Politics and Critical Thinking
Can we stop electing politicians who aren’t smart enough to think of the consequences of their proposals before they propose them?
Recently, the Oklahoma legislature proposed eliminating civil marriage. (see: http://www.snopes.com/politics/sexuality/okmarriage.asp) Their reasoning for this bill is that they don’t want the state to approve gay marriage. Whether this bill will ever pass the senate or be signed into law by the governor is up for debate. What I want to discuss is why critical thinking skills are important in politics.
Let’s say you agree with the premise of this bill. You don’t want gays to get married for whatever reason you have and since gay marriage is now legal, you think the best way to avoid having gays get married is to ban civil marriages.
The problem, as the critics of this bill point out is that – not only will this bill NOT prevent gay marriage; it will also have a whole host of unintended consequences.
If you put the authority of who can issue a marriage license into the hands of religious leaders, who knows what they might authorize. Not all religious groups are opposed to same sex marriage. Some might even endorse polygamy, child marriage and more.
This law would also probably create a more powerful atheist movement as atheist groups would have to step in to provide marriage licenses for the non-religious who want to get married but not in a “church.” This is why countries that have mandatory religious confirmation requirements have such large organized Humanists and atheist groups.
And, let’s not forget that since none of these marriages will be recognized by the state since the state won’t be involved in the record keeping of any marriages, the marriage and divorce and custody laws will be thrown into turmoil as there will be no way to prove a marriage occurred or was legal since there will be no legal civil record of the marriage.
What does all of this have to do with critical thinking? The fact that the politicians who wrote and voted for this bill had no clue that not only would this bill not accomplish what they want it to but that it would be a nightmare legally has everything to do with the fact that they clearly don’t think clearly.
The same thing happened in Florida when members of Congress tried to get the Supreme Court to interfere in the Terri Schaivo case. That failed and was bound to fail because the legislators attempting to intervene didn’t take into account the reality of the situation they were trying to influence. Which is that they tried to force the Supreme Court to do something and the Surpreme Court traditionally HATES being ordered to do anything. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_involvement_in_the_Terri_Schiavo_case)
Let’s consider the case of Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, who apparently was blindsided by the backlash that resulted from his pandering to the religious right through the “freedom of religion bill” that he signed into law. The fact that he is expressing confusion about why anyone cares about this law shows how bad his critical thinking skills are. Either he is lying and signed it despite the pressure not to or he really thought it was an inconsequential way to pander to the right. The problem is that this law isn’t inconsequential. (http://www.xperthr.com/news/indiana-religious-freedom-law-confounds-employers/20183/)
Whether these politicians are pandering in a way they think is harmless or if they really want to accomplish what they say they want to by passing these laws doesn’t matter. They are all showing a profound inability to think critically about their stated objectives and how best to accomplish them.
The purpose of critical thinking is to give yourself a good chance of success. You have a problem; you want to solve it – thinking critically about the problem helps you to develop a strategy that will actually accomplish your objectives.
Given that I wrote the strategy that put evolution into the Florida State science standards I do know a bit about what I am talking about here. Here’s how to think critically about your political objectives.
- Know what it is you are trying to accomplish and why.
- Consider your options – all your options and not just the first one you come up with
- Consider the possible consequences of your proposal – all the consequences.
- If your goal isn’t likely to be accomplished by your proposal abandon it.
- If your proposal will cause all sorts of other problems, abandon it.
- Finally – be compassionate. If your proposal will hurt people – abandon it!
I suppose the only upside to all this lack of critical thinking by the politicians who seek to impose their religious views on the rest of us is that they are astonishingly bad at it.
If you don’t want to be astonishingly bad – consider taking the course – Living Made Simpler. In it, I teach some basic techniques about how to think through your problem solving process more effectively so that you can actually accomplish what you set out to.