Reading my e-mail sometimes leaves me wondering what has become of our ability, as a society, to think critically. I'm afraid it's suffered the same fate as our ability to grow our own food and buy pants that fit.
What, exactly, is critical thinking? Is it merely a buzzword used by the educational establishment to make us think they're doing something new and different when all they're really doing is recycling the failed social experiments of the 1960s?
Well, yes, these days it is that, but used correctly the term actually has a legitimate meaning. To think critically means to apply logic, rather than emotions, to problems. It means to synthesize information and from it reach rational conclusions.
In short, to think critically is to become the mental equivalent of the Incredible Hulk. If you actually do it, you will be more powerful than everyone else around you, but they will think you're a freak and try - unsuccessfully - to destroy you. (Exhibit A: Rush Limbaugh.)
Perhaps some of the responses to last week's column on tattoos will serve to illustrate my point. To recap briefly, I believe getting a tattoo is a bad idea, and I outlined some of the reasons I think so: future regrets, possible health problems, unflattering perceptions, pain and suffering.
Not surprisingly, the column elicited several angry responses. (At this point you're probably thinking, "What did he expect? He might as well insult bikers." Which, by the way, I've also done.)
The responses themselves didn't bother me. Contrary to popular perception, I don't always think I'm right, just most of the time.
What disappointed me was the weak logic behind the rebuttals. For instance, Wendy wrote to ask if I had ever had a tattoo. When I responded in the negative, she replied, "So you really don't know what you're talking about."
Basically, her argument is that since I've never had a tattoo, I'm not qualified to offer an opinion on whether anyone else should get one. That makes about as much sense as saying I have to shoot myself in the thigh with a nail gun before I can advise others not to do the same.
Another e-mailer, Mary, insisted that because none of my objections apply to her - she's not regretful, or unhealthy - they don't apply to tattoo-wearers in general. Furthermore, she hinted, her husband can beat me up.
Okey-doke. Hard to argue with that kind of logic.
Hey, I'm not saying you shouldn't write to disagree with my columns. By all means, please do. Just try to set your emotions aside and bring some logic to the debate.
Otherwise, I'll have to send my dad over to have a little talk with your dad.
E-mail Rob Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.