Critical thinking is a skill. It takes practice, even for the most rational people. We are always swayed by personal beliefs, opinions, or even biological needs. Wikipedia has a good definition of what Critical Thinking so I’ll just put it here: “Critical thinking is a type of reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or what to do.It is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false. Critical thinking can be traced in Western thought to the Socratic method of Ancient Greece and in the East, to the Buddhist kalama sutta and Abhidharma. Critical thinking is an important component of most professions. It is a part of the formal education process and is increasingly significant as students progress through university to graduate education, although there is debate among educators about its precise meaning and scope.”
I’ve always wondered about how people come to “believe” in whatever topic. I’d like to think I’m a natural skeptic, attracted to logical thought but know I’ve been fooled or duped more than once. When faced with a big decision or complicated situation, I try to employ critical thinking skills. Here’s my rules for those times:
1.) Challenge and examine beliefs, assumptions or opinions.
2.) Know the difference between logical and illogical arguments by assessing the validity of statements.
3) When I don’t know, consult others and or just wait – time usually offers up more valid information.
I read this book The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies, How We construct beliefs and Reinforce them as Truths by Michael Shermer.
It’s fascinating as it delves into why humans believe in such outlandish things. Shermer calls our brains “belief engines,” constantly looking for patterns to make sense of the world. We assign meanings to these patterns and justify our decisions rather easily. He promotes science as the ultimate tool in the human arsenal for the future well-being of humanity. That might likely be true, I just know I want to think harder about big life decisions.