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College Students Lack Critical Thinking Skills, But Who’s To Blame?

A new study suggests that American universities are failing in what is supposed to be one of the their core missions:

NEW YORK — An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn’t determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

Arum, whose book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” (University of Chicago Press) comes out this month, followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective.

Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called “higher order” thinking skills.

Combining the hours spent studying and in class, students devoted less than a fifth of their time each week to academic pursuits. By contrast, students spent 51 percent of their time — or 85 hours a week — socializing or in extracurricular activities.

The study also showed that students who studied alone made more significant gains in learning than those who studied in groups.

Perhaps most the most interesting thing about the study is the manner in which the results seem skewed by field of study:

Students who majored in the traditional liberal arts — including the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics — showed significantly greater gains over time than other students in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills.

Students majoring in business, education, social work and communications showed the least gains in learning. However, the authors note that their findings don’t preclude the possibility that such students “are developing subject-specific or occupationally relevant skills.”

Greater gains in liberal arts subjects are at least partly the result of faculty requiring higher levels of reading and writing, as well as students spending more time studying, the study’s authors found. Students who took courses heavy on both reading (more than 40 pages a week) and writing (more than 20 pages in a semester) showed higher rates of learning.

That’s welcome news to liberal arts advocates.

I would think it would be, but on some level such an analysis would seem to ignore the reasons that students go to college today. Unlike in the past, when a college education was viewed as an opportunity for learning, there seems to be more of a focus today on learning skills that will lead to a high rate of monetary return after college. Majoring in history or political science may help you to learn to think critically, and that is a skill that is valuable in fields like medicine and law, but its unlikely to lead to the same level of monetary reward as someone who pursues, say, a Masters In Business Administration. On some level, colleges have become vocational school almost as much as they are “institutions of higher learning.” I’m not sure whether that is a good or a bad thing, but it’s the world that we live in and it’s unlikely to change.

Ann Althouse, who teaches law at the University of Wisconsin, wonders why the study concentrates so much on the students and not the professors:

I’d like a study analyzing whether the professors know how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument, and objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event.

It strikes me as a fair point considering that it is sort of difficult to teach someone a skill you don’t possess yourself.

Another blogger points out that this isn’t just an indictment of college education in the U.S.:

By the time our kids get to college it is too late to change habits por learn new skills that should have been taught to them in grade k-12 in my opinion. This study does not merely condemn colleges, it throws a harsh light on our primary education system on this country. In general, the US doesn’t pay our teachers well (compared to other professions and other nations), nor do we reward them for excellence, nor do we often provide them with a system that accurately assesses their efforts (i.e., No child left behind ring any bells?).

This is a fair point. Students do not walk into college blank slates, but as products of the education they received for twelve years before that. If colleges are failing at their primary mission, it isn’t necessarily their fault.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    The field of study breakdown is almost precisely what I was going to predict before getting to that point of your post!

    The traditional academic fields — math, science, history, philosophy, social sciences, etc. — teach critical thinking skills. That’s pretty much the whole point of those fields: Applied reasoning.

    The vocational-technical field, meanwhile, are engaged in training and/or credentialing for the job market. That’s fine insofar as it goes — getting a job after graduation is a laudable goal! — but it’s silly to then complain that you didn’t get a real college education.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  2. James Joyner says:

    And, yes, outside perhaps a few of the least academically oriented fields, professors have these skills. They’re all but essential for getting through a PhD program and writing a dissertation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  3. One point I didn’t touch on is that some majors — communications comes to mind — seem to require no critical thinking at all

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  4. James Joyner says:

    At most universities, education, criminal justice, and communications compete for the title of dumbest major. While there are exceptions (I’ve sure Jay Rosen’s program at NYU is rigorous) they tend to attract the students with the lowest SAT scores. They’re also where scholarship football and basketball players tend to wind up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  5. James Joyner says:

    Actually, Rosen’s is a department of journalism. They actually tend to be fairly rigorous and theoretical.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  6. Trumwill says:

    In general, the US doesn’t pay our teachers well

    Tangential, but gauging teacher pay as a percentage of Per Capita GDP is a pretty flawed way of going about it. Among other things, it’s how North Korea ends up at the top of that list.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    This is part and parcel of the visualcy topic I post on from time to time. There’s scholarship pointing to a connection among deriving most of one’s information via reading (as contrasted with listening or watching), abstract reasoning, and critical thinking. I also have observed that younger people seem to have extremely short attention spans.

    Orality and visualcy cultivate different skills than literacy does as a primary means of obtaining information. It’s pretty hard to construct a soundly reasoned argument in 140 characters, a 30 second TV spot, or a Flash graphic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Not surprised. I’ve been saying (and repeating to the point of tedium) that we should be teaching philosophy, particularly logic and epistemology, during the primary school years. Usually this elicits hoots of derision from the number-crunchers, engineers and other applied science guys who tend to be over-represented online. But those guys aren’t the real problem.

    We can’t teach critical thinking for one reason above all others: religion. Critical thinking threatens parents who rather stupidly imagine that the point of education is to turn their children into exact duplicates of themselves. Once you start teaching critical thinking it’s entirely possible that a kid will have (gasp!) ideas that diverge from his parents’ way of thinking.

    That is unacceptable to most parents. Particularly so when it comes to religion where a superstition-hobbled nation imagines that divergent thinking will actually condemn their child to eternal damnation in the lake of fire.

    The engineers (using that as a catch-all term) think philosophy is airy-fairy and that critical thinking is only useful in problem-solving. The bulk of religious parents think philosophy and critical thinking are a threat. So we end up with a nation that has no clear idea why they believe the things they ardently believe, and is incapable of examining any alternative. Epistemic closure, to use that perhaps overused phrase.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 5

  9. Ben Wolf says:

    Trumwill,

    Where are you getting data that puts North Korea at the top of the list when teacher salaries are measured against per capita GDP?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Trumwill says:

    Ben, whoops, I pulled a Palin.

    (I still think that Per Capita GDP is a lousy measure, but at least it’s not as absurd as I thought a couple minutes ago)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    In general, the US doesn’t pay our teachers well

    I’m afraid this is comparing apples and oranges. The U. S. spends more on education in total dollars terms and per capita than any other country in the world. If our spending on education is less than other countries as a proportion of GDP, it’s mostly because our GDP per capita is so much higher than most other countries.

    Here’s a comparison of teachers’ wages in a number of countries.

    Most teachers in the U. S. have bachelors only and have ten month schedules. The median wage for that, around $45,000, is pretty darned good. Comparing them with physicians or lawyers is specious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Neil Hudelson says:

    Not only does the lack of proper education in the primary and secondary schools inhibit college students from reaching their full potential due to loss opportunity and calcifiying bad habits and study skills, its effect is two fold in that universities now have to teach remedial courses to otherwise intelligent students. I can attest to this both as one who has experienced this (my high school had no chemistry program, which greatly affected my freshman year of college), and one who has taught remedial reading comprehension, writing, and computer proficiency classes to otherwise very intelligent students.

    If a student has no true ability to read a long piece, comprehend the central argument of that piece, and then write a basic response, it is very hard for a university to then build on those nonexistent skills. So what happens? Students end up paying $4,000 – $13,000 a semester learning what should have been taught in 9th grade english.

    My university was primarily and engineering and agricultural university, so perhaps the experience is different at a more liberal arts-centric school, but the lack of basic language skills in new students was astounding.

    @Doug. Depends on the communication program. In general I agree with you, but I have seen some sub-communication degrees that emphasize critical thinking to a great degree. Those are usually few and far between, and are often the creation of like-minded students and professors rather than the school itself.

    @Michael. Try teaching engineering majors the importance of poetry, literature, and philosophy. They can build a bridge, but they can’t tell you why the bridge should be built.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. Ben Wolf says:

    Dave,

    One of the primary differences is U.S. teachers have anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 in student loans to pay back. Teachers in Germany or South Korea don’t have potentially life-long overhead to deal with, nor do they pay the high insurance rates necessary for medical coverage for their families.

    I will concede teacher pay is not the primary reason for falling student achievement; parents are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. ponce says:

    Meh,

    We have computers to do our critical thinking these days…or Chinese and Indian PhDs willing to work for $10/hour.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. michael reynolds says:

    i don’t think it’s parents alone, it’s a downward spiral of testing-obsession, politically-inspired curricula, educator fossilization, changing employment that allows women and African-Americans alternatives to jobs in the system, ever-increasing pressure on students, largely irrelevant school numbers that become major factors in real estate values.

    It’s an absolute clusterf*ck. And its happening at a time when we are barely out of the 19th century in terms of the system and need to make a century-wide leap into a wholly different environment.

    There’s no, “Ahah! There’s the problem!” It’s all a problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  16. jwest says:

    The fact that most people coming out of college today are liberal attests to the lack of critical thinking and complex reasoning skills being taught in our institutions.

    How are young men and women supposed to learn in an atmosphere that condemns “deniers” for questioning “settled science”? What type of reasoning training comes from a system that values political correctness and cultural diversity above truth and logic?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

  17. G.A.P.THEORY says:

    ****How are young men and women supposed to learn in an atmosphere that condemns “deniers” for questioning “settled science”? What type of reasoning training comes from a system that values political correctness and cultural diversity above truth and logic?****Exactly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  18. john personna says:

    The vocational-technical field, meanwhile, are engaged in training and/or credentialing for the job market. That’s fine insofar as it goes — getting a job after graduation is a laudable goal! — but it’s silly to then complain that you didn’t get a real college education.

    It don’t take a boat load of critical thinking to tear that apart.

    But for the student, list those “vocational-technical” fields in which critical thinking are integral to domain mastery, and of course critical to career success.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  19. john personna says:

    (Why do I even come here. A handful of sub-themes are how to avoid critical thinking at all cost.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  20. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Hmm, let’s see:

    – The vast majority of college professors are liberal Democrats.

    – The vast majority of public-sector K-12 teachers are liberal Democrats.

    – Low and behold, college students today are not developing crucial skill-sets.

    Seems to be a fairly simple task to connect the dots and thereby to arrive at the obvious conclusions, although it’s not surprising on the Internet — itself a thick cocoon, largely made up of liberal academics — the obvious conclusion somehow is missed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 11

  21. john personna says:

    Concur with Dave that attention span may be a factor – I know that mine own is not way it was pre-web.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  22. michael reynolds says:

    I don’t agree with Dave on attention span. People are just handling data in a parellel processing rather than linear processing way. Instead of ABC and then 123 it’s A1B2C3. In don’t think that’s inherently better or worse, just different. Much less sitting in a quiet room reading a book and taking notes, much more reading, music, taking note, conversing, asking a friend, etc…

    The days of quietly reading a text-only book are going away, and the same data will be conveyed as accurately and I think more effectively using more up-to-date communication modes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  23. Ben Wolf says:

    The current concept of “schools” is an obsolete idea dating from the medieval period. A centralized place of learning based on a standardized curriculum which, as Michael pointed out, cannot address the shift in thinking required by a highly technological society.

    However we must also face the fact that parents increasingly fail to prepare or participate in theirchildren’s education. I’ve been there, and I can tell you that young children come into the classroom with increasingly poor social skills and self-discipline. As a result teachers must spent an inordinate amount of time adressing behavior, cooperation, and development of theory-of-mind (or how ones’s actions affect others).

    A staggering number of parents have virtually no involvement with the education process, and I can tell you that in the six years I taught, not once did a parent tell me they hoped their child would opt for a career which would result in anything but making lots of money and becoming famous. Never did a parent say they would like to see their child become a scientist, engineer, historian or philosopher.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  24. Ben Wolf says:

    By the way jwest,

    If a person has no understanding of radiative physics, how trends are established, or the difference in weather and climate then they have no business questioning anything in climatology.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  25. sam says:

    “Try teaching engineering majors the importance of poetry, literature, and philosophy. They can build a bridge, but they can’t tell you why the bridge should be built.”

    I dunno. As I said here before, my students who were in engineering, not all, of course, but most, were pretty keen on the humanities. That was about 40 years ago, though. Times may have changed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. anjin-san says:

    Doug – why do you hate Palin so much?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. sam says:

    @Tsar Nicholas

    “Seems to be a fairly simple task to connect the dots and thereby to arrive at the obvious conclusions”

    Only if you’re an inductive moron.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @sam:

    My God, you must be older than me. I didn’t know that was possible.

    @ Ben:
    I think that’s true, although unfortunately my “involvement” in my kid’s school led me to sanction my son dropping out in 7th grade and becoming “unschooled.” (My daughter still attends.) I have a hard time lying to my children and telling my son there’s a really good reason to do four hours of homework to hammer home some point he mastered in ten seconds.

    I imagine you’re right about parental desires, it’s what I’ve intuited myself. It’s all about credentialing, preferably by an ivy league school. It’s a competitive sport among parents and does a terrible disservice to kids and to society as a whole.

    Meanwhile schools are frantically banning iPhones and the internet because God forbid kids participate in the greatest engine for the dissemination of knowledge since Gutenberg carved his first block.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  29. michael reynolds says:

    Tsar:

    Do you have a problem with a critical thinking course that among other things would encourage kids to test the precepts of their family’s religious beliefs?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. sam says:

    @sam:

    “My God, you must be older than me. I didn’t know that was possible.”

    70 in 4 weeks. Now, get off my lawn, sonny…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. G.A.P.THEORY says:

    ***70 in 4 weeks. Now, get off my lawn, sonny…***Dang you are old, happy birthday in 4 weeks:)

    If I new you was a Crotchety old man I would have cut your more slack. I shall begin now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Neil Hudelson says:

    Sam,

    I certainly didn’t mean every engineer was disinterested in the humanities, but certainly many of my friends and school mates at my university. There seemed to be a general consensus that anything taught on the liberal arts side of campus was fluff.

    That said, a creative writing group I was involved with on campus had more than a few engineers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Trumwill says:

    A staggering number of parents have virtually no involvement with the education process, and I can tell you that in the six years I taught, not once did a parent tell me they hoped their child would opt for a career which would result in anything but making lots of money and becoming famous. Never did a parent say they would like to see their child become a scientist, engineer, historian or philosopher.

    This strikes me as being at the heart of a significant number of our class problems. Less well off people often know, in general terms, what they want from life (a comfortable living, albeit often expressed in different and sometimes colorful language) but often don’t have a whole lot in the way of signposts.

    I lived in a community with a whole lot of defense contractors and chemical plants. My school was largely populated by the children of engineers. In sociology class, my teacher asked everyone who wanted to be a doctor to raise their hands (maybe one or two), a veterinarian (three or four), and and engineer (half the class). Most of those probably did not become engineers, but it’s often because they found something better (more suited to their talents, more interesting, etc). But engineering was the benchmark and the default path. Even those of us, like myself, that went on to do something else still went on to something technical. All the signposts to a middle class life were there simply by our parents’ example. That kind of thing is really hard for a school to imprint.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Trumwill says:

    I certainly didn’t mean every engineer was disinterested in the humanities, but certainly many of my friends and school mates at my university. There seemed to be a general consensus that anything taught on the liberal arts side of campus was fluff.

    Some of that probably related to the liberal arts classes they took being intro-level. I was in the honors college at my U and found the liberal arts classes to be far more interesting than the technical ones (ahh, but for my addiction to food and shelter, I would have majored in philosophy). But if I had just gone by my non-honors intro classes, I would probably have thought all of it was like that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. PD Shaw says:

    At my university, an engineer generally couldn’t graduate in four years with any significant liberal arts studies. Those that were interested accepted that they were in a five year program.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Neil Hudelson says:

    PD,

    It was a bit different at my university. Liberal Arts classes were built in to their curriculum (I believe that had to take 2 semesters of foreign language, and 4 semesters of one liberal arts subject, or 4 seperate subject classes–but my memory iss a bit rusty).

    I think what Trumwill says is true, but its that lack of interest that is at the heart of it. If my only experience in LA was an intro writing class–in all its horribleness–I would still seek out higher level LA classes. As an LA major, I still sought out physics, mathematics, and biology classes as I had a natural curiosity.

    At this point I realize the scotch has kicked in and I’ve lost the point I was trying to make…so I’m going to let it stand as it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. HelloWorld says:

    “We have computers to do our critical thinking these days…or Chinese and Indian PhDs willing to work for $10/hour.”

    Beware of those PhDs…most of these universities in China and India are handing out PhD’s that amount to a 6 week certificate course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. ponce says:

    “Beware of those PhDs…most of these universities in China and India are handing out PhD’s that amount to a 6 week certificate course.”

    Thank goodness Americans don’t have very many critical problems to figure out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Janis Gore says:

    Sam, my wise elder, what are you finding in Milton’s poetry?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. sam says:

    “Sam, my wise elder, what are you finding in Milton’s poetry?”

    Haven’t started that course yet, Janice. I’ve downloaded all the lectures in mp3 format, and hope to get to it the beginning of next month. Did you visit the Yale site? (http://oyc.yale.edu/)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. sam says:

    @Neil

    Sam,

    I certainly didn’t mean every engineer was disinterested in the humanities, but certainly many of my friends and school mates at my university. There seemed to be a general consensus that anything taught on the liberal arts side of campus was fluff.

    Heh, They wouldn’t have thought that after taking my philosophy course, “Having Your Head Handed to You 101.”

    Seriously, though, to recap, It was MIT and I taught in what was then called the “Sophmore Core”. The kids in the first two years at MIT just got the shit kicked out them in their technical courses. I think they looked at the humanities as an escape from that — I got the feeling that a lot of them were afraid they were being turned into inhuman, technical robots; afraid of being turned into technically educated barbarians. I don’t think they considered the humanities classes fluff. They encountered a different kind of rigor than they were getting in the technical courses, and they enjoyed the challenge. In the humanities, you’re on your own in way you’re not in, say, physics. It was startling for them to have someone say, “Well, what do you think about this?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. john personna says:

    Was reading Tom Holt’s very funny Blonde Bombshell yesterday. Chapter 30 is a short case study in attention span and education. Funny and on target*.

    The best thing is that chapter is only 2 pages long. It’s possible a teen could read it all.

    * – visualize archery competition

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. george says:

    Speaking as an engineer, I’d agree that the majority of engineering students haven’t much use for liberal arts classes – they don’t further their degree. That changes as you get into the work world, as so much of engineering involves team work and interpersonal skills. Moreover, there’s a difference between disliking liberal arts classes and disliking the liberal arts … even in college, most engineering students partake in the normal arts activities (reading, listening or playing music, watching good films).

    The problem with liberal arts classes in terms of engineering students is that the marking seems to be fairly arbitrary (compared to the more mathematical engineering/science classes) – its much more open to the professor’s interpretation than is usual in engineering. In this respect, I’ve noticed that the liberal arts that engineers tend to like the most are history, because it feels more ‘concrete’, and philosophy, because it tends to be based on logic.

    Some of what you’ll hear on campus is just the normal rivalry between colleges – arts students and engineering students tend to make extreme statements as part of this. This also goes on between science and engineering students; mathematicians for instance will say engineering consists of “proof by example” … and its not a compliment.

    The problem of critical thinking doesn’t have much of a religious background; in Canada the same thing arises, and religion plays almost no role at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  44. john personna says:

    My thought, after completing a science major (with an engineering minor, more or less) was that there was plenty of time to read the great books after you bought your beach condo.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  45. sam says:

    I recall sitting next to a middle-aged woman in an English class. Her children had grown up and were themselves off to college, and her finances were such that she could take classes at the U.
    I remember her saying to me, “You kids don’t know how lucky to you are to have this opportunity. When you have to work and raise a family, you just don’t have the time for any of this.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  46. TG Chicago says:

    “Another blogger”? Why not identify them by name? Yes, you linked, but it’s odd to just refer to someone as “another blogger” in the process of linking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  47. Axel Edgren says:

    Maybe your culture is a bit stupid? You could get along on industrial power, IT booms and thrift, but despite your hard work you have accumulated many complicated problems that require solidarity, overseeing and mental discipline that you sorely lack. This is because you are a very diverse and large nation in every sense.

    Also, we have all the religion. Religion is a veto against philosophy and higher thought. Homophobes, anti-climate idiots, anti-secular scum – they are all lower people but your patetic deference to religion keeps you from ostracizing the extremely stupid and low.

    We have a state politician who doesn’t understand why CO2 should be regulated by the EPA, because CO2 comes from humans. We have millions of Americans who think Palin would be a better president than Obama.

    I have to blame the excessive democracy. The lowest common denominator is, well, LOW. America is based on the idea of equality, but the day we are all equal, we will all be *worthless*.

    A homophobe, racist, climate denier or anti-secularist can never be anything but inferior to people like me. If you don’t keep them down and away from power, you cannot have a succesful, modern nation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  48. jwest says:

    Axel,

    You can’t be serious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  49. Axel Edgren says:

    jwest, the reason we all have one vote and are submitted as equal in the founding judicial and official documents of the nations of the West is not because we are actually metaphysically equal, but simply because no one likes the idea of living with barbarism.

    For example, do you have gorgeous red hair and is your name Axel? No? then you and I are not equal *because we are not identical*.

    A poacher, animal abuser or someone who thinks climate change is a hoax because there was a cold winter in one region of the planet CANNOT be equal to me, and I cannot be equal to an olympic athlete or an accomplished painter/videogame designer etc.

    The idea that someone like Palin or Angle could ever be anything but inferior to me is as laughable an idea as having special sports categories for women so they don’t have to compete with men (why not have a special category for men with hereditary lung problems so they don’t have to compete with Armstrong?).

    Heck, I can point out several people on this board whose retention of voting rights is a philosophical aberration and sick joke brought about only because barbarism is (as of now) a less tenable idea than dealing with their voting power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  50. jwest says:

    Axel,

    I have to admit, you do sound like the quintessential liberal.

    Referring back to the theme of this article, one endowed with the power of critical thinking would recognize that the theory of CO2 creating a “hockey stick” rise in average global temperatures has been called into question and is not “settled science”. Real science isn’t conducted by destroying the raw data others could use to verify results or by “hiding the decline”. Blind acceptance of politically correct theories put forth by people who “elites” declare to be authorities is the opposite of critical thinking. Overly educated dullards who follow this path lead to debacles such as the anti-vaccination hoax.

    For centuries bloodletting was “settled science”, taught by the best and brightest at the most prestigious institutes of higher learning. People of courage – deniers – challenged the premise and discovered the truth, but it is impossible to know how many thousands suffered and died under this mistaken notion.

    Personally, I don’t think of liberals as evil. Most are simply well-meaning idiot savants who don’t realize how their ideas and actions to “help” people end up causing untold misery, poverty, suffering and death. If they had the ability to apply critical thinking and complex reasoning to the problems and programs they focus on, the extent of their destructive force would be evident to them.

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  51. sam says:

    “Personally, I don’t think of liberals as evil. Most are simply well-meaning idiot savants who don’t realize how their ideas and actions to “help” people end up causing untold misery, poverty, suffering and death.”

    That’s pure bullshit. We can argue about the financing of such programs, but Social Security and Medicare have decidedly not caused untold misery, poverty, suffering and death. To suppose otherwise is delusional.

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  52. Neil Hudelson says:

    “To suppose otherwise is delusional.”

    Welcome to the world of jwest, G.A., Zels, Juneau, Maggie Mama, and on and on.

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  53. Axel Edgren says:

    “I have to admit, you do sound like the quintessential liberal.”

    Yeah sure, I am a big supporter of the UN, I totally respect the muslim faith and I am a stickler for equality, democracy and ideas of fraternity! You know – the notions conceived by the classical liberals.

    Actually, if you sent me to a common dinner party in San Fran or any of the liberal strongholds I would look very out of place. I like to keep myself out of the political spectrum because I believe most people in it are philosophical degenerates.

    “one endowed with the power of critical thinking would recognize that the theory of CO2 creating a “hockey stick” rise in average global temperatures has been called into question and is not “settled science”.”

    Passive-aggressive, petulant pissiness. You are obviously a Christian since childhood. Please report to a sex-change clinic and get some testicles attached.

    “Real science isn’t conducted by destroying the raw data others could use to verify results or by “hiding the decline””

    That data is available elsewhere, you lazy bum. You look for it yourself and check up on the accused to see if they can defend themselves and help you find the data.

    You are such an underhanded little coward it is baffling. Rather than actually go to the accused and dare to see if they can defend themselves you regurgitate something from your hysterical RSS feed. Once again you make my case for me – a cowardly little boy like you can never be a man. It is not in your blood.

    “Blind acceptance of politically correct theories put forth by people who “elites” declare to be authorities is the opposite of critical thinking”

    Ah yes, let us invite Cletus, Mayner and people like you to the universities! And the let us give affirmative action to the black people so they can compete on the job market as well! And let us go into K-garten and force the boys to wear dresses! You are a plebeian fool.

    “For centuries bloodletting was “settled science”, taught by the best and brightest at the most prestigious institutes of higher learning. ”

    Not a single “work” or “thought” on blood-letting would have passed high-school today. Utterly different dynamics are in play – the sieve is much less lenient and the result of accumulated thinking built on rationalism and the enlightenment. The foundations of climate science begin after important revalations have been made.

    “Personally, I don’t think of liberals as evil. Most are simply well-meaning idiot savants who don’t realize how their ideas and actions to “help” people end up causing untold misery, poverty, suffering and death.”

    Stop being a passive-aggressive monotheist and say what you want to say, you baseline fool.

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  54. george says:

    There’s nothing particularly new or philosophically daring about wanting to restrict voting rights to those who agree with you – that’s been the standard opinion of a large portion of the population since the idea of voting first came up thousands of years ago.

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  55. Axel Edgren says:

    “Welcome to the world of jwest, G.A., Zels, Juneau, Maggie Mama, and on and on.”

    Notice that these people (with all rights!) decry stupid ideas like affirmative action or excessive welfare programs that counter-act meritocratic ideals, but the only reason they are not shunted off this website and forced to join the circle-jerk over at freerepublic is because the owners of this websire are too afraid to ban the objectively and absolutely stupid and ignorant.

    Those responsible for OTB know that none of those you mention have any place at this website, and that they never could contribute anything of value or raise any bar, present any challenge for anyone or add anything but ugliness. But you can’t just ban them! That would be a scary and horrible act! In fact, they might be suspected of (gasp) ‘stifling debate’ and ‘silencing dissent’!

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  56. Axel Edgren says:

    “There’s nothing particularly new or philosophically daring about wanting to restrict voting rights to those who agree with you”

    Oh your wit and snark is so impressive and not petulant at all. Yeah, you hit it right on the head. You should take over after Jon Swift.

    I *don’t* want to do that , actually – I wouldn’t survive in a barbaric or aristocratic society. I am too weak. I recognize that my intelligence and quality is a *relative* phenomenon, not an *absolute* one.

    I am just saying that our legal equality is nothing but a convenience and a historically temporary arrangement. You could pick us apart atom by atom and you would find no mystical essence that is equal between us.

    Just say it to yourself and liberate your mind a little – “Maniacs like Zel and jwest are inferior to people like Axel, which says more about them than him.” Go on, say it – you’ll be better for it.

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  57. john personna says:

    jwest, does it worry you that so many people make this argument without understanding it:

    For centuries bloodletting was “settled science”, taught by the best and brightest at the most prestigious institutes of higher learning.

    If you accept the implied conclusion, no idea can be held with confidence. They might all be overturned in a few years, so why worry?

    Your doctor gives you advice … don’t worry, bloodletting!

    Actually, it would be pretty surprising if you had a doctor at all, wouldn’t it?

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  58. jwest says:

    Axel,

    I fear that someday, Sarah Palin will be blamed for something you do.

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  59. jwest says:

    John,

    Isn’t bloodletting the best example for not demonizing people who question what others consider “settled science”?

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  60. Axel Edgren says:

    Exactly, jp.

    Blood-letting became “settled science” in an entirely different setting than ACC did. The “scientists” back then did not, for example, GO TO COLLEGE and the centuries-long tradition of colleges and acadamical and scientific standards WERE NOT CONCEIVED. It’s like comparing Malthus with Krugman – Malthus was wrong once so Krugman’s slowly accumulated intuition is meaningless on all matters!

    I am dealing with desert-dwellers here. I am dealing with believers of virgin birth or the splicing of the Red Sea. This is not happening. This can not be happening.

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  61. Axel Edgren says:

    “Isn’t bloodletting the best example for not demonizing people who question what others consider “settled science”?”

    You do realize that back when blood-letting was the norm almost everyone were as ignorant as you are, right?

    Climate science is based on physics. Blood-letting was built on nothing but accidental fancy and superstition. In fact, blood-letting could only be a medical practice in a society dominated by Christian “common-sense” of the kind you espouse.

    Your analogy is not only so bad it is not right. It is so bad that it isn’t even wrong. Every second of education you’ve undergone has been a waste, if that is the best defense of your thinking you can muster.

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  62. Ben Wolf says:

    Jwest,

    Bloodletting had nothing to do with the scientific method, which is entirely a product of the modern era. Your argument has no merit.

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  63. jwest says:

    Axel,

    “The “scientists” back then did not, for example, GO TO COLLEGE and the centuries-long tradition of colleges and acadamical and scientific standards WERE NOT CONCEIVED.”

    Had you applied a bit of critical thinking to your comment, you would have realized that a great many bloodletting physicians were trained at Harvard Medical School (which some consider a college) over a period of 100 years.

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  64. Axel Edgren says:

    In order to compare two objects in terms of A SINGLE quality (in this case: in terms of scientific validity and usefulness to societal and individual decisions), ALL OTHER FACTORS MUST BE EQUAL.

    I am 22 years old and I am informing an older man of this basic fact. I wish I had a bigger stomach so I could PUKE in amounts sufficiently illustrating how disgusted I am by this latest example of utter Western decadence. There is no god!

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  65. Axel Edgren says:

    “Had you applied a bit of critical thinking to your comment, you would have realized that a great many bloodletting physicians were trained at Harvard Medical School (which some consider a college) over a period of 100 years.”

    Scientific method. Compare the work done by *those* idiots from *that* period – compare it to the studies done by the climate scientists today.

    SEE IF THERE IS MAYBE A DIFFERENCE. Do some comparisons. Make an effort. Otherwise, stop talking to me.

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  66. john personna says:

    jwest, you’ve seen the stories of modern doctors using leeches, right?

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/bloodysuckers/leech.html

    Now whether they were over prescribed , that might be another issue.

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  67. jwest says:

    Ben,

    If you consider the “modern era” to have begun around 1600 BC, I will agree with you totally. That’s when the first evidence of empirical methodology appeared.

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  68. Axel Edgren says:

    But jp, bloodletting was used for one “reason” and leeches are used for another.

    Bloodletting was based on the ideas of the “humors” and the gall fluids and other such idiotic ideas.

    Leeches genuinely help with the flow of blood after a sliced-off finger or somesuch has been reattached.

    Anyway, that is an honest mistake. Unlike the mistake of jwest, which is one of bad faith – since his life depends on misunderstanding and misrepresenting ideas created by superior minds, he will never stop coming up with grievances against climate scientists.

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  69. jwest says:

    Axel,

    That explains it.

    At 22 years old, I could bend iron bars with my mind. Not only did I know everything, I knew everything that I knew was absolute. It was physically painful for me to carry on conversations with others because they were so woefully inadequate in their knowledge and abilities to grasp the incredible concepts I laid forth.

    Then a funny thing happened. As I aged, I grew dumber and the people around me got smarter.

    Hold on to your superiority as long as possible. It tends to be fleeting.

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  70. john personna says:

    A lot of the early science we laugh at had a toe-hold on the future. Consider phrenology. What is it but bran scan without the brain scanner?

    I live this line on bloodletting from wikipedia. And I quote:

    “The practice has been abandoned for all except a few very specific conditions.

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  71. john personna says:

    s/live/love/

    BTW, the way this relates to Anthropomorphic Global Warming is IMO that we should have a flexible and continuously adaptable view of scientific truth.

    There are whole rafts of things we should take as conditional beliefs, yielding some of our actions to the possibility that they be true, while holding the possibility that they may be overturned.

    AGW has a good case right now, so go with it … until such time as it actually is overthrown.

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  72. george says:

    “AGW has a good case right now, so go with it … until such time as it actually is overthrown.”

    That sums it up actually. Like any science, there are holes in its theories and predictions. There are problems with turbulence in the models, in cloud formation, in parameterising biological systems, in the interaction between ice, ocean, land and atmosphere. We don’t understand all the physics, let alone the chemistry and biology.

    Nothing unusual about that. Currently quantum mechanics and relativity are mutually exclusive as written – they can’t both be correct. But practically they can (and are) used in conjunction by making approximations (the Spherical Cow phenomena) – which is why we have computers.

    But our current climate science is the best understanding of the climate we currently have. Moreover, its good to err on the side of caution when dealing with irreversible systems. This is taken for granted in other areas. Why are conservatives alarmed that Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons? There’s certainly no proof that Iran would use them. But they feel the risk of being wrong outweighs the benefits of doing nothing. Same thing with climate predictions – the benefits of doing nothing is outweighed by the risks if the climate predictions turn out to be correct.

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  73. Axel Edgren says:

    I will, for the record, add to george’s fair summary of the situation that not a single of the “alarmist” models account for the seeping of methane from the plains of Siberia, which are being thawed from permafrost. If that is allowed to go unchecked, a Roland Emmerich movie will seem understated and subtle in comparison with reality.

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  74. Ben Wolf says:

    Jwestl

    You’ve made it very clear you have little understanding of the scientific method. No, it does not just include empirical observation. By that standard if a cat realizes he can reach the couch seat by jumping, he’s conducting science.

    I’m only going to say this once, because you choose to live in ignorance so repeating myself won’t do any good: Reality does not conform to your biases and preconceptions, and you do not get to redefine science to mean whatever you want it to mean.

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  75. [...] new book, Academically Adrift, is about to be released that reports the results of a study of 2,322 college students at a range of institutions from 2005-2009. Researchers discovered nearly half of the [...]

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