March 14, 2006
News & Opinion: Prepared Mind World Tour #2 - Reasoning
This is the second of eight blogs that we will post to give more insights into the skills needed to prepare for your future. Comments are appreciated.
BE PREPARED TO REASON: Please excuse me while I get up on my metaphorical soapbox and have a short rant. We are becoming intellectually lazy and losing our ability to reason!! 50% of American households buy a newspaper today while over 100% bought a newspaper in 1950! (Over 100% because we had morning and evening editions then.) OK, Im down from the soapbox and I have a question for you. Is the above conclusion a good conclusion? Or am I simply an old person ranting about the younger generation?
Here, try this one instead. People who drink green tea show a lower incidence of heart disease. Therefore, drinking green tea reduces the risk of heart disease.
Both examples show bad reasoning. In the first instance I used emotion (bold type and double exclamation points) and then gave you an unrelated fact to back up my statement. Hmmm, do you ever see that kind of reasoning coming from our politicians, or talk-show hosts? In the second example I gave you a conclusion based on a related fact but a fact only showed correlation, not a cause.
Early in the book we mentioned that the skills of the Prepared Mind are rarely used in isolation. The skill of Reasoning is certainly in-line with that warning. Good reasoning requires that we Challenge the facts and assumptions that underlie our thinking. Good reasoning is informed through ongoing Learning; and new data comes through the skill of Observing. Finally, we test our reasoning and the results of our decisions when we Reflect.
But lets get back to the rant of intellectual laziness. (I like ranting, it comes with age.) Good thinking requires that we use evidence to support our conclusions. So here is our Prepared Mind question of the day: Where do you get your evidence for the decisions and actions that guide you and your daily life? Do you take the time to educate your thinking process? Are you willing to plow though a fifteen page article in Atlantic Monthly magazine or do you pick-up your factoids from USA Today? By the way, newspaper readership is down significantly, so where are we getting the news. And, for that matter, how much of the news on TV or the web or radio is really important news?
Reasoning is hard work and it takes time; so, sometimes, we get a bit lazy and let others do our reasoning for us. Or, we let opinions substitute for reasoning. And, more often than not, we form our opinions based on received knowledge. That is, we let others tell us what to think. We see this all the time in people who are devoted to a political or religious ideology. (Does Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken do your thinking for you?) When this happens we fall into the traps of never looking for disconfirming information or not considering other points of view.
Going back to my opening rant, I really do believe that we are becoming intellectually lazy. Thats my opinion and Im sticking to it. Now its your job to prove me wrong. You can give me your opinion (which Ill ignore because it does not support my opinion.) Or you can reason with me. Its your choice.
[If you missed last week's blog, read it here.]
[UPDATE: The next step of the tour can be found here.]
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.