May 2008

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Jonas Islander

Critical thinking is highly touted in today's society. "Everybody" thinks critical thinking is good, and should be taught in schools, if possible. It's not the will that is lacking; it's the implementation.

Unfortunately, critical thinking, like all thinking, is only useful if it is combined with knowledge of the subject area. It's hard to think critically about, for instance, astronomy, unless you know a lot about astronomy. You can try, but even if you're very smart, you will easily be outdone by someone with less imagination, but more actual knowledge.

There are also tools that are extremely useful for critical thinking, like statistics, deductive logic, source criticism, etc. Those tools have to be either learnt or reinvented by those wishing to indulge in critical thinking, or they will be severely hampered.

But a lot of students are lacking in basic math and reading skills, and basic subject knowledge. It's not strange that they are unable to think critically, when they lack the tools to do so. Merely improving someone's skills in those areas, will make them a better critical thinker, a more informed voter, etc.

So, in short, critical thinking is good, but it's only the icing on the cake. It's most useful if you have a solid foundation.


It's not that I didn't like your post last night. It's just that I _really_ like penis jokes a lot.


Your definition of "imagination" is wierdly limited and apparently completely political.

And, People who are well traveled have better imaginations because they are better a putting themselves in other people's shoes? No, they don't have better imaginations. They just have more real fact to base their imaginings on. It would be like saying a kid who has seen a picture of a dragon is better at imagining what a dragon looks like, than a kid who hasn't.

BTW... You are always condenscending. It is the main feature of your personality... as evidenced by today's post "People with 'closed' minds are stupid, while people with 'open' minds are smart, and whoops, whatta ya know, I happen to naturally be the smart kind of person and therefore better than others"

Phil Kelly

Whilst it might be true that extra dimensions might invalidate the theory of evolution, it would still be a useful model of the way things work within our perceptions.

However, I think evolution wouldn't be half of the things we'd need to rethink for a multi-dimensional perspective.

DL From Heidelberg

It wasn't a bad blog post, but you stole the idea from Plato. In fact, all of your "original" thought can be found in the syllabus of any Philosophy 101 course.


I think you just topped the day before yesterday's blog - this was definitely the worst ever.

Off topic (thankfully), people always laugh in Germany when I tell them there's no single word in English for 'the day before yesterday'. Perhaps we should invent one..


Perhaps we can say that, as long as the reality we perceive is a projection (in a mathematical sense) of the whole reality, then the theory of evolution might also be a projection of a "bigger" theory from the whole of reality.

We might not be aware that we can perceive more, or maybe we do not actually perceive the extra dimensions. But mathematicians and physicist are able to imagine how it would work with the extra dimensions, so you could say that while our senses are not equipped for dealing with more than 3+1 dimensions, our brains are. From an evolutionary POV, it's a bit strange, as it seems there would be no immediate need for survival in developing such an ability... And now my 3 minutes of "important thinking" are up and I got to get to work!


I can imagine the discovery of extra dimensions invalidating our notion of funny and hence your blog, but I think it is highly unlikely. And even if it happened, we are only equipped to deal with the world we perceive, and within that world, dilbert and the blog make me laugh every day.

Andy Hopgood

I've been considering imagination as another dimension for some time now. We can only affect this dimension with our power of visualisation, but it reflects onto the other dimensions very strongly.
Examples would include:
Faith Healing,
Tantric Meditation (huhuhu),
Everything else that we can't explain,
Quite a few things we think we have explained,

The usual reason that new ideas are not considered is because no-one (especially physicists) can see how they could possibly work – what is known as the “non posse” argument – denying evidence because of a lack of causative mechanism.


I suppose it's occurred to you that you've taken your ideas about bias and cognitive dissonance to such a level of conviction that you're incapable of attributing most other people's attidudes to anything else? Someone call Alanis Morissette.

James Armstrong

For a post filed under 'General Nonsense', I detect a care trolley that has been distributing around the office. I replaced my care trolley with a donut trolley when I was first introduced to Dilbert and his boss years back.

Chris Orton

"If time doesn’t really move forward, or objects only appear to move through space but don’t, I have no problem imagining that evolution is a faulty perception."

Read 'The End of Time', Julian Barbour,Pub. Weidenfeld & Nicolson IBSN 0 297 81985 2

It suggests the first two propositions have to be so, but does not entail your supposition that evolution is a faulty perception

Martin Stennert

What you call call the "willingness to imagine things that violate their beliefs" is of course the single cultural feat that defined modernity, the "cartesian revolution" - elevating heresy from crime to virtue. It is (at least according to German-Syrian political scientist Bassam Tibi) precisely why the Orient is currently losing against the West: They believe that you can win by adapting to a superior technology, without accepting the underlying metaphysical principles. When has any scientific or technological innovation come from any non-western influenced society in the last 500 years? (Not merely the improvement of an existing idea - that can be done without heretical thought, through diligence.) Because in the case of modern western science, this principle is exactly your "willingness to imagine things that violate [existing] beliefs". Whithout it, Newton couldn't have come up with mechanics, Kopernikus not with a heliocentric view of the solar system, Einstein not with Relativity and Bohr not with Quantum Mechanics. Without it we wouldn't have nuclear energy, computers, or mobile phones, democracy, abolition, suffrage, or capitalism - or the theory of evolution. It is the opposite of dogmagtism, because dogmatism by definition forbids questioning "sacred" truths.
But while both are cultural values that can be taught and learned, they are also both part of human nature. Humans are inhernetly yearning for understanding (willing to question old beliefs) AND yearning for stability (afraid of the uncertainty this questioning brings). Dogmatism however is a self-enforcing principle and thus the defining characteristic of most societies throughout history. The willingness to question must be reafirmed again and again and all societies are forever in danger of slipping back into dogmatism: By declaring the theory of evolution, the principles of capitalism, the values of our forefathers to be "sacred truths" and by declaring the act of question them heretical and criminal.
This does not make any "new" theory inherently right, but it should give everyone the right to question anything - as long as s/he remains open to counter-arguments (i.e. doesn't become dogmatic him/herself). Of course even during the most enlightened eras this has never been more than a vague and distant ideal.
So, while what you simply call "imagination" is indeed the chief (if dangerous, qv. genetics, nuclear energy, biological warfare, etc.) virtue of our culture, the unease it creates in people is also perfectly natural and it should be no surprise that the majority of commentators react with some form of hostility (or ridicule).

Mike B

I started off having a bad day and now Scott has told me off for not responding correctly to his blog.

If the singer in the band I'm seeing tonight (The Stormy Mondays) has laryngitis, I'll know I should have stayed in bed with a bottle of vodka & Mr Pibb.


I think the class you described is called philosophy and in my opinion taking this class can indeed help you develop imagination... among other things.


Creative imagination means to think and connect various things that might not fit together. It's about the combination of unusual things, not found in reality or never seen by you that way before.

Most of the time it's really nonsense and somebody will hate you for it. Though, sometimes it's really something that is possible or may even explain things ..and someone will hate you for it.

In my opinion, the important thing is to keep an open eye, ear, heart (not physically) - whatever you need, an be receptive to new ideas and combinations even if it looks weird at first glance.

Jonas Islander

Hi Scott,

Lack of imagination may be part of the problem, but a large part is probably that people don't understand what point you're trying to make.

You usually bring up a fact that, in a very general way, indicates that the world may not be as it seems. You then apply that to a very specific theory, the theory of evolution. That connection seems very far-fetched for people who are not already familiar with your train of thought. It also leaves people wondering why you single out evolution, ignoring all other theories that may also be "illusions", like the theory of gravity or the theory that pregnancy results from male-female intercourse.

And when people don't understand what point you're trying to make, they tend to get impatient and jump to conclusions. Like the conclusion that you're trying to criticise evolution.

I understand why you single out evolution (because "scientific" people believe in it, and you want to demonstrate that even "scientific" people have irrational minds), but it's not obvious.

Steven McDaniel

Call me a hopeless pragmatist, but I can't imagine a dimension where evolution is not a load of BS. As the dry old detective would say: 'Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts'.


stop making these monkeys dance for your pleasure........ and get back to business, that is, to write blogs that are witty and funny .. penis jokes fits nicely into that catagory but that not the be all and end all of the funny stuff that you can write/comment on there is lot of stuff that can make come across as very intellectual but increasingly funny(assuming that is what you strive to do with this blog)..
waiting for you to find time to get back to what you are good at.

Attie Naude

This is just as bad as yesterday! :)

Kevin Gibbs

Several dimensions/perspectives with a penis reference...

If i stand on a table and dropped my pants, people from one dimension would say i mooned my arse at them, people from the other would say i wiggled my weiner at them.

Both are correct, but their perspective/dimension influences their interpretation of the single event.

Paul O

Without direct knowledge of a third dimension, you could model with a computer the set of objects that would cast a duck's shadow. A real duck would have the appearance of one of those objects.

I will provide your readers with another challenge, which is what innocent context did Jamie Lockett issues these words (from BBC website):

Prosecutors told a court on Wednesday that one of the defendants sent mobile phone text messages saying he was going to declare war and that white men would die.

The man, Jamie Lockett, said his words had been taken out of context.


Even though I cannot imagine what we would "look" like to someone living within "an extra dimension", I am quite open to the idea that such (a) dimension(s) might exist.
It does not threat me in any way, nor does the notion that Darwin might only have been right from his point of view.

Didn't you realize that you were not exactly inviting the people WITH imagination to post a comment yesterday?

Cheers, Urs

P.S.: teaching imagination would be like teaching independent thinking. Who would possibly want that?


I respectfully disagree.

What if, by making trite and crude remarks, we were actually making a sly commentary on the futility of trying to grasp the unknowable?

Furthermore, what if, by making off-topic comments, we were simply expressing our own frustration at man’s obsession with trying to perceive the world in some simplified and absolute terms?

And finally, what if we really COULD imagine being wrong about a major perception, but just didn’t give a shit? What if we would rather just talk you into telling one of your famous penis jokes instead?

Joshua Zambrano

Good points. I think even when we think we're being completely unbiased and impartial we can still be otherwise just because it takes a whole lot of self-examination to even begin understanding ourselves.

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