so I suddenly find myself just having these avalanches of thought and ideas, as well as suddenly reading way more widely than I usually do, which means that when I sit down to write a blog post about it I feel really overwhelmed by all I'm thinking and feeling--and so I don't really say much at all! Like, the video in this post I've probably spent hours thinking about, just since yesterday when I posted it. But it's overwhelming to think about trying to articulate all I've been thinking.

    But! Too bad! This is my blog and by George I should articulate what I've been thinking, if I'm going to open this huge squirming can of worms. So, I'm glad you've prompted me to do that. Thanks.

    (P.S. I see what you're saying, and I'd like to address it; I just want to do it in a full blog post rather than here in the comments. Hopefully soon!)