Learning Logic in the Middle East

Fledgling projects seek to fight Islamic extremism by introducing critical thinking and the scientific method to Arab societies. They may already be influencing education and government-run media.

Published on: June 29, 2014
Joseph Braude is a senior fellow at Al-Mesbar Center for Studies and Research and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. He is working on a book about Arabic media.
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  • Pete

    “Fledgling projects seek to fight Islamic extremism by introducing critical thinking and the scientific method to Arab societies. ”

    Good luck with that.

    Personally I think the more modern technology you import into Arabia, the more dangerous you make those people to themselves and others.

  • Boritz

    Sterps in critical thinking:
    1. Gather data using critical thinking as a guide to data collection.
    2. Analyze data using critical thinking as the primary analysis tool.
    3. Draw conclusions consistent with and supported by critical thinking.
    4. Say to hell with it. That’s not the answer I wanted. Implement irrational policy of choice. Gather additional data and generate study supportive of desired doctrine. Use children as human shields as needed.

  • Dancquill

    Business driven evolution is pretty much the big driver for social change in the larger scheme of things. But it is temporal and not eternal. Western civ has embraced business minded thinking.. The left and Islamic civilization has not. Statist thinking is apodictic in its anti capitalistic ends and unchanging… and both these positions seem to be on the same page.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Please don’t lump “the left” and “Islamic civilization” together. We leftists share absolutely nothing in common with Islam except your apparent disapproval.

      • ShadrachSmith

        The left is much attracted to Islamists because they both hate capitalism and freedom of religion. You’re like sisters 🙂

        • FriendlyGoat

          Shad, my man, you seem to have a point of confusion somewhere between straight up and hot apple butter. Freedom of religion includes freedom FROM religion and us lefties spend a great deal the our time protecting that idea. We love freedom of religion. It means you can worship the God of Capitalism all you want, but other people in America can listen to Jesus and follow Him instead. But neither you nor those other people have to follow any particular thing, thanks to your American leftists.

          • Curious Mayhem

            Leftism is just a secular religion. It’s hostile to individualism and critical thinking and instead adopts a variety of pseudo-scientific causes: socialism, environmentalism, political correctness, and general stifling of free thought. But these causes serve to hide — even from the leftists themselves — the antirational nature of the movement and help perpetuate the fiction that leftism has something to do with progress or enlightenment.

            The left’s romance with central planning and big government are themselves enough to condemn it as mystical mumbo-jumbo. It has more in common with irationalist movements like populism and its religious cousins. Leftists believe in “social creationism,” that government and the governing elite precede society and create society from nothing, as it were. Above all, the left believes in the “primacy of consciousness,” the ingrained mentality that what’s the mind precedes the objective world outside the mind. That’s its fundamental connection with religion.

            One can see the consequences over and over in American universities, an institution that the left has run, largely unopposed, for more than a generation. Critical thinking and free thought are dying there, if not dead, at least outside the sciences — not that different from Saudi Arabia.

          • FriendlyGoat

            There is no such thing as a secular religion. The rest of your upside-down post proceeds from that manufactured falsehood. Making this simple,……

            The water you are drinking, the air you are breathing, the foods you are eating, and the drugs you are taking haven’t prematurely killed you BECAUSE some bunch of leftists cared enough to protect the unrestrained capitalists from themselves. You benefit from their work every day, and haven’t enough sense to know it.

      • Dancquill

        And your need for an all powerful state as well as your anti-capitalist mentality. Political correctness at any level you can achieve it is another likeness. Say the secret word and you can lose your job and/or your life… goes for the both of you.

        • FriendlyGoat

          If political correctness is, in fact, correct, then why do you make fun of it? If it isn’t correct, then why don’t you folks put on your thinking caps and dream up more sensible phrases?

          As for capitalism and “free markets”, there are regulated markets and there is piracy. I’ll keep my FDIC bank and you can try your luck with whatever else you like.

          • Dancquill

            The left’s efforts at political correctness has no more validity nor sensibility than the Taliban’s, and is not any more correct. Both of you try and force your versions upon humanity. Stalin and you and the Taliban see eye to eye on the need to force your views on others.
            As for free markets and capitalism, there is the regulated market, which seeks the rule of law to prevent theft and fraud, and there is manipulation of the market place for political ends. You and the Taliban agree on the need for manipulation as well.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You’re still on political correctness, calling it correct AND calling it incorrect——still conflicted. Whatever. Somebody gave you a talking point and, lacking other original thought, you can’t let it go.

            Meanwhile, if the Taliban knew you were likening them to LIBERAL ME, they’d over-run you for insulting them so. And, if I could assemble your grandmothers, mother, sisters, wives, girlfriends, daughters, aunts and nieces to critique your posts, they’d do an even more thorough job.

          • Dancquill

            Yes, I am still on about political correctness and the Taliban’s political correctness. I am Not labeling “political correctness” correct.. It was Stalin’s invention and a communist weapon against free thought. You seem to be lacking in both original thought and historical knowledge, as well as being into personal attacks. BTW, calling yourself Liberal doesn’t immunize you from criticism or your kinship with the methods of either Stalin or the Taliban.. or for that matter, any other totalitarian wanna be ideology. I have not been impressed by liberals about women’s position under Islam either. Your mother and her sisters must be proud.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Thanks for this important piece. Many of us westerners really have NO IDEA about the degree of difficulty involved in penetrating the minds of people taught the Islamic school of thought for their lifetimes. Murid al-Kallab explained it for us in his quote above:

    “The candle of critical thinking must be extinguished, and its light must be turned off, when it contradicts a proof text from the Qur’an or the prophetic Haditihs. In this situation, there is no place for critical thinking. We must simply believe and surrender. If not, I would be violating logic,…”

  • RedWell

    An important movement, but the article passes over the key intervening variable: political culture. Logical and scientific thinking do not, despite our visions of a rational society, lead inevitably to civil discourse or political plurality. How quickly we forget that most of the 9/11 hijackers, for example, had respectable educations in fields like engineering.

    In the West, movements like the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment challenged political thinking and political cultures, especially in more open societies like England’s. Today, our political culture accepts and even demands an adversarial system between political positions, but that transformation was long and painful in part because–again–the conclusions of logical and scientific thought are not self-evident. Indeed, purely “scientific” or “rational” approaches have led to horrors such as Stalinist 5-year plans.

    Pushing back against radical and extremist thinking with approaches like the scientific method is a positive movement. Just don’t expect it to change the political life of Arabs until it melds with political culture.

  • Avi_in_Jerusalem

    Speaking as a canary, I judge the openess of societies and their ability to behave in an tolerant and civilised manner to all their members by how they treat me as a Jew. My Arab cousins have a long way to go. I would like to help them as much as possible, but the job is mainly theirs.

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