*At AlienCon 2018, during the Q&A section of Giorgio Tsoukalos’s panel*
“Next question? Yes, you!”
“All of your theories are conjecture, there is no hard evidence to support any of your claims, extraterrestrials will never reach us. You are a fraud spreading lies to make money on TV and I believe that…”
*Giorgio takes the mic to respond*
*His mouth opens 3 times wider than it should be able to*
*A bright light emits from his gaping jaws and eyes followed by a deafening inhuman screech*
*The questioner disappears and the audience’s memory has been instantly wiped*
It’s after you’ve both eaten dinner and you’re beginning to decompress from your long day at the bureau, neither of you having the gumption to go out for the night so you find yourselves parked on the sofa in the middle of your living room.
Spencer is lounging at one end of the couch, his long legs propped up on the coffee table in front of him. You’re sat on the opposite end, your legs spread out against the length of the cushions and your feet resting in Spencer’s lap.
You’re mindlessly scrolling through your phone, clicking on the link to a Buzzfeed quiz that Penelope had sent you earlier that day. Spencer is tracing small geometric-esq shapes on the inside of your ankle, picking up the TV remote to change it from the ending credits of the show he had been watching.
Out of habit, he punches in the channel number for the History Channel, hoping to catch an episode of Modern Marvels that he had yet to see.
But rather, the opening theme of Ancient Aliens is what begins to play when the channel switches — and as if on cue, Spencer rolls his eyes. Yet, he does not change it off of the show that he has voiced distaste for multiple times and on multiple occasions.
Instead, he watches and can feel himself growing more and more infuriated with each passing minute. Making small noises of disagreement and mental comments on the so called ‘evidence’ that the theorists are presenting.
It isn’t until he mumbles out a rather loud “Bullshit” that you turn your attention away from discovering which F.R.I.E.N.D.S character you are and towards your husband. Irritation is clearly written on his face, and when you look towards where his eyes are locked on the television screen, the reason behind it is obvious.
“Really?” you can’t help but ask incredulously.
“What?” Spencer counter asks, the patterns he had been drawing on your skin ceasing as he turns his head to look at you.
“You’re watching this again?” you lock your phone and allow it to fall into your lap, folding your arms across your chest, “You despise this show.”
Spencer merely shrugs, turning back to the illustrated images of spacecraft that are flashing across the blue lit screen, “It was on.”
“Do you remember the last time it was on?” you smirk, thinking back to a few months ago and the reaction he towards a theorist suggesting that extraterrestrials were the cause of the Black Plague.
“That was one time,” he casts a glance at you through his peripheral vision, knowing exactly the high pitched and fast paced rants that you were referring to.
“And then there was the time before that, and then the one before that, and then that one time on the jet with Rossi…” your sentence getting cut short by the giggle that falls from your lips as a result of the glare you receive from Spencer.
“Well come on!” Spencer exclaims, jutting an arm out at the wild haired Giorgio Tsoukalos, “I can’t be the only one who finds it ridiculous that a bunch of “UFO-ologists”,” he emphasizes his point by curling his fingers into air quotes, “Are out here trying to say that dinosaurs went extinct because aliens wanted human beings to be Earth’s dominant species!
Slipping your feet off of Spencer’s lap and scooting closer to him until your crossed legs touched his thigh, you brushed a hand through his short curls, and smiled when he turned into your touch.
“You’re not the only one,” you assured him, pressing a small kiss to the middle of his forehead, “I mean, come one, everyone knows dinosaurs went extinct because the aliens got mad at them for always fucking up their crop circles.”
And in one quick movement, taking advantage of the gaping look of shock and confusion that Spencer wore, you snatched the TV remote off of the arm rest and began flipping through the stations for a less rage inducing program to watch.
However, there wasn’t much time for you to change the station to a rerun of Forensic Files as your back unexpectedly met the empty couch cushions behind you in a soft huff — immediately followed by the feeling of Spencer’s bony fingers digging into your sides and the sound of both of your unrestrained laughter mixing together.
Do you have any book recs about critical thinking/debate skills/media literacy?
Agh, off the top of my head that’s tough. There was a really great book I read about critical thinking for an archaeology class in undergrad but that was literal decades ago and I don’t have the book anymore. Most of my critical thinking training was, well, “on the job” as it were. I had a really good mentor who often modeled oppositional thinking for me – taking the opposing side of an argument in order to strengthen the one we were making, or in order to take it apart. He never “played devil’s advocate” for the sake of it – he just tried to always come at a question from all angles in order to make sure that the eventual answer was the strongest it could be.
Okay, I have one general recommendation for you and two weird workbook recommendations.
General recommendation: George Bernard Shaw. He was a playwright in the late 19th and early 20th centuries up through WWII (he lived to be 94 and only died when he fell down a flight of stairs, I’m pretty sure he’s an immortal who faked his own death). He was a Fabian, a vegetarian, an advocate for the total revision of the English language’s spelling structure, a genius, a feminist, to an extent an anti-racist, and a nutball. He wrote plays that deeply challenged peoples’ most basically held beliefs about the roles of women, violence, and politics in society. Some of his stuff is a little dated compared to Tumblr discourse, but watching his characters challenge basic assumptions is a great way of learning how to think about the most deeply held and unquestioned beliefs we have. Try Mrs. Warren’s Profession (sexism), The Devil’s Disciple (one of my particular favorites, mostly religion), or Major Barbara (violence and industry) to start with. His short plays are quite good too.
And here are two exercises you can do:
Go to www.chick.com and read any comic you like. As you read, position yourself in opposition to whatever the comic is advocating, and work out how you would argue against it. If you can’t, google around a little for how other people may have argued. There are very few things that are wholly and entirely wrong in this world, but I believe Chick Tracts are one of them; they are evil and predicated on preying on hate and fear, but they’re good practice. You can confidently assume that they are wrong, so the workout is to figure out HOW they are wrong and how you would refute them. (This is presuming you don’t have past traumas associated with religiously driven *ism that make it hard to read these – if you do, don’t do this, it’s not worth it.)
(I once decided to really apply myself to getting to the root of chick tracts, and I discovered that there is no root. These comics are not produced by a church or a ministry; they’re just a company that caters to a specific brand of evangelical church, which is why they are so generic and so much about what you should hate, as opposed to what you should have love and compassion for.)
You can also find and watch any episode of Ancient Aliens, or any television show that features Giorgio Tsoukalos, Erich von Daniken, or David Childress. The theories of Ancient Aliens are full of “science” so you will probably have to google for refutations, but you can study how they are refuted by real scientists and also you can pick apart how the show presents speculation as truth (the most obvious technique is to ask a question and then say “the answer may lie in [total change of subject]”). The whole alien debate is full of both whackjobs and earnest, dedicated scientists, and you can learn a lot from both.
One final thing I will say, and again this was taught to me by my mentor, is that critical thinking is not about winning. That is the opposite of critical thinking. Critical thinking is about learning, and discerning truth not just from lies but also from ego. You don’t use critical thinking to trick yourself or others into affirming a position that you know to be wrong; you use it to study your position and, if necessary, change it. It requires humility as well as diligence. But the upside is that once you know you are right, you have a myriad of tools at your disposal to prove it.
Readership, recommendations for books and websites about critical thinking, debating, and media literacy are welcome – toss ‘em in comments or reblog, as per usual I don’t repost asks in response to other asks.
Written for @winchesters-favorite-girl‘s 31 Days of Halloween Challenge! My prompt was “aliens.” I just smushed up a bunch of my favorite alien-related things (X-Files, the Ancient Aliens drinking game which I cannot recommend enough, and inspiration from Clap Your Hands If You Believe). This is pure silliness involving teenage Winchester shenanigans.
“Donut?” Dean said, offering the box to Sam as he emerged from the bathroom.
“Yeah right,” Sam replied, rolling his eyes. “What’d you do? Mayo?”