What got you into critical thinking?

For me it was one name. Played by many men over the years, but it always comes back to just one name.

Sherlock Holmes

I recall reading the Doyle stories as a kid. I read every one of them back to back. And when I was done I wanted more. And I found non-canon stories based upon Doyle’s work, but I went through that even faster.

What was I to do? Well that was when I found Basil Rathbone, who is still to this day the epitome of Holmes, with all his strengths and weaknesses.

Holmes, who’s quick intellect, eye for detail, and vast knowledge make him one of the ideals of critical thinking and skepticism.

The second of Universal’s “modernized” Sherlock Holmes films pits the Great Detective (Basil Rathbone, of course) against that “Napoleon of Crime,” Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill). Surpassing his previous skullduggery, Moriarty has now aligned himself with the Nazis and has dedicated himself to stealing a top-secret bomb sight developed by expatriate European scientist Dr. Franz Tobel (William Post Jr.). Before being kidnapped by Moriarty’s minions, Tobel was enterprising enough to disassemble his invention and distribute its components among several other patriotic scientists. Racing against the clock, Holmes and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) try to stem the murders of Tobel’s colleagues and prevent Moriarty from getting his mitts on the precious secret weapon. The now-famous climax finds Holmes playing for time by allowing Moriarty to drain all the blood from his body, drop by drop (“The needle to the last, eh Holmes?” gloats the villain). Dennis Hoey makes his first appearance as the dull-witted, conclusion-jumping Inspector Lestrade. Constructed more like a serial than a feature film, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (based loosely on Conan Doyle’s The Dancing Men) is one of the fastest-moving entries in the series; it is also one of the most readily accessible, having lapsed into public domain in 1969.

About Jeff Randall

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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8 Responses to What got you into critical thinking?

  1. Tressa says:

    Penn & Teller’s Bullshit in 2007 (before that I was Wiccan and into all the alternative junk that usually goes along with that religion).

    • Jeff Randall says:

      P&T are a great way to get into skepticism… Bullshit is a great show (even with the occasional Libertarian rants they go off on), and does a tremendous job exposing lack of critical thinking.

  2. Garbledina says:

    I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t into critical thinking, which makes it hard to think of anything that triggered an interest. Holmes, of course, is amazing (which is funny when you consider how very uncritical Conan-Doyle was). Have you seen the new BBC series, “Sherlock” by any chance?

    • Jeff Randall says:

      I do like the new series. I think I have seen, heard, and read every adaptation. But for me Rathbone will always be THE definitive Holmes.

      And while I don’t remember ever believing in anything uncritical, I do remember after reading the Holmes stories it did make me start to think more about things, and taught me not to take the word of authorities without looking into things for myself.

      And you’re right about Doyle. When I first heard about his belief in fairies it was hard to reconcile the author of the most critical character in fiction being that far off-base.

      • Garbledina says:

        I am a Jeremy Brett fan, myself. ;)

      • Jeff Randall says:

        Hard to argue against Brett. That show is a classic, and he spent so much time in the role and studying Sherlock, that he became Holmes in the minds of many.

        But Rathbone is the original, and he was my first (the movies and the radio show).

        I can’t really make a great case for either one over the other, but I do believe any serious Holmes fan would put both of them, them miles ahead of all other Holmes…

  3. Gator Opus says:

    I was trained to think critically from childhood. Really hard to put into words so I wrote a poem about it many years later. Read it and you’ll understand.

    In a previous life,
    you killed and raped,
    cutting off the heads of kids,
    tying them to your shields
    so their kindred knew fear
    before they fell beneath you.

    You do not remember
    your guilt,
    but; you know them to be true
    because I knew.
    Why else would I beat you so?

    Before you could walk, I beat
    you with the hand,
    the belt,
    the wall,
    and best of all, the closet.

    You suckled the tit
    of fear and pain
    but you grew.

    After school, I beat
    you. Question after question
    until you missed
    and I began the lesson.
    You became smart
    and still you grew.

    Older,
    you had twelve inches
    on me. You would not stand
    still so I clutched
    your hand and followed
    you around the room;
    told you to stop crying
    with every lunge of the belt,
    the switch,
    the hanger.

    You learned.
    The pain
    became yours.
    I beat you never
    again.

    You are a Viking.
    The son of Odon
    and the Mother
    who beat you so!

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