Monday, October 10, 2005

Preventing Pollution of Our Social Institutions

Today I'd like to offer up an idea on how to protect our society from social pollution. A high degree of protection is the loftiest goal we could hope for, since there are too many sorts of social pollution spawned by too many sources for the problem to be eliminated. You may as well hope to keep erosion from happening. Even if we can't stop erosion we can try to exert some control over it.

We need an organization devoted to helping us control the effects of social pollution. It would be a nonprofit foundation, or maybe a network of commited writers and scholars. The organization, let's call it the Social Pollution Prevention Institute for the sake of discussion, would focus on analysis and public education. So, what exactly would the Institute do, and how?

The Social Pollution Prevention Institute would analyze ideas, policies, programs, laws, regulations, and trends in behaviors to evaluate their consequences for society. The Institute's researchers would look for evidence of faulty logic, counterfactual claims and ideas, and things that undermine widely shared values. The results could be disseminated through books, Web content, and downloadable reports. (I have fantasies of a TV show with cute reporters and a bikini model who makes fun of the "crazy idea of the week.")

During election seasons the researchers could audit the thinking of politicians. How bad is their thinking? Who's ideas are dangerous? Do politicians care about being logical or factual? Not really. However, the sloppiness of their thinking may become cause for concern among voters, and ammunition for opponents. Politicians do care about those two things!

What tools might researchers at the Social Pollution Prevention Institute use? The rules for spotty illogical thinking (stra men, ad hominem attacks, et cetera) could be used. Certain thinking tools like PMI and CAF could also be used. Researchers could also run though experiments and construct scenarios.

If you were wondering what PMI and CAF are about, you may want to check out Edward De Bono's books on thinking skills. Search for Serious Creativity or De Bono's Thinking Course at

Yes, I am willing to actually do something about starting such an organization. Any ideas where I should start?


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