Criticism from Without is Often the Most Objective…When it’s Valid.
Posted by Troythulu
It comes as no surprise to me that among groups dedicated to promoting a particular belief system, few are overly given to meaningful self-criticism, indeed, the more dogmatic and insular ones actively attempt to thwart such criticism, both dissent from within and critiques from without.
I suspect that such groups thwart such internal criticism, and when powerful, suppress it from outside the group when they can, because metacognition — thinking about thinking to introspectively scrutinize one’s own motivations and reasoning — is discouraged in individual members of these groups as being dangerous, and for good reason: Thinking too deeply about one’s thoughts, reasoning and beliefs can threaten adherence to the sect’s doctrines and obedience to the sect’s leadership when these are found to be dubious.
Few political or faith doctrines stand up to objective scrutiny, so their proponents have a vested interest in nurturing and sustaining bias and misinformation to maintain ingroup loyalty in their following using whatever propaganda techniques are at hand.
Because such groups actively promote their biases and present their particular claims as Truth™ and even suppress knowledge of their own doctrines and dogmas that may discredit them in the eyes of adherents, it turns out that in many cases that it is often those outside of a given ideological camp who are best equipped to offer criticism of that group’s claims and actions, as outsiders are not subject to its peculiar biases and quirks.
But does that mean that all such criticism is valid? There must be some basis for the criticism — it must be knowledgeable — and in order to have such a basis, an outsider (or inquiring insider) must have a real understanding of the facts of the matter.
Also, consider that no one is completely unbiased, and a good measure of objectivity is hard work.
This requires time, study and effort, possibly professional expertise when the subject matter is complex and difficult.
There are few communities I know of where there is a healthy, vibrant, and contentious self-criticism at play, and one of these is the scientific community. Active skepticism is another. This is because of metacognition by skeptics, and the intensely competitive and self-correcting nature of scientific research.
Astronomers and physicists often make the best critics of some pseudo-scientific claims involving such things as extraterrestrial beings, UFOs and astrophysical phenomena, since as experts, they take care to understand both the nature of the claims and how they go astray from the facts as they are understood.
Carl Sagan was such an effective critic of astrology, UFOlogy, and Velikovsky’s ideas, not because he didn’t understand them, but because he did. Often, insiders to a group supporting some claim are in the worst position to correct its errors.
When dealing with phenomena and claims not supported by the data, it’s not necessary to invest a lifetime of study in the doctrines themselves, as with a dedicated occultist who spends decades of his life studying magick, but it is necessary to know exactly where, how and why these ideas are not valid if one wishes to contribute more than just opinion.
Part of this involves understanding the arguments for and against, and an understanding of the facts pertaining to the given case at hand. Expert or not, to criticize fairly and effectively, one must know the subject matter well and strive for honesty in making one’s case.
So outsiders of groups that inhibit self-criticism are often in the best position to address it’s issues and raise questions as to the truth of its claims, but even so, these must be well-acquainted with the subject matter they discuss and be open to correction themselves when in error.
Otherwise, their arguments are likely to be ineffective and ill-informed, and hardly constructive at all.
About TroythuluI seek to learn through this site and others how to better my ability as a person and my skill at using my reason and understanding to best effect. I do fractal artwork as a hobby, and I'm working to develop it to professional levels, though I've a bit to go till I reach that degree of skill! This is a crazy world we're in, but maybe I can do a little, if only that, to make it a bit more sane than it otherwise would be.
Posted on Friday, 1:17, June 22, 2012, in Skepticism & Skeptics and tagged Carl Sagan, Critical Thinking, Criticism, Doctrine, Metacognition, Science in Society, Truth. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.
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