The interest I have in believing a thing is not a proof of the existence of that thing.
~ Voltaire, in reference to Blaise Pascal's infamous wager advice regarding the existence of a god.
Scientific practices-observation and experiment; the development of falsifiable hypotheses; the relentless questioning of established views-have proven uniquely powerful in revealing the surprising, underlying structure of the world we live in, including subatomic particles, the role of germs in the spread of disease, and the neural basis of mental life.
Religion has no equivalent record of discovering hidden truths.
~ Paul Bloom, Scientific Faith Is Different From Religious Faith, The Atlantic, November 24, 2015
Introduction: The State of Reason at the Workplace
The workforce in American companies is quite diverse, particularly with respect to gender, race, political leanings and socioeconomic levels; however, there is one commonality in all companies -
- employees have little training or competence in critical thinking. Such is the case even in organizations with highly-educated employees (e.g., aerospace, universities, banking).
This deficiency represents a huge risk factor. It should be addressed as a priority in worksite wellness programming in 2016 - and thereafter.
Most employees lack basic skills in good thinking. In some cases, the incidence of poor reasoning patterns compares with the amount of dark matter to be found in a nearby galaxy known as Triangulum II.
Why Reason Matters
Reason is the foundation of science and human progress. It is the surest path to safeguarding democracy and intellectual liberty. It is the only way we have for comprehending and verifying the laws of nature. Reason conquers ignorance, intolerance and poisonous certitude. It alters lives for the better and enables everyone who practices it to more effectively deal with problems and challenges. It is the most reliable system of inquiry that we know and thus the surest pathway to understanding our world. It is a dimension of REAL wellness because it guides people who wish to live safer, more productive and smarter lives while pursuing high qualify lifestyles. Good thinking is not the same as being smart; it simply requires empiricism, logic and utilization - or some variant of the scientific method.
The Source of Poor Human Reasoning
Why do so many people succumb to the allure of easy answers to life's persistent questions? What explains the popularity of foolish
beliefs? There are mind-numbing examples of beliefs that are
explainable only by faulty thinking. Libraries could be filled with books about fads and movements, programs and theories with a wide following that a consensus of scientists view as bogus nonsense. For examples, consider the following subjects replete with claims
founded on poor reasoning, ignorance and/or the power of
Psychics/ghosts/pseudoscience//astrology/ESP//homeopathy/Bigfoot/ Atlantis/UFOs/conspiracy theories/Area 51/haunted houses/fake moon landings/alternative medicine/cults/telepathy/get-rich-quick/anti-vaccine/tarot/Bermuda Triangle/cults/black cats and other varied superstitions.
Note that I did not include religion is this list. Why is that? Can you guess?
Is it because no company would dare introduce the volatile topic of religion at the worksite? (What does the fact that religion is classed with politics and sex as off-limit topics for polite dinner gatherings and other occasions indicate?) Would an objective, fact-based discussion of varied religions, sensitively and capably introduced, still be likely to set employees at each others throats, or cause people to feel offended, uncomfortable, violated, insulted, outraged and otherwise agitated and flummoxed? Must religion forevermore be a verboten topic, at worksites?
This is but one consideration in the decision not to include religion in the list of examples that support the call for teaching reasoningskills in the worksite.
Want to guess what another factor might be?
Give up? OK, here's why: All religions are true. How could anyone think otherwise? The application of reason will readily prove the obvious; namely, that religious claims, even those by Scientology, Catholicism and Pastafarianism, are accurate in every way. All 10,000 gods that humans have worshiped over the course of about 200,000 years exist - and they are all omnipotent, all-powerful, all- good and all-deserving of all our love and devotion, adoration and total dedication. What's more, we should believe everything they want us to believe. All holy books are the inerrant word of the one true god, even though there are 10,000 of them, despite the fact that most are unknown anymore. Everything contained in the Quran, Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Tipitaka, Torah and L. Ron Hubbard's books/ films and 3,000 recorded lectures are infallible. Furthermore, if (hypothetically) there is so much as a single crazy-sounding story, inconsistency or impossible claim in any of the above-mentioned sacred works dictated by one or more omni-everything gods who wrote, spoke or carved creeds on tablets, gold plates or wherever - it's surely a typo. Gods do not screw up - and they're designed a very unpleasant place for those who dare think otherwise.
Many factors are cited by critical thinking experts to explain poor decision-making, but all boil down to two facts: 1) critical thinking skills do not come naturally and 2) such skills are not emphasized in our educational systems. Students and adults need continual schooling in the basics and subtleties of processing information in ways that facilitate accurate comprehension. The consequence of ignoring these two requirements, as Guy Harrison noted, is that an epidemic of poor reasoning looms as humankind's great unrecognized crisis. (See Harrison's new masterwork entitled, Good Thinking: What You Need to Know to be Smarter, Safer, Wealthier and Wiser.)
A New Focus for Worksite Wellness
The good news for the wellness industry is that a substantial majority of U.S. employers (77 percent) expect their commitment to health to increase over the next three years. Management favors a wellness menu that emphasizes weight loss, stress management and lifestyle reforms that mitigate ill health. Unfortunately for companies, employees are unenthusiastic about the existing worksite wellness menu. Only one-third of nearly 2000 employees surveyed reported that wellness initiatives contributed to healthier lives; tellingly, 71 percent said they'd prefer to manage their own health.
Maybe employees would be more receptive to worksite wellness if such programs were less medically focused and included ample REAL wellness options, especially training in how to think (reason). Such information would enable smarter choices, safer living and more enjoyable pursuits. Furthermore, workers would probably demand that the Republican Party provide at least one sensible candidate for nomination to run for president. (See Jack Craver, Is Wellness
Working? BenefitsPro, November 20, 2015.)
An Introductory Assessment of Basic Reason Awareness
For those who toil in the fertile fields of worksite wellness or who have influence on those who do, consider promoting a simple assessment of employee familiarity with a few elements of critical thinking. This short quiz could be administered to employees as part of an introductory Good Thinking Skills wellness education program. While aggregate scoring might be of some interest as a pre-program benchmark (no breach of employees confidentiality in that), such a demonstration of proof of an existing reason deficiency is not so crucial. Instead, the purpose of the proposed test is to generate worker interest in obtaining clear explanations from informed professionals about the assessment questions.
The test invites employees to respond, in a few short sentences, to the following queries:
- What is the nature or meaning of confirmation bias?
- Why is it that personal recollections and sensations can sometimes seem real when they're not?
- Why did the human brain evolve to favor fast, subconscious reactions over slower, conscious reflection and imagination?
- Why do brain experts advise humility, that is, acceptance of the idea that it is delusional to think that your rational, conscious self controls your emotions, perceptions and decisions.
- Explain the relationship between emotional excitement and rational analysis.
- What is the connection between our innate desire for popularity and our acceptance of truth and reality?
- What is the meaning of a straw person, a false dilemma, authority worship and circular reasoning in the context of an argument or debate
- Why do you suppose a respected paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould in particular, described our fragile origins as a tiny twig on an improbable branch of a contingent limb of a fortunate tree?
- What is anchoring bias and hindsight bias?
- The late astronomer Carl Sagan is well known for many seminal Carl Sagan (1934-1996) contributions to science, including a baloney or BS detection tool-kit for skeptical thinking. Name a few of the tools in this famous kit for critical thinking.
Adding this sorely needed educational element should bring a new level of interest to worksite wellness and boost the positive, life-enriching nature of the program for workers and organizations.
Be well. Consider these words from Guy Harrison:
Resist. You don't have to be cannon fodder in someone else's war on reality. Maintain a healthy level of awareness and suspicion so that it's not so easy for unscrupulous people to yank your amygdalae.