Critical Thinking

What does a pill do? Normally, it affects the body, and/or the mind, right?

Would you accept a pill from a stranger, without knowing exactly what it is?


Then why do so many people accept so much information without knowing where it came from, who’s behind it, or whether it’s true?

Think of each of those pieces of information as another little pill for you to swallow. Each one affects your mind and millions of other minds and think of how much of an effect hundreds of thousands of messages can have on the brain each day; all the signs, advertisements, comments, music, non-verbal cues, etc.

Critical thinking is reason, logic and mathematics all wrapped up into one. It’s systematic: each step following in line, like walking: 2 + 2 = 4.

A man named Steven D. Schafersman said, in his documentary on critical thinking, “We teach what to think, instead of how to think” and this is a tremendous summary of a fundamental problem.

We need to teach people how to think for themselves and make sound decisions. They can find the information, statistics and research for themselves. All they need to know, is how.

A central tenant of Logical Spiritualism is Critical Thinking. Critical Thinking is absolutely critical to honor, justice, self-improvement and general progress.

Another video by Nick Rua even proclaimed that critical thinking is “the #1 survival skill” of the human race. That might not be far from the truth.

Critical thinking, not strength, is what truly separates lions from sheep.

So what is “Critical thinking?” Let’s define critical thinking as the process of systematically identifying truth, through the acquisition of information, recognition of falsehoods and the selection of the best possible answer.

How does this happen? What’s the process?

Well, it’s a simple, but critical process, which has somehow eluded, so many people, even into their adult years.

Let’s recognize “Critical Thinking” as a six step process…

I.    Identify the question

First, the critical thinker must identify the correct question to ask. This may seem simple and straightforward, but many people never find the answers they seek, because they fail to ask the right questions.

Analyze the situation again and make sure that you’re asking the correct question.

II.    Brainstorm for contributing factors

Analyze the situation. Review it in your mind. Do research to address any extenuating questions. If possible, ask for suggestions and advice.

III.    Acquire all pertinent information

They say, “Knowledge is power,” and in most cases, this is true. If you want to empower your problem solving ability, the electric currency for your super computer is knowledge.

In most situations, the majority of your problem solving knowledge will come from your past experiences. That’s why it’s so important that you live a diverse and exploratory life. Without those personal experiences, stored second-hand knowledge and accumulated wisdom, you won’t be half the juggernaut you could be. 

IV.    Brainstorm for possible solutions

Identify as many potential solutions as possible. It doesn’t matter if they seem crazy. Sometimes the options, which seem the craziest at first, turn out to be the best, after more careful consideration.

Your job now, is not to eliminate options, but only to generate them. You are a great motor, which grinds out idea after idea.

Consider things from all sides and all viewpoints. Take the opposing side. Argue the opposing argument. Knowing both sides of any situation only serves to make your understanding and ability to navigate the terrain that much better. 

V.    Administer testing

Some problems must be analyzed and solved in a fraction of a second. Others may offer you years to consider and develop your approach. Whenever possible, it is prudent to test one’s theories before implementing them. This is the scientific process and in many cases it can be carried over to your daily life. Be your own super-scientist.

VI.     Select the most feasible solution

Once you paint a palate of options, it’s time to narrow them down. This entire six-step process contains the tenements of critical thinking, but if any individual step could most represent this process, it is this one. This is where the tasks of reason, logic and strategical process, come most into play and where they must take the lead if you are to be a strong critical thinker.

Take no shame in writing down your options on paper. It doesn’t matter if you’re budgeting for your Christmas expenditures or trying to figure out what direction to take your life in.

Anyone who scoffs at you for jotting down your written computations has probably never had the common sense to evaluate themselves and their life and they’re acting out at you, due to a sense of embarrassment at the fact that you’re probably pulling ahead of them in the line toward enlightenment.

Now, you need to go through the almost mathematical process of rating each idea (you may even want to rank each idea with a 1 to 10 scoring system). You need to evaluate the pros (positives) and cons (negatives) of each individual idea.

This may seem like an unnecessarily painstaking step and you may be tempted to eliminate a good number of your ideas without truly considering them, but don’t.

Take at least a few seconds to properly evaluate each idea, no matter how far-fetched it may seem. Sometimes our best ideas are the most bizarre and they may take us in a completely new direction. Sometimes the new directions, the trailblazing directions, are the best ones.  

Use careful rational thought to eliminate your options until you reach the one you identify as the best, but don’t forget your other options. You may want to re-visit them in the future.

Now, some may say that there are some questions that one can attempt to analyze with critical thinking, but which one can only answer with one’s faith, but a compass directed solely by faith is the nemesis of proper critical thinking.

One might argue that moral titans like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Mahatma Ghandi, clearly did what they did based on their faith, but this would be an erroneous assumption. Each of those great men, carefully and rationally examined the state of their people and their own places in the world and found that the rational decision was either to be a safe sheep in a dirty dying savannah, or to be a lion fighting for a verdant, thriving jungle.

All of them balanced their lives against the desire for positive change and were willing to sacrifice themselves for the advancement of the human race. This is why they are remembered as great men. No one celebrates sheep.

Sacrificing oneself for one’s cause, can in fact, reflect a very high level of critical thinking. If one rationally evaluates one’s goal as higher than one’s own self-worth, then it makes perfect sense to offer up one’s life to sacrifice it for the greater goal. For example, Ghandi, reasoned that peace in his country would save thousands of lives and reduce hardship and misery for millions of others. For him, this was a noble goal worth dying for and it was a relatively easy decision to sacrifice his life for to strive toward this objective.

Now, the most difficult question some would argue is that a belief in God, which is largely a rationally untenable position, can only be decided upon by faith.

Clearly, for most people, the belief in a supreme being, which lacks any clear and scientific evidence, is a position they come to, more by faith, suspended disbelief and hope, than by reason, logic and critical thinking.

Can one make a rational argument for God? Yes, as has been done on this website, for example (see 10 Questions Every Atheist Should Answer), but most of the challenges presented by this argument are easily meet and answered.

A recent question posted by onthe3dge95, is probably the best rational argument for the existence of God. The question is simple enough, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

The implication is, that since neither answer seems possible, there must be a God, who created either the chicken or the egg, or both. This is a tempting conclusion to a difficult question, but it has two flaws.

First, not knowing why something exists, or why something happened, is not conclusive evidence of anything. It simply means we don’t know. Assuming there’s a mysterious supreme-being acting behind the scenes, simply because we don’t know something is not a conclusion one would arrive at through critical thinking.

Secondly, the most devout theist, who would love to believe that this is an untenable question for any atheist, still has one problem. They don’t know the answer to the question either. Sure, they could say, “Well, God can do anything, so he could make the chicken or the egg first, whichever he wanted,” but the truth is that they still don’t know the answer. Nor do they know the answer to a similar question, which is impossible for theists to answer, which is, “If everything started with God and he created everything, then where did God come from and what was here before him?”

Clearly, there are a lot of things that we, as humans, do not know and may never know. But let’s not be ignorant. Believing in something only because others do is stupid.

If everyone else jumps off a 100 foot cliff, would you?

It’s okay to believe in something others believe in, but figure out why you believe in that thing, as opposed to believing in something else.

Believing what someone tells you, just because they said it, is likewise, ill-advised. It doesn’t matter if it’s the national TV news, newspapers, magazines, websites, Tweets, or the government. People will always have perfectly valid reasons to lie. There’s no universal law that people tell the truth anywhere. That’s a moral decision individuals make every day of their lives and often, they choose to lie. It’s up to us, as individuals, to sort through the wheat and the chaff and locate whatever kernels of truth we can find and then make them known to others.

Trust nothing. Question everything. Seek truth.  

*Dedicated to Mark James Marquisee

Comments sent

1 comment(s).
Salomé Mora - 12/14/2013 5:46:40 AM
I agree about it´s important to don´t believe all the information that you receive, but at the same time if you think that all is a lie, could be a problem for you, because you can be a person with a lot of insecurities and it´s not good for you.

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