This self-assessment instrument is intended to approximate your knowledge, attitude and practice of Reason, one of four REAL wellness dimensions. Three other self-assessment instruments serve the same function for the dimensions of Exuberance, Athleticism and Liberty.
The self-assessment protocols are copyrighted; all rights are reserved. Visit donardell.com for licensing information regarding educational, corporate, non-profit or other uses.
REAL is an acronym for the four dimensions of REAL wellness. R is for Reason, the first of the four dimensions of this concept. The other three are Exuberance, Athleticism and Liberty. Only the Reason dimension is addressed in this section of the overall REAL Wellness Self-Assessment.
The purpose of the four self-assessments is to enable you to become familiar with and more committed to a REAL wellness mindset/lifestyle. The overall goal is a philosophy and set of mental habits guided by reason, inspired by exuberance, supported with athleticism and enriched by increased personal liberties.
Each statement is prefaced by a background commentary. Upon completion of ratings for the ten statements, an interpretative commentary is provided based upon your cumulative score. A selection of Reason-focused books are included as recommended readings.
The Reason self-assessment, contains ten statements. You are asked to choose a number from one to five that reflects the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement. If you strongly believe that your thinking or situation aligns with the statement, place the number 5 as your answer choice in the space provided. If you strongly disagree, enter the number 1.
These are the two extreme positions.
The middle number 3 represents a neutral position, indicating that you are not sure where you fit or take a middle ground position for this statement.
The numbers 2 and 4 should be selected to express a modest alignment favoring one side or the other along the five-part continuum. The number 2 would reflect mild disagreement; 4 mild agreement with the statement.
A NOTE FOR BEST RESULTS
This instrument is not intended as a competition, but rather for purposes of a personal self-assessment. Therefore, please be scrupulously frank with your self-assessment ratings.
The value of the assessment will be in the degree to which your score accurately represents your thinking. The cumulative score of point totals for all ten statements will determine the feedback provided. The feedback category should be valuable for guiding positive adjustments, if needed and desired.
Enjoy the process.
Carl Sagan, in The Demon-Haunted World, expressed the view that our cultural motifs, educational system and communications media have failed the public. Science is filtered out to the point that what trickles through is largely pretense and confusion. We accept things uncritically, we’re overly influenced by our hopes, conceits and unexamined beliefs. We’re reluctant to view ourselves as we really are. Tens of millions embrace alternate facts and reject plain evidence due to polarized loyalties. We’re overly reliant upon the consolations of faith and negligent about objective scrutiny of traditions.
Statement # 1
I give no credence whatsoever to the following: Horoscopes, Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, the Shroud of Turin, the prophesies of Nostradamus, the efficacy of homeopathy, revelations in numerology, documented visits by UFOs, conspiracies regarding the moon landing, telepathy and/or levitation _____
In Demon Haunted World, Carl Sagan suggests our perceptions are fallible, we sometimes see what isn’t there, we’re prey to optical illusions, we hallucinate and we are error-prone. To boost our immunity to such contagions, he created a baloney detection kit for BS-busting and critical thinking.
Statement # 2
I am aware of these dysfunctional perception tendencies and alert to the need to guard against them. _____
Superstition is defined as a widely held but unjustified belief in improbable causation or magical thinking. Examples include justification for miracles, fear of a certain number such as 13, reliance upon lucky charms, the healing power of crystals/trinkets/amulets or potions and the effectiveness of chants or mantras to bring about something devoutedly to be wished.
Statement # 3
I favor reason over superstition, evidence over belief, facts over faith. _____
Over eons of time, mankind has looked at the night sky and wondered, Why are we here and what’s it all about?
Statement # 4
Science guides my thinking on such universal, timeless and extraordinarily difficult eternal mysteries. _____
Being guided by reason is a never-ending gift that keeps on giving, a life-long journey of discovery. A skeptic is humble, willing to explore new areas, appreciates how much she doesn’t know and welcomes, almost celebrates, ideas/revelations/or discoveries that invite changes in beliefs, even those long-held and favored by family, friends and society.
Statement # 5
If I were to encounter ideas or findings from respected sources that contradict a belief or other aspect of my worldview, I would welcome such new information and look into it with an open mind. _____
While introducing the scientific method, the great Greek physician in the Age of Pericles, Hippocrates, urged careful and meticulous observation, leaving nothing to chance, overlooking nothing,
combining contradictory observations and allowing plenty of time to resolve matters.
Statement # 6
I am fully in accord with such advice from the Father of Medicine. _____
Myths and miracle stories often appeal to our emotional needs, to our desires to be protected and loved. Many people profess belief in the existence of a grand plan for our existence, that we as individuals are special and that death is not the end. These cultural beliefs include the idea that an unknowable, invisible, omnipotent and all-wise force of some kind looks out for each and every one of us and that we all have a special purpose and, to boot, that there is life after death. All or some of these claims may be true, no one knows anything definitive, reliable or verifiable about an afterlife. There is, however, much information in our modern era about the natural world that supports skepticism about such claims.
Statement # 7
I place no stock in supernatural myths or miracle stories. _____
Among the most common logical fallacies employed to justify propositions are: Ad hominem, argument from authority, appeal to ignorance, argument from adverse consequence, special pleading, begging the question, observational selection, statistics of small numbers and misunderstanding the nature of statistics.
Statement # 8
I am familiar with and try to be alert in order to avoid these fallacies of logic and rhetoric. _____
The burden for supporting or providing evidence for the proof of any claim rests with the party who advances it.
Statement # 9
I’m quite comfortable dismissing out-of-hand, without reservation or lingering anxiety, suggestions or expectations that I’m responsible for disproving assertions tendered by someone who wants me to believe something. _____
Guy Harrison, author of several critical thinking guidebooks, such as Good Thinking, identified what he termed, “The Dirty Dozen” common mental mistakes that hijack rational decision-making. Most are self-explanatory. They are the emotion potion, popularity, straw person, loaded question, wishful thinking, false dilemma, explaining by naming, circular reasoning, authority worship, special pleading, burden of proof and ad hominem attacks.
Statement # 10
I’m familiar with all or most of these obstacles to effectiveness in exercising the REAL wellness dimension skills of Reason. _____
INTERPRETATION OF SCORE
Add the total count for each of for your responses to the ten statements. The range will be from ten to 50.
The following commentary is impressionistic, subjective and approximate; it is not based upon robust randomized clinical trials, nor does the author proclaim nor imply magisterium via ex cathedra sources of inspiration or certainty. Rather, the interpretation will but suggest the extent of your familiarity with the nature of Reason. It reflects your tendencies to make choices within a range from seat-of-the-pants impulsiveness to going along with familiar customs observed over time to a near-devotion to reasoned judgments for deciding things. In the latter case, you will be feted as a person highly rational, little influenced by or reliant upon traditions or cultural norms.
And now, the interpretation of your score from a Reason perspective.
10 to 20
It would be an understatement of historic proportion to suggest you have opportunities to make advances in the use of Reason to guide your thinking. Nonetheless, I can’t resist — you can make better decisions and derive benefits from more systematic, deliberative and cautious decision-making.
Consider doubt and skepticism in a new light — both improve your chances for making better deals, avoiding mistakes major and otherwise and choosing more reliable friends and associates.
Cultivating a talent for systematic decision-making and reassessing beliefs you hold due to indoctrination or ill-informed companions could prove satisfying and productive. Consider exposing yourself (not literally) to people with different ideas in order to discover why some folks, especially those whose life experiences, backgrounds and educations have been different from your own, or who simply take positions contrasting your own. You don’t want to have it said of you, as Washington Post reporter Eugene Robinson said of a leading U.S. politician, namely, that “your style of making decisions is… arbitrary and anecdote-based, that you rely on cronies who have no relevant expertise; that you reject science or fail to understand how science even works; that you show a defiant stubbornness in clinging to what you think you know — even when you don’t actually know it; that you are obsessive even in the face of contrary evidence and impervious to fact-based arguments you don’t want to hear.”
(Source: Eugene Robinson, “The One Word That Explains Why Trump Should Not Be President,” Washington Post, April 6, 2020.)
It’s likely that you hold deep-seated convictions that you tend to defend automatically, and that you are not inclined to weigh or entertain opinions or data at odds with your current orientation.
Naturally, it’s quite possible that you are right about everything, and that you can perceive no good reasons to justify other possibilities. Perhaps your experience with individuals who advocate science-based positions has not been fruitful or satisfying, that many professionals seem antagonistic to or dismissive of convictions you hold dear. You may, for example, be absolutely convinced of the
value, reliability and evidence for what others see as myths and superstitions. Examples noted in the initial question, such as horoscopes, the Bermuda Triangle, the prophesies of Nostradamus or the efficacy of homeopathy may make perfect sense to you. There could be benefits, however, in examining, in a non-confrontational way, the case for doubt about issues which most scientists consider irrational and of little or no merit.
21 to 30
You seem to be moving along the middle of the proverbial road with respect to Reason. You are still a bit on the short end of the Reason spectrum but not far from aligning with the skill elements of effective decision-making. Perhaps you might consider devoting some time to reading about meaning and purpose, yours as well as that of mankind and all else. There are rich, wonder-provoking books, movies, lectures, museum exhibitions and other resources for exploring these and other topics under the Reason dimension that reflect modern science. Books and courses on critical thinking or effective decision-making are also excellent resources for this purpose.
The quality of reasoning is much affected by knowledge. The more you know about the issues of the times, matters such as how viruses are transmitted, the importance of vaccinations, the basic facts about climate change, erosion, population growth, solar energy, nuclear power, deforestation and sustainability of key resources, artificial intelligence and so much else, the better your thinking will be on broad concerns — economics, politics, personal relations included. In addition, you will be less likely to be swayed by crackpots.
31 to 40
Well done — you are on the right track, well along to becoming a master of the Reason dimension of REAL wellness. You recognize that Reason skills are often the difference between success and failure in much of what you undertake in life, whether earth-shaking in nature or hardly noticeable at the time. The human brain does not instinctively function critically–we are prone to biases, prejudices, distortions in perceptions, inclinations toward horribilizing and catastrophic thinking, confirmation bias and many other forms of muddled, dysfunctional information processing. You have managed to develop the skills to control and redirect many if not most such mental hazards. The skills you have, along with the adoption of additional ways of disciplined cogitating, will promote your creativity and prospects for success in the knowledge economy and your comfort in self-evaluation.
Finally, though there are many additional benefits of effective decision-making, consider the importance of Reason skills for those who take college entrance exams. Knowing what you have demonstrated you already know while adding increased skills of evaluation and assessment might make the difference between acceptance at a Harvard, MIT or other Stanford-level school, or
settling for Trump University.
41 to 50
Outstanding. Congratulations. Gilbert and Sullivan might exclaim that you are the very model of a modern major general of critical thinking, Hippocrates would give you high marks for Reason and Carl Sagan and Guy Harrison and other scholars of Reason would see you as are the kind of thinker vitally needed in our demon-haunted world. You are wise to the common logical fallacies and alert to most of the tricks of scammers, grifters, advertisers and other charlatans, secular and theological, who prey on gullible innocents. If someone tries to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, he better be ready with the deed of title and a letter from the mayor, for starters. The scammer will need powerful evidence if he wants you to believe the Bridge is his to sell. You know beyond doubt that sole responsibility for the burden of proof rests with whomever wants to convince you of one claim or another.
Your reason skills are such that you are positioned to optimize your relationship with yourself and others. You have made the transition from fear-based reactive strategies to what Maslow called self-actualization and transcendence. You should consider yourself a thought leader, raising the consciousness of others in order that they, too, might experience more creativity and fulfillment such as you have managed. You know your strengths. You are clear about the outcomes that matter most. What’s more, you recognize strategies that serve your chances, not only to meet your needs, but to help others meet theirs, as well.
Society needs more REAL wellness masters of reason like yourself.
Barker, Dan. “Maybe Yes, Maybe No: A Guide for Young Skeptics.” Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1990.
Carroll, Robert Todd, ed. “The Skeptic’s Dictionary.” Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2003.
Capaldi, Nicholas and Smit, Miles. “The Art of Deception: An Introduction to Critical Thinking.” Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2019.
Davis, Hank. “Caveman Logic: The Persistence of Primitive Thinking in a Modern World.” Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2009.
Harrison, Guy P. “Good Thinking.” Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2015.
_____________. “Think: Why You Should Question Everything.” Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2013.
Haught, James A. “Honest Doubt.” Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007.
Hedges, Chris. “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.” New York: Nation Books, 2010.
McRaney, David. “You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness and All Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself.” New York: Gotham, 2013.
Pigliucci, Massimo. “Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk.” Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
Sagan, Carl. “The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle in the Dark.” New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.
Shermer, Michael. “The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies — How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.” New York: Times Books, 2011.
Specter, Michael. “Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders “Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives.” New York: Penguin Press, 2009.
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