Critical Thinking II

 Critical Thinking (Part 2)

This is the second part to my article on critical thinking. You will find the first part at the following link: critical thinking (part 1)

If you want to be 'put in the picture' about what this article is about, then read the part 1 first.

Critical Thinking 5: Hidden agenda or bias.

This is also not so much a way of thinking as a way of being cautious about what people say. And it goes like this: many times people will say something (or believe something) because they have a hidden agenda or a bias. The hard part, of course, is to determine the hidden agenda or bias. Discussing what they said without exposing the hidden agenda or bias can lead nowhere.

For example,

  • when someone does something wrong, they will nearly always try to rationalize it by excusing themselves or blaming someone else. It's human nature! If you are a parent, you will know exactly what I mean,
  • I saw a documentary once of children in a Turkish family who were walking on all fours. The scientists who became aware of this phenomenon were very excited as they saw it as a step back in evolution ie. someone regressing to 'earlier' behaviours. Of course, they were totally wrong. What had happened was that the oldest child decided to walk on all fours (for reasons unknown) and all younger children followed in the steps of their older sibling. The 'hidden agenda' of the scientists was, in this case, an evolution bias to explain or interpret things,
  • I heard an interview on TV once with Paul Davies about the Big Bang and found one of his comments very telling. He said, 'there you go, we don't need God!' I saw that as evidence of a bias on his part that he was looking for a way of being able to explain how the Universe came into being without the need for a God to have created it.


Critical Thinking 6: Not my experience!

This way of critical thinking requires you to have an open mind about things and it goes like this: you cannot assume that your sense of reality is the only valid one, and just because you believe something does not mean you are right or wrong. Not understanding this concept can lead to all sorts of needless and relationship damaging arguments. A closed mind is not healthy.

For example,

  • there are people who see colours around words depending on how many letters the word has. If you have never experienced this yourself, then you would be tempted to think that it is totally absurd. But then, why should this phenomenon be dismissed just because you have never experienced it? In other words, just because it is not part of your reality does not mean it cannot or does not happen,
  • I am a fan of Star Trek the Next Generation. As I was watching it one night, a thought occurred to me. Every alien race had its belief about what happens to you when you die. If that is true, then what happens to you when you die depends on what you believe when you are alive. Is that possible? Is that really what happens? I won't say any more about this but will let you think about it as a thinking exercise. To help you decide, I have to point out that if it is true, then what happens to the terrorists who believe that they will get 70 virgins in heaven as a reward for their terrorism?


Critical Thinking 7: What about?

I have found that sometimes it is difficult to argue an argument head on, and that it is easier to apply the same logic of the argument to another situation that shows the weakness of the argument.

For example,

  • to come


Critical Thinking 8: What are your assumptions?

A very useful critical thinking strategy is to question the assumptions of an argument as discussing the argument itself is like dealing with the symptom of an illness rather than its cause.

For example,

  • to come


Critical Thinking 9: New or radical does not mean wrong!

This  is also not so much a critical thinking strategy as a warning that to think critically, we do need to have an open mind and be open to new and radical ideas.

For example,

  • when Einstein first introduced his General Relativity theory, he was ridiculed as his ideas were considered to be ridiculous. His theory has since been confirmed by experiments as all theories should. Perhaps this ridicule is what lead him to say: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
  • the same thing happened with a Doctor Prentice who approached NASA with his theory of how the Solar System was formed. NASA dismissed his theory until data from space probes sent to study the planets came back and they remembered that the data supported his theory,
  • the early church was not happy with Copernicus and Galileo when they proposed that the Sun was at the centre of the Solar System and not the Earth.


Try For Yourself

Let me know give you, without prejudice, some statements I have heard for you to critically think about. Do you agree with them? What are their assumptions? Do they reveal a bias? Are they to justify a belief? Can you find a flaw in their logic? And so on...

  • I saw the following written as graffiti on a wall: "Romance, rape by seduction"
  • a friend once said: "cars are lethal weapons"
  • I heard people defend arms by saying: "guns don't kill people, people kill people"
  • when I was at University, I heard a girl say: "babies in the womb are parasites"
  • a saying I have heard many times: "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger"
  • another saying: "time heals all wounds"
  • I recently read the following comment: "95% of the Internet is rubbish"



I will finish this post with a reality check: none of us are always totally rational and logical in what we think, believe and do. I think that one of the reasons for this is that we are emotional beings and that sometimes we think emotionally rather than rationally.

Serge M Botans

Learning to do mental arithmetic is all about knowing 
how to do it in steps you can manage! Now that you 
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