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Sacramento Area Skeptics Message Board › Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

Jason M.
user 10441143
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 3
Hello All,

At the February Drinking Skeptically Meetup, I was sitting at a table where, early in the evening, someone asked for clarification on what was meant by the term “critical thinking”.

There was some discussion and several were opinions offered, but none seemed to both completely and succinctly capture the term (as far I could hear with all of the background noise).

For the sake of clarity, I thought it might be worth further discussion since this term is so central to the practice of scientific skepticism and what it means to be a skeptic.

One of the better definitions that I am aware of is in Robert T. Carroll’s book, Becoming a Critical Thinker - A Guide for the New Millennium. In this book, critical thinking is defined as follows; “In general terms, we can say that to think critically is to think clearly, accurately, knowledgeably, and fairly while evaluating the reasons for a belief or for taking some action.” He further states that the goal of thinking critically is, “…to guarantee, as far as possible, that one’s beliefs and actions are justifiable and can withstand the test of rational analysis.”

Incidentally, Robert T. Carroll is also the author of the Skeptic’s Dictionary. Both of these are great reference tools for anyone interested in scientific skepticism.
user 4340353
Harwood, MD
Post #: 23
Thank you for raising this point. When describing the skeptics movement to those who are unfamiliar with it, the most sysinct definition I give is that we promote science and critical thinking; however, I didn't realize that "critical thinking" may need as much explanation as "skepticism". I have always interpreted critical thinking as on sight hypothesis testing. Asking questions and seeking evidence toward the claim given allow us to replicate the rigors of scientific testing in our everyday experiences.

I know there were some new faces at the Drinking Skeptically the other night, hearing about us from other groups, so some are not familiar with the skeptics movement. There are one or two of them at every drinking skeptically, which is why Sam has been putting together a clear but short summary of what the group and the movement are all about.

Here is a cool article that I skimmed through:­
A former member
Post #: 1
I may have been the person who raised that question. It was my first time at a meeting and I was trying to get a feel of the group. I'm more interested in applying critical thinking than in defining it. To that end, I would like to know if anyone is interested in a critical thinking exercise to prove, or disprove, the fundamental concepts of human existence, i.e. life? Any takers?

Jason M.
user 10441143
Sacramento, CA
Post #: 4
Hello Fred,

I’m glad that you asked the question on critical thinking at the meetup because it gave me a chance to critically examine my understanding of the definition of “critical thinking”. I think that challenging of one’s own beliefs, especially those that lie at the foundation of one’s belief structure, is the heart of what critical thinking is all about.

My main point in bringing up the topic of defining critical thinking, is that in order for us to properly apply it as an intellectual tool, we must have some idea of what it is we are discussing and its constraints. Otherwise how can we measure its usefulness?

This is true for all things that we are involved in studying.

The importance of clearly defining the terms we are discussing is evident when employing the scientific method in furthering our understanding of the natural world. In order to design a controlled experiment to test a hypothesis, the subject of the experiment must be defined clearly enough to know what variables are being controlled for. Without proper controls, an experiment may lead to inaccurate conclusions about the subject that is being studied.

This is also true in debate. A clearly defined proposition must be put forward if either side going to generate meaningful arguments for or against the proposition.

From the previously posted definitions, it seems to follow that the main constraint of critical thinking is the avoidance of logical fallacies. Further constraints that might frequently apply could be those of the scientific method; observable, testable, repeatable, etc.

I think that a good measure of the fruits of critical thinking becomes clear when simply browsing though a good physics book. The answers to the questions of the cosmos that we have gleaned along with the feats that have been accomplished, from splitting the atom to sending a man to the moon, are a resounding testament to the usefulness of critical thinking.

As far as your critical thinking exercise, feel free to define it more for further discussion.

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