Let’s look at some recent headlines about humans and their antics.

‘Exorcism’ kills Japanese girl by drowning

Radio preacher now says Oct. 21 is definitely Doomsday — well, probably

Sheldon: Gay Activism Is “The Very Face Of Evil”

Renew America wonders if Obama is a demon

Thousands of child ‘witches’ turned on to the streets to starve


Most of the protagonists in these stories, though they no doubt clutch bulging portfolios of tightly-held “beliefs,” have never been taught how to think. By how to think, I mean the real basics. Logic. Reasoning. What evidence is and how science builds theories. What an opinion is and how it differs from fact. The different kinds of logical fallacies. The reason why the contrapositive to a true statement is also true, but not necessarily the inverse or the converse. Simple, self-evident things that once we are shown them we can’t help but assent to. Then, too, spotting pseudoscience and quackery. And, into the bargain, a bit about human psychology and its weaknesses–our tendency to believe “weird things” despite a lack of evidence, our yearning for unprovable things to be true, ways to be religious without being crazy.

Thanks in large part to an educational system that doesn’t prioritize critical thinking, most people never learn these things, and they grow up to cross a bridge away from the reality-based world. When they do so, those of us not in exile from fact have no way to call to them across the gap, for we and they have no shared view of reality. All we can do is try to stop them from massing dangerously and overrunning us–and try to educate the next generation.

Go buy a logic workbook. Read it. Give one to your kids and make them do the exercises. Give one to your nieces and nephews. Get elected to the school board, then insist that kids be trained in how to navigate reality with their cortexes instead of their brainstems. Read procon.org to get a feel for the evidence on hot-button issues. And support people like James Randi and Michael Shermer, who have struggled for years to get people to understand the line between fantasy and reality. I don’t think it’s farfetched to claim that the future and well-being of our species depends on it.