A critical thinker’s open letter to his daughter
As your second grade year is underway I often ponder what the future will hold for you.
Many adults will call your generation lazy, and will verbally ponder whether it will doom the planet. But they are wrong. Based on current trends your generation stands to be the smartest, most adaptable to change, and longest living in human history. Every generation calls the next one lazy, but not because it is true. It is simply because as people age they become more afraid of change.
And both technological and cultural changes are happening at an exponential rate.
To quote the great Carl Sagan, “Advances in medicine and agriculture have saved vastly more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history.” Continuing to invest in your generation’s education will only further its prospects. The entire world can be fed and cared for, and the only thing standing in the way is politics. Innovation by those born in the 21st century will one day even remove that last barrier.
Unfortunately there will be roadblocks and speed bumps along the way. Be wary of the stupidity of people in large groups. Even with the best of intentions, these organizations will ultimately begin to demonize outsiders and choose leaders that will be treated more like gods free of criticism than the narcissists they truly are.
Having a girl filled me with tremendous happiness and fear. The progress made in creating a society where you are free to become anything you want fills me with great pride for your potential. But many men will still seek to stop that from happening.
Events in 2017 demonstrate these roadblocks quite plainly. Social media is allowing these male leaders to develop cult followings, attempting to swing popular culture back in their direction. The symbolic head of the free world is one such man, but even those on the opposite end of the scientific and political spectrum will be found to treat you the same way.
Your father considers himself to be a critical thinker. The same social media that has given a new voice to hate speech and paranoia over innovation has also given a voice to others like himself. Under a slightly redefined definition of skepticism we have replaced the gods of myth with rational thinkers like Carl Sagan, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Honoring science geeks instead of Hercules is definitely a step in the right direction.
While women are just as present and vocal in this community as men, few seem to achieve the fame. A large part of this is no doubt due to the sexism being quietly swept under the rug. When celebrity skeptic Michael Shermer’s misbehavior with women was discussed with another leader of the skeptic movement, James Randi, all he had to say was, “I’ve just heard that he [Shermer] misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”
No Samantha, that is not what men do when they are drunk. Alcohol does not change our personality, it just amplifies it and lowers inhibitions. If a man misbehaves when he is drunk, it is because that is the type of man that he is.
Unfortunately there is a human desire to be accepted by the large groups I have warned you about. Victims fear being ostracized by the group. Speaking out against such men will help give voices to their victims, but will also bring wrath against you from their followers. I know this myself after attempting to bring attention to another like Trump and Shermer. One whose followers just repeat the age old quote “boys will be boys”. Grooming vulnerable fans for his own twisted desires.
Samantha, I hope you will learn many lessons from me. I will give you all the tools you need to become a critical thinker yourself. I hope you will join me in not fearing scientific gifts like vaccines or new seed breeding techniques. But be wary of “the group”.
Have friends, but be sure to have friends that also disagree with you. Surrounding yourself with people who see the world the same way is not being a critical thinker.
And make sure whatever man or woman you decide to spend the rest of your life with shows you the respect you deserve. Otherwise I’ll just bluff away my pacifism and politely remind them of the arsenal we are inheriting from both of your grandfathers.
If you want to help others discover this, please hit the clapping hands again and again!