The Critical Mind(Con.)

Now let’s leave our schools aside for a while, after all, we need to be realistic, schools are governed by forces not in parent’s hands. But it is the grave responsibility of the parents, even more than schools to enhance critical thinking. No one says it’s easy, but it’s not impossible. Critical thinking technique should start at home from the first day the child utters the word “Why?”.
Doubt is a propensity in humans. It is mandatory for survival. It’s part of the child’s innate cognitive abilities to understand life as he grows. Doubt should be encouraged and not destroyed; there is no way to attempt to destroy doubt. Even hermits have doubts.
Fear, on the other hand, is a mechanism to stop the process of the active mind to doubt. Fear hinders the inherent doubt in our children and malfunctions their capabilities to have a critical mind. The child who does not get the satisfactory answer to the simple question “Why?” out of fear, will end up not questioning…period.
On Children, Kahlil Gibran wrote in “The Prophet”:
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
It would be foolish to posses our children as if we own them, because we don’t. And they are not the exact copies of us, no matter how much we influence their thoughts.
What Khalil Gibran is prophesying to me is that we should be honest with our children and not treat them like aliens from another world. We should answer all their questions honestly. Naturally. And when we get trapped with questions to which our parents did not give a satisfactory answer, let’s be brave and say, we don’t know, we’d leave that for life to teach you. Encourage their own searching abilities. Gibran tells me; The first seeds are always implanted at home. And the children of today are the men and women of tomorrow. It is our responsibility, as parents, to help them find a direction, but not draw that direction, let them choose for themselves their own paths in life, by encouraging their natural critical minds.
On the first or second day of Muharam (not sure exactly when), the month of the holy occasion of the massacre of Imam Husain, the grandson of the prophet, whose linage the Shiite consider to be the rightful heirs of the prophet’s throne. On that day, my daughter came in the house carrying a piece of paper in her hand. Usually, I’m not nosy with people’s business, not even with my own kids’. But the gestures on her face raised my curiosity, she was blabbering something at the paper in her hand. When I asked her about it, she said “ some idiot left a chain-letter on your (my) car!”.
It was a handwritten letter on an A4 page. Written “supposedly” by an 18 year old girl and this is what it said:

In the name of God the most merciful.

I am an 18-year-old girl. Physicians did not find a cure to my ailment. After that I made a pilgrimage to her highness the lady Zainab, may peace be upon her, the sister of our Imam Husain, peace be upon him. And in a dream she poured water down my throat, peace be upon her, and she told me “wake up, you are cured with God’s permission”. And she summoned me to write and copy this event 12 times and distribute it on people.
1- I handed one copy to a poor man, he made 12 copies and distributed them. And after (12) days he became rich.
2- And I handed another to an employer. But he ignored it, and after (12) days he lost his job.
3- Another old man who got a copy, ignored it and after (12) days he was imprisoned.
4- Some other wealthy man also got a copy and ignored it, and after (12) days he lost his fortune.

All who have laid a hand on this story should write it down and make (12) copies and distribute them to get whatever they desire after (12) days, with God’s permission, and the blessedness of the lady Zainab, peace be upon her. And that who does not abide (to these instructions) will be in for a disaster after (12) days.

My believer brethrens: beware of “doubt”, do not question the capabilities of the most merciful.

Now regardless of the purpose of this letter, which is a subject I do not want to go into, since it’s irrelevant to the main thesis I’m hoping to be able to present correctly, without any apparent prejudice. And by no means I meant to present this letter for the purpose of sectarian analogy. But only to show an example of religion’s (any religion) tactics to deal with a complex trait as “doubt”, the tactic is always inducement of fear.

The question now is:

Are we willing to take this path?
Critical thinking methods open minds. Do we want open-minded generation?

Or are we just satisfied with zombies?

If we are satisfied, then we should settle with what we have, and not complain about our backwardness and weakness, compared to other much scientifically advanced nations that sought unlimited skies. We should clap our hands for those award winning foreign scientists while indulging in our consumerism of their goods.
An update
Mahmoud Karam, a Kuwaiti writer recently wrote an article concerning “critical thinking”, with mastery in Arabic language that I would never dream to acquire. So to those Arabic speaking individuals who care about this subject and had difficulty grasping the essence of this post, I refer you to his article. It’s worth reading, and mind provoking. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
This is the link


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. error
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 06:02:39

    I agree with you on critical thinking, but not with your fear analogy. Here is why. You said “Fear, on the other hand, is a mechanism to stop the process of the active mind to doubt”, I do believe that there is a reason for an active mind to stop the process of doubt, however I do not believe that fear has anything to do with it. If we made an assumption that a group of people where fearless, would you think that their current state of fearlessness would be a reason for that group to engage in critical thinking?

    You are an eloquent writer, no doubt, but your choice of words here, in my humble opinion, was not the right choice. It does not serve your point, a correct point if I may add.

    Fear is a god given instinct. Typically, sane humans fear the unknown and I do not think it halts the process of critical thinking, rather the unknown is always something feared. Fear or the unknown in many situations can be the starting point of an important journey of discovery.

    To make a long story short, dogma is what stops the process of critical thinking. And not only religious dogma, even secular dogma can do the same.


  2. AyyA
    Feb 03, 2008 @ 11:14:21

    “If we made an assumption that a group of people where fearless, would you think that their current state of fearlessness would be a reason for that group to engage in critical thinking?”

    Definitely. Fearless minds have no limits. Without them, man would have never been civilized. Someone had to crack the mystery, to go beyond the limited zone, and others had to take their footsteps. Without them we would not have had engineers, physicians, and rocket scientists today. These people are called scientists.

    “Fear is a god given instinct. Typically, sane humans fear the unknown and I do not think it halts the process of critical thinking,”
    Fear is natural evolutionary process that man acquired throughout his history of development, as it was necessary for his survival. What I was referring to was the purposely induced fear by religion, the meme that kept man in a closed zone.

    “Fear or the unknown in many situations can be the starting point of an important journey of discovery.””

    I have to disagree with you on this. It is not fear of the unknown that can start a journey of discovery. But fear of the unknown could create God in the head of man. Fear never gives incentives, fear slows down the motion and may freeze it. There is a saying that goes something like “the biggest risk in life is not to take one at all”. How could the fearful take a risk? It took curiosity and courage to unearth the unknown. It took someone like Galileo and Kepler to pave the path, and other courageous scientists to followed suit. It was their critical mind that questioned everything, regardless of the rigid dogma.

    “And not only religious dogma, even secular dogma can do the same.”
    I did not get what you meant with “secular dogma”. I know of religious dogma, because absolute truths are akin only to religion, I don’t see how secularism can be described in that respect?


  3. sologa
    Feb 04, 2008 @ 17:00:43

    يمكن هذي المرة الأولى التي أعلق في مدونتكم الجميلة
    واللي خلاني أعلق
    إن هذا الموضوع كنت أتمنى أن يكتب وينشر باللغة العربية
    لأنه المفروض إنه موجه إلى العرب أما الغرب فقد توصل
    بل تخطى هذه المرحلة من التفكير النقدي أو الناقد ومو محتاج إلى
    كتابات في هذا الموضوع

    أتفق مع كل ما ورد في هذا الموضوع
    بس عندي تعليق بسيط على موضوع الإيمان غير العقلاني بالغيبيات
    خصوصا في المثال اللي ذكرتيه في منشور السيدة زينب وتحقيق الأمنيات

    أعتقد إن الواقعية المفرطة والمادية اللي نعيشها
    جعلت من الناس يلجأون إلى كل ما هو غيبي بل يؤمنون به إيمانا مطلقا دون تفكير
    ومو بس جذي
    حتى إنهم يعلمون أولادهم نفس الإيمان وبلا تفكير
    وللأسف هذا نتاج سيطرة مدرسة السلف واللي أحب أسميها
    مدرسة النقل عبر قرون طويلة
    ولا أقصد بالسلف السنة فقط بل الشيعة ويمكن كل المذاهب القائمة
    على النقل
    التي حاربت كل المدارس الأخرى

    عموما الموضوع طويل جدا وله امتداد تاريخي
    واللي يصير اليوم ليس وليد زمنا الحاضر بل له جذور عميقة
    حبيت أبدي وجهة نظري في الموضوع
    لأن أحس إنه مرتبط بشي أنا مهتم فيه وهو
    الفلسفة الاسلامية ومدارسها اللي أقدر أحصرها في ثلاث مدارس هي العقلية والنقلية والحسية أو العرفانية الصوفية

    وآسف على الإطالة
    ودمتم بحب وود


  4. AyyA
    Feb 04, 2008 @ 19:57:44

    اسعدني جدا تعليقكم. و انا اتفق معكم ان الموضوع كان يجب ان يكون مكتوب باللغه العربيه. فهو بالفعل موجه للعرب المسلمين بالدرجه الاولي. و لكن كما يقال بالمثل” رحم الله امرء عرف قدر نفسه”. و لا يخفي عليك ان الموضوع حساس جدا و اي خطآ في التعبير و الاسلوب قد يؤدي الي النتيجه العكسيه. و هذا الشيء حاولت تجنبه قدر الامكان. و لكني لم اتجرآ كتابته باللغه العربيه و ذلك لمعرفتي سلفا بقدراتي المتواضعه في هذه اللغه. و علي فكره؛ اقتراحك هذا لم يكن الاول ، فقد وصل الي بريدي اكثر من رساله بنفس الاقتراح. و كذلك وصلني رابط باللغه العربيه لموضوع التفكير النقدي، كتبه الكاتب الاستاذ محمود كرم في مجله ايلاف و باسلوب شيق سلس. فلا بآس من ادراجه في موضوعي. و سآقوم بذلك حال الانتهاء من الكتابه.
    و كم اسعدني اهتمامكم بالفلسفه الاسلاميه و مدارسها و تمنيت ان يكتب عنه باللغه العربيه، بلغه يفهمها شباب هذا الجيل. و من تعليقكم هنا، لا اشك انكم قادرون علي ذلك
    اما بالنسبه للاطاله فخذ راحتك. انما نحن نستفيد من بعضنا بالاخذ و العطاء و هذا الشيء يسعدني


  5. C. Fraser
    Feb 06, 2008 @ 18:46:15

    Fear can be debilitating or it can be a motivator. It depends on the individual.


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