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Another Lesson In Independent Thinking

November 8th, 2007 by Kevin

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to a fellow co-worker of his, we\’ll call him John. Decent enough fellow, intelligent and entertaining….until it got to politics. Now don\’t get me wrong, we were definitely on the same political spectrum. Political conversations were less debate and more of the \”preaching to the choir\” variety, but that wasn\’t really the issue. You see, John listened to Rush…..ALOT. And he appeared to internalize the entire show, without any filtering process at all.If you ever got in a political discussion with John and wanted to know what he was going to say, or what arguments he would use, all you had to do is listen to the previous Rush Limbaugh show. Later on, same talking points recited almost verbatim.

Now don\’t get me wrong, if I have the time and the opportunity presents itself I\’ll sit down and listen to Rush as well. It\’s entertaining at the least, occasionally informative. My problem wasn\’t John\’s choice of programming, my problem was the lack of independent thought that went with it. Ask for supporting evidence of the topic and if it wasn\’t discussed by Rush, John was unaware of it. Ask an out of the box question challenging his belief, and it was a blank stare in response. It was like talking politics with a robot.

I fear this is a trait that is, maybe not common, but probably not uncommon. Rush is good, and talk radio owes him alot (perhaps everything), but he\’s only one step in what should be a long cognitive process. The same is true for any radio host, on either side of the spectrum. Because believe it or not, I\’ve seen this same thing from liberals as well.

Reciting things from a radio program does not make one learned. You may say something to sound informed, but eventually someone is going to go \”Yes, but there is this contrary theory/evidence/study/astrological prediction/etc that says…….\”. Put some thought into it. Do you agree with what was said? If so, why? The facts that were provided, do they pass the \”smell test\”?? If so, do they pass the factual test?

Another perfect example of why this is necessary came up today. I was listening to Rush go on and on about this benthic bacteria being the smoking gun on debunking Global Warming. Something just didn\’t sit right with me. The \”supporting data\” provided by Rush just didn\’t jive with other data I\’ve heard/read/deduced on global warming. Taken alone it sounded plausible, put in context, not so much. Well as it turns out I had reason to be suspicious

Yesterday I posted an item about an obvious hoax study that claimed to find a completely natural cause for global warming.Well, I thought it was obvious – too good to be true – and my colleagues and I sussed it after a couple of minute\’s fact-checking. Sadly, I am informed that Rush Limbaugh has fallen for it – my contact says \”he\’s going on and on about it now.\”

This will leave a mark. How can I put it? Skepticism requires skepticism.

Folks even the Godfather of Radio can be wrong. And when the Emperor has no clothes, his loyal followers look just as foolish.

So take my advice. Continue to listen to Rush, but consider that step one of a very long process. Think it over, if you\’re going to internalize this as a belief, you should probably have reasons for why you believe that way.

As a matter of fact, the same should be said about any given blog post as well. Although if you insist upon just believing whatever the radio/internet tells you I know this Nigerian who wants to sell you a cookie recipe and proceeds are going to help an armless, legless, headless, penisless boy in Kajasickiostan, but first you have to send the URL of this website (http://www.eckernet.com) to everyone you know.

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