Archive for April, 2011

April 30, 2011

Concept of God

The concept of God has evolved through the ages.  It has been the subject of intense contemplation and debate by philosophers, religious institutions and the ‘common man’ as well.

When the term ‘God’ is heard, many images come to mind depending on who hears it ranging from a father figure that controls the destiny of all men to an amalgamation of natural law to disbelief of any such notion. Because of this wide array of perceptions people have been shunned, excommunicated, tortured and killed when their viewpoint did not match the prevailing authoritative opinion.

Man’s perception of God can be characterized by using an old analogy.

Four blind persons were walking down the road when they came across an elephant.  None had encountered such an animal so they decided to examine different parts of the elephant by touch then compare experiences so as to identify it.

The person at the front end touched the trunk and deduced it was a snake. One crouched down and felt its legs then reported that this must not be an animal at all but a tree.  The person at the rear agreed that it wasn’t an animal because they touched its tail and concluded this object was a rope.  The fourth blind person touched the elephant’s side and thought it to be a wall. All four persons were describing the same thing yet reached very different conclusion.

Their only commonality is that they were all wrong.  The elephant represents the concept of God, the four blind persons, various religions of the world.  All are describing the same thing but none of their descriptions can be validated.  Therefore, “one should conclude that no individual religion has a corner on truth, but that all should be viewed as essentially equally valid or invalid” (Horner)

The contemplation of God is philosophical in nature.  God and philosophy have been inherently intertwined since the beginning of humankind.   Early philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Socrates were not affiliated with any particular religion, at least as it would be described by today’s standards.

These historically significant philosophers sought to explain the world and the concept of God by submitting metaphorical explanations to reprove their arguments.  Their general concept of the universe was that God was simply a metaphor for the universe.  They used this dual definition to provide a legitimate explanation for man’s existence.

This philosophical approach to understanding essentially ended when the Christianity dominated the rule of law and defined truths for people instead of questioning its own philosophies as the earlier intellectuals did.

Today, the concept of God for most persons of religious faith is somewhat finite, an almost human apparition with omnipotent qualities.  This is opposed to early philosophers and those who consider themselves rational thinkers.

In time, mankind will likely, albeit slowly, discount the religious definition of God for a more complex, less certain conception, much the same as those great philosophers thousands of years previous.

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April 17, 2011

A Critical Issue

Critical thinking is loosely defined as a conscientious, competent, reflective and reasonable thought process.  A critically thoughtful person has the ability to pose suitable questions, assimilate pertinent information in an organized manner, creatively and efficiently reason this information logically then come to a trustworthy and reliable conclusion.

This ability enables such a person to successfully navigate their lives in a world that bombards one with conflicting information.  The aptitude to think critically can only be learned; it is not inherent.

The critically thinking person is a critical evaluator of information; they are driven to search for evidence and reasons.  They develop this skill by cultivating particular patterns of thought such as learning to identify unfounded types of arguments and understanding the method by which to postulate and support merits.

The critically thinking person has both the skills necessary to seek out truth, evidence and reasons in addition to having a sufficient disposition to search for these things.

Similar concepts such as decision making, reasoning, logic and problem solving are associated with critical thinking.  Decision making entails evaluating advantages gained or lost if a course of action is followed, a process determined by specific criteria.

Reasoning involves reaching a conclusion beginning with a specific premise or given information.  Logic is concerned with the scrutinizing of argumentation which is the ability to construct and analyze arguments utilizing specific criteria.  Problem solving refers to narrowing alternatives so as to come to a favorable outcome.

Occam’s Razor principle is but one example of how critical thinking is practically employed.  This centuries-old principle remains a staple of the scientific thought process to this day.  Simply stated, ‘All things being equal, the simplest explanation is probably the correct one.’

Atheists have used this example of critical thought, specifically Newton’s version, to debunk the existence of God. However, they themselves are not sufficiently employing the critical thinking process.  While it is true that the existence of a God cannot be proven, it can neither be disproved as well.  It leads one to wonder about other aspects of their lives that they claim to know as a true.

A critical thinker is quite unashamed to admit they do not know even when they choose to believe.

Critical thinking allows a person to think independently and to automatically question other’s beliefs as well as their own.  Critical thinkers are inquirers.  They investigate issues without bias and continually ask questions which challenge authority, traditions, beliefs, doctrines, dogmas and the status quo in general.

Critical thinking is not simply the acquisition and retention of facts nor is it a skill which is used as one sees fit.  Once exercised, it becomes an integral part of one’s inner self, a tool that is utilized without conscious thought.  No point of view is summarily dismissed or accepted.  It is examined and challenged.  It is also, unfortunately, a far under-used commodity.