Thursday, January 28, 2010

ARE YOU A CRITICAL THINKER?

Are you a critical thinker? I have a simple test for you. No, it is not a riddle involving a dead guy hanging in an empty room locked from the inside. (He was standing on a block of ice) The way to test whether you are a critical thinker is even easer then that. Have you ever heard of the following terms: a straw man argument, moving the goal posts, the Barnum effect, confirmation bias, Occam’s razor, false dichotomy, or an argument from final consequence?

If you have ever said you are a critical thinker and are not familiar with at least some of these terms, then the chances are, you are just talking out of your ass. (It’s ok. I do it all the time.) But to be clear, a person who calls himself a critical thinker and is not familiar with at least some of these terms is like a guy who calls himself a Christian but has never heard of that Jesus guy.

Critical thinkers try to use a formal set of rules to evaluate all claims. Let me repeat that. Critical Thinkers and Skeptics try to use rules for thinking. Critical thinking does not come naturally. It is not a result of being smart. In fact, it’s, anti-intuitive. It is a learned skill, one that requires continuing self education.


I will try to explain some of the above terms in future posts but until then the web sites I have at the bottom of my blog are a great place to start. They are all created by really smart and funny people and I can’t recommend them enough.
The rules that critical thinkers use might include identifying logical fallacies, or breaking down a claim into its component parts. I do this for fun. (God what is wrong with me?) And yes, I use this in my everyday life. I try to use critical thinking in all of my decisions (to my poor wife’s dismay) I do admit, I fail more often then I succeed, but I try. My wife has even figured out how to use this to her advantage. If she presents a logic argument in a formal manner and lets me know that she is doing so then she knows that the chances are good I will admit that she is right. (I hate when she does that). A recent example of this is when I wanted to spend our winter vacation in freezing Vermont and my wife, instead, wanted to go to in Mexico. It is because of her learned skills, in debate and critical thinking, that we are on our way to the beaches of sunny Cancun. See, Critical thinking is not so bad.

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