We are living in an age where people are asked to be ‘critical thinkers’. Unfortunately, very few of us understand its meaning. We expect people to question everything; at the same time, we berate or ignore them when they ask uncomfortable questions.
Critical thinking is a cornerstone of a scientific lifestyle – and perhaps, of science itself. Here, I would like to make things a bit clearer and help you understand what the various aspects of critical thinking are. I have wanted to write something like this for a long time – and today I found a topic on this in my course book. So I would like to share what I read.
1. There are very few things that need not be subjected to a query
There is very little in this universe that doesn’t require further enquiry. People have many beliefs that withhold from asking questions. Consequently, they often feel insecure when they are questioned by someone else.
This tendency is something which may be very human, but it is not scientific. If you really wish to be a critical thinker, you must question everything – your beliefs, the world around you, your perception of things, and so on. Very few things in the world can be considered to be absolute truths. For example, if you can ask why two and two make four, people will probably say it’s very basic mathematics. However, you can also question why two represents ‘2’ only and not some else, or why the symbol ‘+’ represents addition. In my opinion, there are no absolutely correct or false answers to these conundrums.
2. All evidences are not equal in their quality
When experiments are carried out, we must remember that they are carried out by humans. Researchers have a strict directive to not let their personal biases or agendas to get the better of them. But, after all, ‘to err is human’.
It is thus imperative to study the method a researcher has used to back up their conclusions. The results of some studies may be deliberately manipulated, while others may have been carried out incorrectly or with little control of the conditions. Just remember – the wilder the claim, the better the evidence must be.
3. ‘Authority’ or ‘experts’ mean nothing if they cannot back up their words
Very often, you may be asked to accept something just because that is what the ‘experts’ say, or that is what the ‘authorities’ are telling you. However, it’s something that should never make you stand down.
If the ‘experts’ tell you something, you must ask them how they know it, or what makes them think so. Of course, if they are predicting something, then they may not have many good answers, but that doesn’t make their predictions or suppositions true.
I understand that these may become the bases of our modern education system – and I also accept that at some level, it is necessary to make people learn something before they can question it. But in the later stages, it is equally important to make people know the importance of being inquisitive and not getting bogged down by some authoritative figure.
4. Keep an open mind
It is good to be skeptical, but it doesn’t mean you should close your mind to the answers and start denying them excessively. It is also equally important to have an open mind and not be gullible to conspiracies. You will need a balance between skepticism and willingness to consider new possibilities, even those that go against your personal values or beliefs.
Of course, now, the question you must ask is why you should believe my system – and if these are indeed the only steps to be able to think critically. You are on the right path if you are asking these questions. These are not the only steps to be a critical thinker – they are just a few points which I found in my book.
There are many more aspects to thinking critically – and you can search for them anytime you like. Questions can never be too many – and they can never be unanswerable. The answer may not be known, but that doesn’t mean there is no answer. So, I hope that anyone reading this tries to inculcate these thoughts within their daily lives to carry on their crusade for the truth.
And remember – question everything!
A version of this post was first published here.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.