As a person working towards recovery from Scientology I have progressively been trying to develop an impaired capacity which Scientology atrophies by intent and design, actually Scientology doesn't function as its founder desired to the degree that this aptitude functions: critical thinking.
Critical thinking has a definition I will quote from an online article from the University of Louisville:
After a careful review of the mountainous body of literature defining critical thinking and its elements, U of L has chosen to adopt the language of Michael Scriven and Richard Paul (2003) as a comprehensive, concise operating definition:
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
Paul and Scriven go on to suggest that critical thinking is based on: "universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue, assumptions, concepts, empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions, implication and consequences, objections from alternative viewpoints, and frame of reference. Critical thinking - in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes - is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking."
This conceptualization of critical thinking has been refined and developed further by Richard Paul and Linder Elder into the Paul-Elder framework of critical thinking. Currently, this approach is one of the most widely published and cited frameworks in the critical thinking literature. According to the Paul-Elder framework, critical thinking is the:
Analysis of thinking by focusing on the parts or structures of thinking ("the Elements of Thought")
Evaluation of thinking by focusing on the quality ("the Universal Intellectual Standards")
Improvement of thinking by using what you have learned ("the Intellectual Traits") End quote
I must emphasize that critical thinking is often treated as a natural ability and to a degree it is. One learns to question and doubt some things and to spot contradictions or to accept ideas to some degree. But this capacity varies greatly from person to person and even situation to situation. The actual well developed academic subject exists, just like medicine or engineering or say, a martial art.
Any of these subjects have organized methods set for their study and it would be odd to have a surgeon or person designing a nuclear reactor or airplane or an instructor who actually never formally studied and practiced as a doctor or engineer or martial artist. The subject of critical thinking as a subject requires significant study and effort.
I am pointing this out in particular because several individuals who merely consider critical thinking to be smart thinking or good thinking are self proclaimed critical thinkers, and if you don't believe me you can just bring up critical thinking as a good subject or an unknown beneficial subject and unfortunately some folks instantly perk up, proudly say they already are critical thinkers and dismiss anything other than praise, awe and congratulations. Even if you point out the terms "clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness" and point out that in the academic subject of critical thinking these terms have quite exact and specific meanings and functions.
The fact that a person doesn't even know these terms are part of the subject should certainly demonstrate that regardless of whatever other success one may have had in developing good judgment, and they certainly may have done so, they actually haven't learned and don't practice critical thinking in the academic sense.
In Scientology absolutely blind unthinking loyalty and submission to the doctrine of Ron Hubbard is the highest value and supreme guiding principle. All other ideas are inferior to this and must be made to align with this.
Quite a stark contrast to critical thinking and the greater one's submission to Scientology and the longer it continues the more significantly and generally critical thinking is diminished.
So as part of recovery from Scientology a strong emphasis on developing critical thinking and spotting and removing obstacles to critical thinking is a sadly a needed basic goal for continued and concentrated vigorous pursuit.
It has to be worked toward as an ongoing effort, hopefully with incremental improvements and rewards that far exceed the cost in time and effort employed.
In working toward this I have encountered many significant obstacles to identify, clarify and overcome, or at least become aware of and work towards handling.
This post is about one type of obstacle that is quite common in human thought and not one which Scientology has any monopoly on. Though Scientology certainly has it as a most extreme example.
Ideologies. Here is a very simple definition from Sparknotes:
An ideology is a set of beliefs that affects our outlook on the world. Our ideology is our most closely held set of values and feelings, and it acts as the filter through which we see everything and everybody. In fact, these beliefs are often so close to us that we do not realize that they are there. We simply think that our beliefs are natural and obviously true. Religion is one type of ideology, and religious belief affects a person’s views. End quote.
I was recently struck by seeing a pair of interviews in which the extreme danger and irrationality of ideologies was made profoundly clear.
Noam Chomsky was asked if he was a Marxist and surprised the interviewer by saying no and said you should examine ideas from someone, consider the ideas, take good ones and leave behind mistakes, which everyone makes as we are all human. Chomsky tried to discourage any worship of any person or doctrine, certainly politically. He went on to point out how an idea that might fit one society in one circumstance at one time might fit, but could be wrong in other situations.
Similarly John Ralston Saul, a Canadian author who has written on history and economic and social changes, in an interview said to be careful about taking on an ideology when examining a situation. By examining something with an ideology a person frames their observations prior to making them. In other words they have conclusions before beginning observations. Not ideal unbiased judgment.
From Saul's book Voltaire's Bastards.
[S]hould we attempt to use sensible words to deal with these problems, they will be caught up immediately in the structures of the official arguments which accompany the official modern ideologies — arguments as sterile as the ideologies are irrelevant. Our society contains no method of serious self-criticism for the simple reason that it is now a self-justifying system which generates its own logic.
A man who uses power to do evil is in theory judged to have been conscious of his acts and to be as fit for punishment as a perpetrator of premeditated murder. But the technocrat is not trained on that level. He understands events within the logic of the system. The greatest good is the greatest logic or the greatest appearance of efficiency or responsibility for the greatest possible part of the structure. End quote.
And from The Doubter's Companion
Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate. End quote
So he definitely also recognized the danger ideologies pose as methods to stop critical thinking and substitute slogans for considered thought. This idea has variations all through studies on cults, mass movements and control of human beings. Robert Jay Lifton noted the thought stopping cliche, George Orwell noted propaganda by redefinition of terms, which is a phrase Hubbard himself used to describe a method he used and used extensively, nearly constantly.
These terms all describe ideas that are assumed to be true before observations occur. How good can observations be if one knows essential infallible conclusions before the observations begin ? Biased at best.
I am not saying everyone needs to become very skeptical agnostics rejecting everything and never committing to any ideas. If one has a religion that is certainly acceptable. Judging what ideas prejudice oneself and removing the ability of those ideas to impair thought is ultimately a personal experience. Each of us has to judge for ourselves what ideas do or do not fit this description.
And I certainly recommend the academic subject of critical thinking to help with that, of course it may go against your ideology and I will have to leave you to work that out for yourself.