Debate 1: Is drug addiction a disease?


As part of our courses in the meeting place of the Cambridge Critical Thinking Society  we will be introducing the participants to the art of debate allowing for the practice of critical thinking skills.

This is our very first debate and it takes place live in class on the 15th of May 2017.  After that we continue online. However there is a little difference between the exercise in class and the online discussion; while in class we will have two teams,  one adopting the affirmative and the other the negative position, online each person is free to present their own arguments.

For our first debate we are discussing whether drug addiction is a disease. The subject for this debate was inspired by this article: “Stop calling your drug addiction a disease”.

I will be moderating the online discussion to make sure we have no “trolls”. I’ll be playing the “devils advocate” and asking questions just  for the sake of the exercise. So whatever I say is not necessary my own opinion, it is only a thought provoking strategy.

I will ask the participants to be polite and take into consideration that this is an exercise. I am aware that people can get too emotionally involved with their arguments and lose track of rationality. This is precisely the point of this exercise. When you are writing you have more time to work on your arguments.

When reading other postings, highlight fallacious or illogical arguments and explain why you think they are so. Don’t just say “John you are being illogical and you committed a fallacy” . You need to say ” John your sentence “xxxxxxx” is a non-sequitur and your full argument is a straw-man fallacy because  x, y and Z”.

Remember that to make a strong inductive argument you need to provide reliable evidence to support your claims.

Let us start…

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Introduction to Animal Assisted Therapy


Let us think objectively!… After all we are a Critical Thinking Society.  Does having a pet help you in any way? Is there any evidence? Isn’t this just another alternative approach to counselling?

This post addresses the evidence for this counselling practice.

Animal assisted therapy has been used in the care of patients in hospital wards, homes for the elderly and prisons. The regular contact with an animal has shown improvement of the mood of people in these circumstances. More recently some counsellors are asking their clients to bring their pet to teh counselling sessions, or if they do not hold a pet, the counsellor may bring  some of his own companion animals in the session, usually a quiet dog or a friendly cat who don’t mind to be petted by unfamiliar people.

One of the most valued aspects of having animals as part of a therapeutic alliance appears to be related to their impact on altering the therapeutic environment. One of the founders of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – Alan Beck- supported the assumption that animals seemed to have the capacity to modify a person’s readiness to open up to the counsellor. In most cases, presence of an animal appears to modify the perceived environment
and make it more friendly and comfortable to incoming clients.

When the clients talk about the animal, hey offer material that can be used to work with in teh therapeutic alliance.

There are certainly many advantages in this process as the presence  of an animal may become a social facilitator for spontaneous discussions with the  counsellor. The dog usually helps break the ice and makes it easier to initiate casual discussion. In most cases, the topics initially begin around the animal’s presence.

A variety of researchers have looked at animals and their apparent impact on reducing stress in an environment.

There is a body of empirical evidence and controlled studies that owning a pet contributes to the reduction of cardiovascular problems and lowers blood pressure.

A study by Erika Friedman investigating pet ownership and survival rates among patients
who were hospitalised for heart attacks, myocardial obstructions of the blood supply, or severe chest pains, suggested a significant difference in life expectancy between the subjects who had a pet versus those who did not.

In the UK  there are some organisations promoting animal assisted interventions such as the Society for Companion Animal Studies   which run different types of programmes aimed at improving human health and welfare with the inclusion of animals. However such programmes differ from animal assisted counselling which consists if offering normal counselling techniques with an animal in the room.

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Avoiding confirmation bias

As I mentioned in my first post, the most important thing in the process of critical thinking is to ask ourselves how much are we willing to question our own  beliefs.  This is important because each time we read  articles that conform with what we already believe we drop our mental defences. Our mental weapons are the tools we use to analyse arguments with a critical stance.

For example, if I believe that charity is a good thing, I may not be so critical of articles that promote charity towards people or countries in need, but  there may be some charitable works that are not completely free from criticism.  There are questions that  must be asked such as;

Is it better to invest  the charity’s funds to  offer direct food aid or will this money be better employed training the citizens on  effective management of their own resources?

If you are prone to emotional responses, you may feel inclined to send food to countries where images of hungry children have been  all over the media. But you need to question yourself if these images are local or global?

Is the hunger the result of inadequate political management, war or an environmental catastrophe?

Is hunger the result of overpopulation on ecosystems that cannot support population growth?

Would your attitude towards aid vary according to the causes that lead to hunger?

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Starting the debate

discussionThis blog is a space for discussion and analysis enabling the application of critical thinking tools.

Eventually we will post texts from other authors and expose them to the critical analysis of our readers. The intention of this blog is not so much to express our personal opinions, but to train our acquired skills in analysing information, thus we invite the reader to spot fallacies, elements of rhetoric, illogicality, inconsistencies,m propaganda and many other forms of inadequate reasoning.

Eventually we will also offer texts for debate where the author and the participants express their opinions. However the forum will always have a number of moderators pointing out  aspects of the presented arguments that may be fallacious.

We can discuss anything, from anthropology to zoology. New age, religious and political beliefs, conspiracy theories, and aliens.

The most important technique to keep always in mind is to question ourselves “I do I believe in this?”.

There are many tools to analyse arguments, but they are all worthless in each one of us is not prepared to submit our own beliefs to questioning.

This blog will also summarise many of teh debates that we hold in our Cambridge meetings. We make them public through this blog to allow more people to participate in the debate.

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