Hello, my delicious animals,
Respectful of your time, and my obscene intelligence, I’ll list the 5 steps to improve your critical thinking here. 1 Identify a belief, 2 Identify the source of the belief, 3 Identify the implications of the belief, 4 Identify evidences, and 5 Analysis and Correlation.
But do read on, the article offers more insight than this short list. I’ve also placed a video at the end this post for the busier monkeys amongst you.
You may ask yourself what critical thinking has to do with understanding misinformation and disinformation. And the answer to that is, well, everything.
Understanding the information you receive from the world, its sources, and the reasons behind it can help you separate the bad from the good parts of it.
Before I continue, however, you must understand what critical thinking is.
Let’s start with what it is not:
Critical thinking is not simple criticism of an idea. And it is definitely not just thinking differently than other people. Being a contrarian and opposing the consensus, as many conspiracy people do today, is simply an exercise in freedom of expression and does not guarantee that your submissions carry any truth value.
Let me remind you here that while you have an inalienable right to an opinion, despite what your major religions say, your opinion is meaningless – utterly worthless – without facts and sound evidence to back it up.
Opinions are not facts, and while they are entitled to respect, they also qualify you for public challenges and criticisms.
Let’s move onto what critical thinking is:
Critical thinking is self-reflective. It starts with examining your own thinking. It, as a discipline, requires you to understand the limits of your own knowledge so you can transcend them.
Critical thinking is a meta-cognitive commitment to thinking – it is thinking about thinking – in a genuine sense.
Here is a thought experiment I offer my students:
If you’re not a trained boxer, you would not step into the ring with a professional fighter. I mean, you could, but you’d pay the price of your misplaced arrogance with blood and bruises, perhaps a concussion or more permanent injuries.
Thinking, like boxing, is a skill that requires disciplined training and guidance to master, and some people are better at it than others.
I write about philosophy, disinformation, and misinformation because I have experience in those fields. And even with my extensive education in philosophy and computer sciences, I would never be tempted to argue with an engineer about the best way to build a bridge.
Now that you have a better understanding of what critical thinking is, or at least where it starts, let’s move on to a set of simple exercises to improve it.
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Just Do it!
1 Identify a belief
Think of a belief you hold; it could be anything from garden fairies or a political view to your religious affiliation. Take time to ensure that the idea you have identified is actually yours.
For example, if you’re thinking about a specific doctrine, e.g. Catholicism, Buddhism, or Islam, ensure that you fully embrace its concepts; this exercise works better with ideas you hold closely. And the most crucial part is to remain honest.
2 Identify the source of the belief
Do your best to remember how you came to acquire this belief. Did someone tell you about the idea? Or did you read it in a book?
Sources are essential to forming personal beliefs because of the human predisposition to accept information from authority figures as inherently accurate.
The fact is that you may accept something as true simply because you heard it from someone you respect and care about. Arguments from authority also must be adequately challenged.
Again, it is critical (see what I did there?) that you remain honest throughout this exercise.
3 Identify the implications of the belief
How does it make you feel?
What does it mean to your family and social circle?
How much of your life does it affect?
What decisions do you make based on this belief?
Would you be a different person if you didn’t hold it?
Take your time and remain honest.
4 Identify evidences
( yes, I know evidences isn’t a word, but go with me on this one.)
Look for evidence that your belief may be true. Scientific or recorded empirical evidence can be considered positive evidence.
This process will take time. Ensure that you are looking for factual evidence for which the source is valid.
Next, verify the source and credibility of the sources you discovered, and more importantly, pay close attention to arguments against your belief attempting to disprove its hypothesis.
Remember the importance of sources to forming personal beliefs and how bad arguments need to be challenged.
5 Analysis and Correlation
Ask yourself the following questions:
Did I remain honest throughout this exercise?
Did I identify a belief that I hold as true?
Could I have chosen a different idea?
Is the source of my belief valid?
Can I trust it with important and complex matters?
Can I question the validity of the source without negative consequences to my personal and social circumstances?
Have I considered all the implications of my belief to my social and familial life?
What would happen if I discarded the belief?
Did I look carefully for positive evidence of my belief?
And of more critical importance to this process, was I diligent enough in looking at arguments and evidences that contradict my belief?
Remember again that critical thinking is about arriving at proper conclusions by challenging and testing what we think is true – this cannot happen without a solid dedication to intellectual honesty.
Here is the video that I promised the lazier of you apes. It’s from an older project that lost momentum due to lack of commitment from other parties.
— The Devil Unbound