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Can You Apply Too Much Critical Thought? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

pressurecookerReaders of this site, by and large, already accept the idea that applying critical thought is good for you. But can you apply too much?

Consider the purchase of an automobile. You have a long commute, so you want the most fuel-efficient car possible. The dealer in the area has a model that gets 40mpg, and meets all your criteria. He has two of these cars on the lot. One of them is white, and the other is black. Which car do you pick?

Actually, the proper question is: how do you decide which car you’ll pick? A skeptic might make a list of pros and cons over the colors. White cars have a higher resale value and hide dirt and blemishes better. Given those facts, it seems the obvious choice is white.

A friend of mine answered this by saying “I’d never buy a white car. I think they’re ugly. Only the black one could work for me.”

Was she exercising critical thinking in her decision? I may surprise you by saying yes, she was.

Critical thinking is the removal of emotion from analysis to the greatest degree possible, but that should not be confused by weighing the emotional impact of a decision. My friend knew that if she bought the white car, the color would make her unhappy, despite all its advantages. And isn’t that the actual goal of this exercise: to get the largest amount of happiness from the purchase decision?

For her, the amount of unhappiness the loss of resale value and dirtiness add is less than the amount of unhappiness the color would have added. The correct analysis is: buy the black car.

The reason I bring this example up is that I have, on occasion, eschewed the emotional impact of personal decisions for practical concerns. When all I consider is practical matters, I can easily come to a decision. But forgetting the emotional impact of those decisions leaves out data that should also be considered.

So, to answer my own question, no, you can’t apply too much critical thought. As humans, we’re emotional, and there’s no reason to ignore that. It’s just more data that needs to be considered.

Here’s another example:

After World War 2, pressure cookers were an increasingly popular way to cook. They cooked faster than traditional methods by applying high amounts of pressure as well as heat to foods. There was a problem though… sometimes a poorly-attended pot would explode, presenting a hazard to anyone nearby.

Concerned manufacturers built in pressure release valves to solve this problem, and happily advertised their “new and improved” design. They figured that it’s only logical that people would want to buy the safer design, and looked forward to increased sales.

In fact, sales plummeted. Despite the fact that the new cookers were undoubtedly safer, the general public wasn’t aware that they could explode at all.  The advertisements for the “non-exploding” pressure cookers actually informed people of this, and they stopped using them altogether. This was an emotional reaction, but one that should have been considered by the advertisers. And though this reaction was unwarranted, in the minds of the consumers, they were just playing it safe. Why should they believe the manufacturers when they say the new designs won’t explode? They didn’t tell us they could explode at all!” And as the general public isn’t very well educated in chemistry or physics, that was also a logical decision to make.

Emotions are a data point, just like anything else. Failing to consider them is a failure of critical thinking. When we look at the anti-vax movement for example, we see a lot of emotion and not enough attention being paid to the data. But as critical thinkers, we need to consider the emotions to try to correct this problem.

Perhaps lambasting folks like Jenny McCarthy isn’t the best approach. Perhaps it would be more effective to understand the emotions of a young parent with a poor science education, whose only desire is to do what’s best for her child’s health.

 

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Understanding Jenny McCarthy
written by Bart B. Van Bockstaele, May 15, 2009
I have tried that and sometimes still do. I have always failed. The problem, in my experience, is that I am using arguments that are based in evidence, and that the likes of Jenny McCarthy, which I usually call "paralogicals" tend to abhor evidence. They seem to view evidence as proof of non-validity, and seem to consistently take the "route of least evidence". In this, they seem quite logical, which is why I have called them paralogical, a somewhat different use than the traditional meaning.

Maybe, just maybe, it would be possible to show that there is massive evidence for their "green our vaccines" stuff, and that "the establishment" likes it very much, while there is no evidence for MMR and other combination vaccines. Maybe, just maybe.

But then, what do we do with "truth" and "reality"? What damage could this do to the children of Jenny McCarthy and her followers?
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written by Reed, May 15, 2009
The factors that underlie persuasion are fascinating, where even to convince self-identified skeptics of a proposition, you can only rarely rely exclusively on the quality of your evidence and the elegance of your argument. You may have to consider and adjust for their emotional state and motivations as well as the social dynamics of the situation.

The heated "Framing Science" debate on the science blogs a couple years back touched upon the need to consider how our audience thinks in constructing our case. I don't recall how many agreed with Nisbet's approach, but the goal of effective persuasion techniques is worthy of skeptics' study and consideration.
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written by iiwo, May 15, 2009
I don't think we should stop using facts and logic, but it has to be given in manageable doses with an appeal to emotion.

The vaccine movement, for example, uses an appeal to emotion to stop parents from vaccinating children. At its core "It will hurt your child" is an emotional appeal.

"The chemistry of the vaccine doesn't work that way" is NOT an emotional appeal, and will not counter the fear of pain and suffering the child feels; at least not in most parents.

A better approach might be "I understand you are concerned for your child, but there is also a significant, permanent health risk in NOT vaccinating your child. Autism is scary--and so is death, brain damage, scarring.

Now, I know that makes you nervous, and this is understandably a confusing decision. Do we really have to choose between the possibility of horrible (and possibly life changing) disease and autism? We know both disease and autism have been around for a long time, and that rates of disease have decreased recently (thanks to vaccines). At the same time, autism has seemed to rise. The claim (and it's easy to see the apparent logic of it) is that vaccines are responsible for both.

I understand what McCarthy/vaccine scare advocates are saying [insert quick review here]. I can't personally address the 'big pharma/cold heart' part of the story, but do you mind if I share with you some of the things I've read about vaccines that they [the scarers] are either unaware of, or skip over for some reason? In the end it is your choice, but I'd hate to see you choose something now only to regret it later for not knowing something. Let me just tell you these couple things and you can read up on it later or ask your doctor at the next appointment...[insert two or three 'safe shots' facts/anecdotes here in a non-threatining manner]."

The second approach eventually gets to the same point as the first, though it takes longer. By appealing to the same emotion as the initial argument, you will hopefully get at least a hook in the other person. You have to be very careful here to not call the original argument or its presenter a fraud at this point--the person you are speaking with likely identifies with them; a straightforward "this is wrong/right" approach will usually not work if the person you are presenting the idea to feels personally snubbed.

On the other hand, if you can find a way to present at least a faux-respect for the argument ("I understand they are trying to help, but I haven't heard them comment on [x], and I think that is an important part of the decision. So while I admire their tenacity and desire for change, I wouldn't risk my child's health without investigating [x] and how it relates to all this.")...

Now you have at least a finger in the door--which will hurt if the door is closed tight. Continuing on, however, I would say to the parent in question: ..."Hopefully they [McCarthy, et al] simply missed this. Either way, it's worth asking your doctor about. Best fortunes with the decision! Say, do you mind if I call in a few days to ask about it? My other friend/brother/whoever is having a baby and they're wondering the same thing. I'd like to share with them what you find out."

This, I think, would be an appropriate emotional appeal to a parent in turmoil. It expresses your concern and sympathy, gets two or three ideas communicated, and opens the door for a future conversation. Teaching so often is presenting a list of facts, but in some situations--this being one of them--planting seeds and asking questions can be just as effective. Using the child's well being as a lever (do it discreetly and considerately, please) you can plant almost any idea and encourage them to do the research. Not only does this save you the trouble of explaining something and being rejected as 'duped', but it encourages follow up: "Hey Bob! You know, my sister was talking about vaccine stuff last night and I thought I would ask if you'd had a chance to follow up on the question/idea I was posing the other day. I haven't had a chance, but if you have I'd love to pass it along."

I suppose in a way this is also an appeal to authority--people love to be the answerer, and THAT can be a powerful emotional appeal. Ask for that follow up, even if your sister really isn't having a baby (or any non-mutual yet suitable third party).

I suppose as well this post is getting long and is beating around the bush of "on topic". While I haven't strayed far, I haven't been dead on either. This is my two cents in the form of copper slag, have at it. smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by MadScientist, May 15, 2009
This reminds me of an ancient Sesame Street cartoon: Cowboy X. "OK, from now on I'll be known as 'Cowboy O'!" And the citizens of Sniddler's Gulch lived happily ever after because they really weren't too bright.

I find your suggestion that lambasting Jenny 'Death and Disease' McCartney not being the best approach rather bizarre. That loud arrogant stupid cow (my apologies to genuine 4-legged bovines) deserves to be shouted down all the time. She has decided she knows everything and unless a child of hers dies of a preventable disease she will never be convinced that she is wrong. Even if all her children were to die of vaccine preventable illnesses she would still not necessarily realize she's wrong. She is beyond reason and beyond hope and must be shouted down and drummed out of town for the idiot that she is lest her ignorant words dupe others into sharing her delusion. Stupidity kills.
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Superb !
written by Sabio, May 16, 2009
but that should not be confused by weighing the emotional impact of a decision.

Totally agree. Problem being, some people are emotionally unintelligent -- that is they can't clearly identify their own emotions or perhaps those of others or a particular class of emotions. These folks then can't weigh the argument correctly. So how are they to make the decision? Perhaps following their intuition which is the brain deciding emotionally is sometimes better. A fact that rationalists are loathe to admit.

I agree totally with you about Vaccines. But then I am the guy who wrote : The Social Function of Vaccine Resistors and pissed off the Vaccines Fanatics. Now that the scare of Swine Flu has seemed to pass, maybe our EMOTIONS will change our reactions.

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Maybe They're Right?
written by GusGus, May 16, 2009
We know both disease and autism have been around for a long time, and that rates of disease have decreased recently (thanks to vaccines). At the same time, autism has seemed to rise. The claim (and it's easy to see the apparent logic of it) is that vaccines are responsible for both.


Maybe the anti-vaxers are right. Vaccines increase the rate of autism. You see, many of the autistic children would have died of disease if they hadn't been vaccinated.
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A bit off-topic, but...
written by dmitrybrant, May 16, 2009
Technically, buying the white car would be slightly more advantageous, since the white exterior will reflect more sunlight than the black, making the white car just a bit cooler than the black one.
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written by Otara, May 16, 2009
I think maybe the problem here is not only about emotion but how memory works.
What people tend to remember better are dangerous things. Eg pressure cooker dangerous, pressure cooker solution - what gets remembered and passed on is the pressure cooker exploding story. And if you only hear the first story, avoiding pressure cookers becomes somewhat rational.

Similarly with vaccines, that they're dangerous is a far more powerful story than the idea that statistics show they're not. So people will hear the bad news story much more often, making it more powerful.

Not saying this is the whole story but often these issues seem to get discussed from the viewpoint of persuading individuals when really its also about messages that will work better with a network, ie when giving a story you need to consider whats most likely to be passed on and adjust accordingly.

Otara


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written by cullen, May 16, 2009
White is a lighter color than black. Thus a white car is lighter than a black car. A lighter car will have better gas milage, since the engine has to haul less weight.
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written by bosshog, May 16, 2009
(Choosing a white car because it has a higher resale value would be a case of acting in accordance with popular perceptions rather than thinking independently simply because it is profitable, correct? Like going to church on Sunday because the neighhbors are watching?)

Actually, it is my opinion that emotion is where we live. If we could render it null and void life would become a meaningless exercise in biochemistry. The whole point in seeking truth and understanding the world we live in is to enjoy ourselves. The universe can get by quite nicely without our understanding it at all.
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written by Alan3354, May 16, 2009
To be accurate, the effect of increased pressure is to increase the boiling point of water. The higher water temperature is what decreases the cooking time.

Pressure cookers are still in use at higher altitudes, such as Denver, because the lower atmospheric pressure there causes water to boil at a lower temperature. The temperature of water at its boiling point is the limit that water will reach when heated in the open.
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written by Rustylizard, May 16, 2009
Critical thinking involves taking into account all significant, relevant criteria that affect a decision, then selecting those actions that best approximate the outcome you are trying to achieve. It’s complicated. It’s not always black vs. white or good vs. bad. Sometimes one must choose between two desirable or two undesirable outcomes; often one must settle for shades of gray.

For an analogy, think about the wide variety of criteria you had to consider in old film based photography: A host of factors such as film speed and graininess; lens quality, lens type and aperture; light reading and direction; shutter speed and focal distance—all of these criteria affected the detail of the picture being taken. But you also had to take into account what you were trying to achieve. For example, did you want a sharp print of a waterfall, or a blurred effect to indicate motion? Where should you position your subject to get the best aesthetics? Technical factors and personal preferences all played a role.

Life’s choices and many social questions are often more complex than photography. So, I can’t answer the question: “Can You Apply too Much Critical Thought?” More is usually better than less, but sometimes the only way to get an answer is to experiment with the variables and take more than one picture. We get failures; we get successes; we do the best we can.
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written by BillyJoe, May 16, 2009
Now that the scare of Swine Flu has seemed to pass.

"Seemed" is the operative word.
And concern is more appropriate than "scare".
Some were scared by the media hype and now others are being lured into a false sense of security by this same media.
However, concern remains by those who are worth listening to.

BJ
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written by jasonhenle, May 16, 2009
I think you need to be in tune with all possible variables to make proper use of critical thinking. When you say that there are some times where critical thinking can take a back seat (pun very much intended) it most likely means you aren't away of all the variables. Most of the time our emotions do not serve us when making complicated decisions. Our emotions are a comparable to data compression, they are a short cut to interpreting more complex things, however once you reach some scale of complexity, the compression no longer valuable.
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Vax a victim of it's success?
written by tmac57, May 16, 2009
Unfortunately, it appears that vaccines have become a victim of their own success. The anti-vax movement can point to real and imagined hazards of vaccines and parents who haven't experienced the dangers of an epidemic, are not able to understand the relative benefits to risks which favors vaccination.
Sadly, this is likely to lead to a situation where there is very serious resurgence of preventable disease before the tide turns on the anti-vaxers. I hope I am wrong though.
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Redundancies
written by Realitysage, May 16, 2009
It's too bad that many emotions are a waste of emotional reserve and that reason suffers because of it.
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Religion, Psychics, And Other Lapses in Judgment
written by StarTrekLivz, May 16, 2009
Excellent article, and can be applied to other areas. I'm thinking of Religion (where people "know in their heart it's true," an argument unassailable by logic or objective reality) or Psychics ("I know Sylvia may be a fraud, but I'm convinced she put me in contact with my dead loved one"). Doubtless other areas can be found ("Dowsers always find water" - well, generally in North America if you only dig deep enough you'll find water eventually; "I took a homeopathic potion and got better in just a week" - people with healthy immune systems generally get over a cold or flu in a week). Somehow an emotive "jolt" is as necessary as any amount of logic, objective evidence, and reason.
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Addendum on Peter Popoff
written by StarTrekLivz, May 16, 2009
After I posted above, it occurred to me that this may be why James Randi's famous exposure of the phony evangelist & faith healer Peter Popoff was initially so successful (sadly, he's back to making millions), so much so that Popoff had to declare bankruptcy. The playing of the tapes of his wife giving him cues, with her heartless comments and blatant scorn of the unfortunates gave that kind of emotional "jolt" that was needed in addition so people would move beyond the euphoria of the moment and assurance in their hearts so they examine his case history (revealing no cures).
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written by Bruno, May 16, 2009
...whose only desire is to do what’s best for her child’s health.

Well actually not. This is clearly what started her crusade, but this desire has quickly been supplanted by the desire to defend a factual position simply because she's taken it and now identifies with it. That is the emotional phenomenon that needs to be taken into account. To say her actions are still being spurred by motherly love and ignorance alone is just a little too cute.
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written by feldesq, May 16, 2009
“Can you apply you much critical thought?”

For purposes of hyperbolic effect, the question may make sense (and pique one’s immediate interest); however, the basic notion is flawed as are the conclusions posited (that one can apply too much critical thinking to a problem, and that there are issues that should not (or cannot) be part of the realm of critical thinking). Let’s dispose of these two canards:

As to the latter, that there are some issues that should not (or cannot) be part of the realm of critical thinking, of course this is correct – if you define an issue as being outside the realm of critical inquiry at the outset. If the question is, “which color do you like better, white or black?” If all I am seeking to learn from you is your color preference, your answer (regardless of the basis for your answer) is not a subject to a critical analysis. The wholly subjective nature of such an answer is all that is necessary to complete the task at hand. If I am asking you to consider all of the variables that may enter into your decision (and not asking you to be subjective), you may attempt to apply reason, facts, evidence, logic, etc., to the task at hand. But your first question was already “loaded,” because you were seeking a purely subjective answer. As to the matter of there being some types of decisions, routinely made be people, that may be wholly outside the realm of critical thinking, certainly there are, and certainly an argument can be made that such decisions can be made without the application of any critical thinking at all – without there being any harm done to the decider (or society as a whole, although here we have a bit more concern). Once we get into the issue of morality (an issue I argue is rightly within the realm of critical thinking), even apparently harmless decisions – made without critical thought – can indeed by harmful, to both the individual decider and society as a whole.

Let’s take a common example. Artistic expression and one’s tastes in art can appear at first blush to be wholly within the realm of non-critical thinking. Remember, we are not yet interested in how or why one chooses Dali over Rembrandt, or Bach over Bacharach. We are only asking the subject who does she like better? I would argue that, as long as the inquiry is being made without any weight being given to the deliberative process, we are outside the realm of critical thinking.

But if we have a reason to care about the choices being made (white vs black, Bach vs Bacharach), or we want to know why or how those choices are made by the subject, we have immediately entered the realm of critical thinking.

As to the suggestion that, once we wish to apply critical thinking to our decision-making, we can “over do it,” or be “too logical” about the answer, such a suggestion is patently flawed. To deliberately (or ignorantly) fail to use every tool available in your arsenal of critical thinking is to fail at critical thinking. There is no sliding scale of critical thinking (e.g., at level one we only think logically for ten minutes and consider only authority between the years 1999 and 2000, but at level two we can critically think for twenty minutes and expand our scope of authority from 1800 to 2000, and so on). To apply too much critical thinking is empirically impossible (unless you are dealing with a wholly different type of issue – one not posited in the subject article).

The fact is that we can never apply enough critical thinking, because the nature of critical thinking is (1) based on the information at hand – and we have yet to discover any basis for the proposition that we can or will ever be privy to all the information extant, and (2) until the resolution of point (1), all critical thinking must be provisional in nature, always subject to revision and correction. If we can never apply enough (in any absolute sense), how can be apply too much? Certainly there are other criteria by which we might be said to be applying too much critical thinking (the easiest that comes to mind is where we have a specific goal in mind, and we have achieved that goal through the critical-thinking process, yet we continue the process of considering and investigating beyond any further rational need).

The philosophical implications of when, how, where, and to what purposes and subjects to apply critical thinking, are all valid and interesting; however, the direct issue raised in this article is not interesting (and is essentially invalid).
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@ feldesq: Did you even read past the article's headline???
written by BillyJoe, May 16, 2009
feldesq:
“Can you apply too much critical thought?”
For purposes of hyperbolic effect, the question may make sense ... however, the basic notion is flawed as are the conclusions posited (that one can apply too much critical thinking to a problem, and that there are issues that should not (or cannot) be part of the realm of critical thinking).

You must have missed Jeff Wagg's conclusions:

Jeff Wagg (after his car colour example):
So, to answer my own question, no, you can’t apply too much critical thought. As humans, we’re emotional, and there’s no reason to ignore that. It’s just more data that needs to be considered.

Jeff Wagg (after his pressure cooker example):
Emotions are a data point, just like anything else. Failing to consider them is a failure of critical thinking. When we look at the anti-vax movement for example, we see a lot of emotion and not enough attention being paid to the data as critical thinkers, we need to consider the emotions to try to correct this problem.


regards,
BillyJoe
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@ feldsq: But you fail to fully apply your own conclusion:
written by BillyJoe, May 16, 2009
If the question is, “which color do you like better, white or black?” If all I am seeking to learn from you is your color preference, your answer (regardless of the basis for your answer) is not a subject to a critical analysis. The wholly subjective nature of such an answer is all that is necessary to complete the task at hand.

Very rarely can just believe what people tell you is what they really feel. The way people feel emerges out of the subconcsious and may become contaminated in the process of emerging into consciousness. The person make think they like "black cars" but, in fact, they may just be thinking back to that "black Lamorghini gallardo" they saw yesterday in a glossy magazine. In the general case they may actually prefer white cars and may actually have quite a nice one sitting right there in their garage which they chose specifically because it was white.

BJ
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I Agree BillyJoe
written by bosshog, May 16, 2009
"As the act of birth deserves no consideration in the whole process and procedure of heredity, so 'being conscious' is not in any decisive sense the opposite of what is instinctive: most of the conscious thinking of a philosopher is secretly guided and forced into certain channels by his instincts." -Freidrich Nietzsche

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Hey feldesq, what time is it?
written by tmac57, May 16, 2009
feldesq: "Well, a watch is a timepiece that is made to be worn on a person. The term now usually refers to a wristwatch, which is worn on the wrist with a strap or bracelet. In addition to the time, modern watches often display the day, date, month and year, and electronic watches may have many other functions.Most inexpensive and medium-priced watches used mainly for timekeeping are electronic watches with quartz movements. Expensive, collectible watches valued more for their workmanship and aesthetic appeal than for simple timekeeping, often have purely mechanical movements and are powered by springs, even though mechanical movements are less accurate than".......................yeeeaahh, ohhh, is that my phone, gee I gotta take this but it's been you know uh...interesting?
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Enjoyed
written by Diverted Chrome, May 16, 2009
Inspired post, Jeff.
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written by Steel Rat, May 16, 2009
I'd buy the blue one.
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Good post, bad analogy with Jenny...
written by Zen66, May 16, 2009
McCarthy's concern for her child's welfare should most definitely be taken into consideration when speaking to her. However, in the interest of the argument, her and the other parents of autistic childrens' emotional point of view is irrelevant. Yeah I know I'm a heartless jackass, but its true. The reason is this. By arguing against vaccines her stand harms other children for possibly generations. And may have lasting consequences for adults and the elderly. The moral questions of this issue are outside the facts of the issue. If the facts line up to hurt her feelings than that would be an unfortunate outcome for her. While we should state that we understand her pain and anguish over her son's condition, it can't be a factor in the decision to continue the use of vaccines. Of course the opposite is true. If the facts line up against vaccines then the consequences suffered by the rest of the population must be put aside in the interest of stopping the use of vaccines until a new delivery system can be devised.

There may be a tough choice at the end of the vaccineautism argument, but that choice can't be part of the argument. If so, then the facts become emotional vagaries(they have already) and the tough choice becomes is a hammer to threaten the other guy(it has).

Sorry Wagg. Great article otherwise. If you wanted to ask us to have some sympathy for Jenny then just say so. She deserves it. I've always been a fan of hers. Despite her public image she is a highly intelligent person. Its been fascinating to watch her go from nude ditz to June Clever mom. I do admire her dedication to her son. All mothers should be so caring.
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@zen66
written by JeffWagg, May 16, 2009
I actually agree with what you say, and realized that I didn't make myself clear at the end. I was not defending Jenny... she is proclaiming herself an expert, and is therefore exempt from kid gloves. What I meant to say is that the average mother who watches Oprah isn't going to respond to us criticizing Jenny (which we are right to do) as much as if we empathize with her (the mother's) situation, and let her know how difficult it is to know what's right. Our role here may be better served by letter her know that we understand the information can be confusing, and THEN showing her why vaccines are the much better option for her children.

Sorry I didn't make that clearer.
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written by Jeremy Henderson, May 18, 2009
"White cars have a higher resale value and hide dirt and blemishes better."

Don't you have that backward? Isn't it dark cars that hide dirt and blemishes?
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written by BillyJoe, May 18, 2009
Don't you have that backward? Isn't it dark cars that hide dirt and blemishes?

No, he has it right.

The only reason black cars look cleaner is that their owners have to continually clean them.

But, actually, an off-white or light-golden-brown car is best - like mine for example. I drove through unmade muddy mountain tracks over the week end and I can drive to work on Monday without even hosing it off.

BJ
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Sure it's possible to over apply critical thinking...
written by Griz, May 19, 2009
...if you list out the pros and cons and determine that the white car is the best choice, buy it, and then be unhappy driving it because you don't like white cars. Not all the choices we make in life are rational nor should they be.
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Spanner in the works
written by Daryl, May 19, 2009
Research shows that white cars are considerably safer than black cars because they are more visible (see http://www.monash.edu.au/muarc...rc263.html ). Armed with this knowledge, do aesthetics trump safety?
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written by BillyJoe, May 19, 2009
Griz,

He is saying that "what colour you like" is part of making a rational choice.

Daryl,

How much safer and how much more aesthetic? Balance it and make a rational choice based on that balance.

BJ
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written by Daryl, May 19, 2009
BJ. I was not trying to invalidate anything stated in the post, because I generally agree with what Jeff wrote. I was simply asking a question: given the additional information that white cars are safer than black cars (~10% fewer crashes according to the research I linked to above), who would still choose a black car?

Or, to put it another way, what if Jeff had written "White cars have a higher resale value, hide dirt and blemishes better, and are safer than black cars."? It may well be rational to sacrifice money and cleaning effort for aesthetics, but is it rational to do the same for safety, not only for yourself but for other road users?

Maybe being grumpy while driving a car that you hate makes you more likely to have an accident, thus removing any safety advantage, in which case black would still be the most rational choice.

Finally, using Jeff's pressure cooker example, what if Ford produced a new ultra-reflective black paint, proclaiming "our new black, now as safe as white", how would that affect sales of black cars?

Disclosure: I own a red car.
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written by BillyJoe, May 20, 2009
Daryl,

I was simply answering your question.
Enter the safety factor into the equation.

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written by tmac57, May 20, 2009
@Daryl-"given the additional information that white cars are safer than black cars (~10% fewer crashes according to the research I linked to above), who would still choose a black car?"
You might also ask: Since wearing a helmet while driving a motorcycle is safer, who would not wear one? The answer of course is people who are not as concerned with safety as the are with personal preference. (FWIW I always wear a helmet on a motorcycle, but I do drive a black car,and man does that thing show dirt!)
smilies/sad.gif
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Critical Thought
written by friedmansg, May 23, 2009
Someone once told me, my Russian grandmother I think, that it's important to keep an open mind but don't let your brains fall out.
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On the other hand...
written by BillyJoe, May 23, 2009
Minds should remain completely open mind to new ideas. Once in there though, these new ideas pass through a filter within the brain which ejects ideas for which there is no evidence and keeps ideas for which there is evidence. And it remains completely open in case those ejected ideas come along with evidence some day.

I think that aphorism has had its day. smilies/sad.gif

BJ
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written by RvLeshrac, May 28, 2009
Given that you will spend, hopefully, more time IN your car than outside, staring at it (because it has broken down, one assumes), I fail to understand how aesthetics trump safety, ease of maintenance, and monetary value. I purchased my car, peeling paint and all, because it was priced low, has a good safety rating, and requires little maintenance. While I'm driving a slightly beaten-down older car, I see others skipping meals and missing bill payments because they just HAD to have that brand new car. I'm fairly certain that the emotional cost of losing your house or having the car reposessed is substantially higher than that of not having the color you want or a glossy finish.

Then again, people still submit themselves to large doses of UV radiation in order to modify their skin color, placing themselves at a ridiculously high risk for skin cancers... so maybe I'm missing something.
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Right on
written by El Guerrero del Interfaz, May 29, 2009
You're completely right. But, from the responses so far, lots of people don't understand it. And I don't understand that they don't understand. smilies/smiley.gif

What it boils down to is personal choices and different scales of value.

As a biker, I know quite a bit about that. Because for many it's an irrational (and dangerous) choice. But, for instance in the security area, I value more active security (where motorcycles win) than passive security (where cars win). I prefer to have a better probability to avoid the crash than a better probability to survive it. I value more as well ease of parking and avoiding traffic jams than carrying capacity and avoiding rain.

The thing is: I make a *conscious* choice. I know the disadvantages of it but I don't mind because, for me, the pros beats the cons. The problems are when you don't know what you're doing. Another biker example: Harleys. I had one once. And I knew what I was doing so I accepted the inconveniences: poor handling, crappy performances, mechanical problems, etc. But almost every day I encounter "new old" bikers than bought a Harley and whine because it does not handle like a Ducati, nor race as a rice rocket, nor as durable and tough as a Beemer. Imagine smilies/wink.gif

We human are partly rational and partly emotional. Emotional decisions are all right as long as they are *informed* decisions.
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