Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking’ Category

If you use critical thinking, you’ll see why Harambe the gorilla needed to be shot dead.

Critical thinking 101: Unless you’re an expert in primatology, zoology, and child behavior, your opinions on the killing of Harambe are likely just an emotional overreaction. Chances are, you’re an “animal fanatic” – someone who’s incapable of having any empathy for your fellow humans. As a result, you transfer all of these emotions onto animals, and then take pride in this fact. So now another animal has been killed as the result of an unfortunate interaction with a human and you’ve gone into emotional hyperdrive. Let’s take a step back and apply some critical thinking to this situation.

Before You Type #JusticeForHarambe…

Remember that you’re not an expert in primatology. You might not even know what the word “primatology” means. By now, there have been hundreds of thousands of people who’ve said, tweeted, posted, and commented that “the gorilla wasn’t trying to hurt the boy, he was dragging him to keep him safe from the screaming tourists.” When I read/hear people saying this, a few questions come to mind, including:

  • Are you an expert in primatology?
  • Have you studied great apes in their habitant for years like Jane Goodall?
  • Do you even have a degree in zoology or animal behavior?
  • Are you a mind reader?
  • If you can’t answer “yes” to any of these questions, then you simply have NO idea what Harambe was thinking when he ragdolled that boy through the water with great force. There is no possible way you can interpret Harambe’s actions in any way as to make a definitive statement about the nature of the gorilla’s mindset. It really is that simple. We humans mistake the intentions of our fellow humans all the time, so how could we pretend to “know” the heart and mind of a wild animal?

    Before You Scream for the Mother’s Head…

    Please keep in mind that you’re also not a child behavioral specialist. You also weren’t at the zoo when this went down. Yet despite these facts, so many people are so certain that this is a slam-dunk case of parental neglect. “Well, that mother must’ve done something wrong for that to happen,” they say. This is an example of a cognitive bias known as the just-world fallacy.

    Many of you also have gone so far as to say that you would never let this happen with your children, blah, blah, blah, blah. Apparently, many people conveniently have forgotten how difficult caring for a child can be… and how easy it is for a young child to slip past his/her parents.

    I should know because my Autistic son got loose from a family member and nearly was killed.

    Nobody was necessarily being a “bad” or “negligent” parent that day. My son is very strong and very fast, and being Autistic, we don’t quite understand why he does this, we only know that he does. And while we take every precaution to safeguard his well-being, he still manages to do things that place him in danger, as most children are wont to do. Simply put, these things just happen and when they do, the situation is not always an indictment of anyone’s parenting skills.

    What if Harambe Dragged YOUR Child?

    If your child fell into a gorilla habitat, what would you do? If Harambe dragged your child through the water as forcefully as he did the child in Cincinnati, you would be screaming for zookeepers to “do something.” And if that “something” means shooting that “poor gorilla” dead, you would kiss the zookeeper’s feet and thank him for his good aim. Because let’s be honest, even if the gorilla WAS trying to “protect” the boy, I’m not sure that little kid’s body could withstand the force of what Harambe was doing.

    Critical Thinking for Harambe the Gorilla

    To wrap up our critical thinking exercise with Harambe the gorilla, let’s take a look at the facts. There’s no way you can “know” what Harambe the gorilla was thinking when he dragged that child. You have absolutely no clue whether this child’s mother is a negligent parent or not. But most of all, you can never say that this would never happen to you. Not if you’re being honest with yourself. Before you emotionally overreact, try using a little critical thinking.

    Do it for Harambe!

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Chad  The wisdom of Internet memes, this time from the only-God-can-judge-me crowd.

Before I get started dismantling the faux wisdom of this meme, let me make a couple things perfectly clear. 1.) I am covered in tattoos. I have two half-sleeves, both chest panels and a backpiece covered in a variety of designs. 2.) I am not a Christian. Instead, I’m an Odinist, which means I honor Odin and the rest of the old, Northern European gods, such as Thor, Tyr, Freya, etc. With that out of the way, let me tell you why I think this meme is bullshit, for the most part.

I will acknowledge that there’s a kernel of truth to this meme. Yes, not everyone who has tattoos is a vicious killer or conniving criminal. And yes, all of know at least one person who piously attends church every Sunday yet somehow seems to miss the better message of what being a Christian/Jew/Muslim should be all about, and that’s love, acceptance, forgiveness of self and others, etc. That said, this amount of truth to the meme is an acorn compared to the towering oak tree of bullshit that it implies.

Now let’s look at the bad, of which there is a lot. Those who would share this meme are doing so in search of validation. Chances are, they’re tattooed and likely don’t go to church – which neither of things are bad – and they’re struggling with feelings of low self worth. (Hint: we all do this to varying degrees.) Thus, sharing this meme is their way of saying, “Despite my flaws, I’m a good person. Right?” And each like and/or comment from their like-minded tattooed friends acts as another brick added to the poster’s “self-esteem wall.”

Another problem with this meme: it’s thinly-disguised tribalism. What I mean by this is it basically draws a line in the sand between one “tribe” – tattooed people – and another “tribe” – non-tattooed people who attend church. This creates an us-against-them scenario where people are reduced to mere stereotype of what each “side” represents to the other. This robs people of their humanity, which is known as “othering,” as in people become reduced to something other than human. Example: Someone looking at a group of tattooed people and saying, “Look at those freaks over there! They’re not like us at all. They’re evil!”

Thing is, it works just as well in reverse: “Look at those lying sons of bitches with their hands together, pretending that they’re praying. Half of them will go home and beat their wives!” (Sound familiar?)

The bad news is that it’s hard to escape the “tribal mindset,” as it’s been ingrained in us since the dawn of our species. By trusting in and taking care of only our own “tribe,” our primitive ancestors ensured their survival. This same biological memory doesn’t serve us so well today, where our culture has moved from tribal to one of a diverse global village. Now, whenever we separate humanity into “tribes” that are diametrically opposed to each other, we create conflict where there needn’t be any. This can lead to atrocious acts committed upon members of the other “tribe” in the name of survival of one’s own. Example: How many Jews were killed by the Nazi regime because they believed Jews to be evil and a threat to Germany’s prosperity?

One more thing about the tribal mindset: seeing the world as us-against-them blinds our eyes to the wide range of diversity of thought that in which humankind actually presents itself. Example: how many tattooed people go to church? Likely more than you think, and they’re not all bad (or good) people. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it should not be ignored that many murderers, rapists and other criminals have tattoos, and  there are many people doing good things – ministry, healing, charity work, etc. – in the name of their chosen faiths.

Wow! I’ll bet you didn’t think a meme that says so little actually says so much!