Atheist Society of Nigeria

We seek a Nigeria where public policies are based on rational reasoning and critical thinking and not influenced by religious beliefs

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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

How Hard Can Thinking Be- Part 1

Written by Oge Igboegbunam

How hard can thinking be?  Don’t we all think?  Why is it that the majority of human beings shy away from anything that will make them think deeply?

Could this just be a problem of poor self-differentiation?

What can it be?

Thinking is the process by which the mind processes information, forms opinions (creates concepts), solves problems, and takes decisions.

Don’t we all do these on a daily basis?  When we have to decide what to wear to work, we scan our wardrobes for a suitable outfit as we look at our clothes with a critical eye.

Will this purple blouse go with my Tomato red skirt? Should I put on something else?

We hold up different articles of clothing against one another and we finally decide to go for one.

Problem solved.  Thinking concluded.

If thinking is as simple as this, why do many human beings dislike concepts like Abstract thinking, Critical thinking, Logical thinking, and Creative thinking?

Is it possible for us to develop a love for higher thinking processes like those stated above? Of what use will they be to the Nigerian society?

The development of higher thinking processes in humans enables us get what we need from our relationships with others and our environment.
This implies that pervasive problems like poverty, illness, crime, interpersonal difficulties and whatnot will be a thing of the past in Nigeria once we individually and collectively exercise our higher thinking faculties on a continuous basis.


Yes, really.  This is why Atheist Society of Nigeria seeks to teach people how to think, not what to think.  Therein lies the fundamental difference between us and theistic philosophies.

Whether the individual wishes to adopt a non-theistic philosophy is left to his judgment.  As Atheist Society of Nigeria is well aware we all can be different without polarizing differences via us versus them stance.

The important thing is unity in diversity in moving the Nigerian society forward and curing the ills that beset us all. Be you theist or atheist.

Back to the topic at hand…

The first concept, Abstract thinking is defined as the ability to think about objects, ideas and principles that are not physically present. 

But don’t we all think of objects that aren’t physically present?  When we speak of ghosts, fairies, spirits… aren’t we thinking in the abstract?

Not necessarily.  This is because abstract thinking refers to concepts that aren’t real, tied to any specific location, object, anything within space and time but many people have a concept of them.  Herein lies the difference between abstract concepts and flights of fancy like ghosts.

What types of abstract concepts are there?

A few examples of the abstract concepts I know of are:
  • Redness:  This refers to a general term and isn’t tied to any specific object.
  • Number 4:  This refers to a thinking process used to facilitate counting.  No one knows what Number 4 looks like, has heard what it sounds like, no one can describe 4, 4 isn’t tied to any real object within space and time. But everyone has a concept of 4.
  • Humanity:  This refers to the properties that make us human.  These aren’t tied to any real object within space and time.
  • Love, justice:  These are concepts we use to facilitate our actions towards one another.  There is no agreed-upon definition by all human beings as to what comprises love.
  • Iostream.h:  This is used to facilitate computer programming.  It is not tied to any real, specific object within space and time.
The above-cited examples give you an idea of what comprise abstract concepts.

How do we apply abstract thinking?

Abstract thinking is very important as it helps a person so endowed to learn things quickly.  This is because abstract thinking helps you shift knowledge from one domain to another domain.

It is true that most human beings have rudimentary grasp of abstract thinking, but the problem is theirs is domain-specific i.e. they can think in abstract concepts in their field of endeavor but are unable to shift knowledge between two or more domains of knowledge.

The implication is that a person might be a professor of computer programming, but unable to apply abstract thinking to fields like politics and economics.

This is why we often marvel at the poor judgment of so-called academics and elite who believe in all manner of ludicrous superstitions!

A person high in abstract thinking will not need to undergo special training in another field as the knowledge he acquired in one will be useful in another.

I’ll give you an example.

I have often been threatened with death as I’m not religious.  There used to be a time I would shiver at the prospect of my passing away.

I know I’m atheist, but what will actually happen to me when I die?  What if I have real reason to fear death and the afterlife?  What then?

This fear lingered at the back of my mind although I would sometimes engage in mental gymnastics to push it away.

Until one day…

I read up on a thought experiment called SchrÖdinger’s Cat  in Quantum Mechanics.  

For those who don’t know, SchrÖdinger’s Cat is a thought experiment a Swedish physicist thought out to demonstrate the absurdity of something being and NOT being at the same time.

In the experiment, a cat is put in a box with a strong gaseous poison and the box is closed for a certain length of time. Like 1 hour.

As the experiment states we don't open the box to determine if the cat is alive or dead, we assume the cat is 50% alive and 50% dead.

This is absurd as something can't be both alive and dead at the same time.

I then pondered,

Am I alive just because people say I'm alive?
Or I'm alive when I, Oge, feel invigorated, though people call me a robot?
Am I dead just because a doctor pronounced me clinically dead?
What if I've become a saint whose essence remains in my bones after 'death' and just like Catholic and Hindu saints, my bones are claimed to heal people?
My fear of death and the afterlife vanished with my ability to exercise abstract thinking, which shifted knowledge among 4 domains: Quantum mechanics; Metaphysics; Forensic pathology; and theology.

I did not have to acquire any special training or read any other book on each of the 4 domains to arrive at this conclusion.

Ok, I want to learn how to think in the abstract.  Where do I start from?

There is a little-known technique I taught myself that helps me sharpen my ability to think in the abstract.  It’s possible some schools of thought would call it a form of meditation. I don’t know.

In my technique, I think of what defines me.  As I am on the path to self-differentiation

What exactly comprises the I?

Of course, I don’t know what the I looks like.  I can’t smell it, hear it, taste it, touch it… but I have an awareness of the I.

This is easy for me to do as I sometimes wonder to myself what is number 4? I know Number 4 is an abstract concept that is not tied to any real, specific object within space and time but everyone has an idea of.

If I say 4 fingers, I’m not seeing Number 4.  What I’m seeing are my fingers extended in front of me.

This little-known technique helps me develop self-awareness, which is the first thing a person setting out on the path to self-differentiation needs.

Self-awareness comes before awareness of your environment.

Awareness of your environment is key to helping you behave in socially appropriate ways, take care of your environment e.g. not be dirty, litter your surroundings, be cruel to sentient beings in your environment.

Awareness also sharpens your abstract thinking abilities and your cognitive functioning as you more readily notice and process stimuli passing through your five senses.

This uncanny ability is what makes some people believe in a phenomenon called clairvoyance, which is not the mumbo-jumbo most people make of it.

The scientific explanation on clairvoyance is the person so endowed with perceptive abilities has very keen powers of observation and his brain is extremely good at making deductions, connecting the dots between these stimuli passing through his five senses and what is stored in memory and subconscious mind.

Those who do not have the scientific understanding of this phenomenon will erroneously call such a person a wizard, witch, psychic, prophet, etc. Meanwhile no such thing exists.

For some people who have problems with thinking quickly and cognitive dulling, reading up on self-differentiation via this link  will be of help to them.

In my own case, I do not rely on magical or supernatural powers to keep me healthy, so I eat the right foods for my body and brain health and I also take Selenium 200 mcg supplements under a doctor’s prescription for thyroid and cognitive health.

In coming articles, the concepts of Critical thinking, Logical thinking, Creative thinking, Problem-solving, and Decision-making will be expounded from a scientific perspective.

Remember, Atheist Society of Nigeria is here to teach you how to think, not what to think!

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