The Myth of Critical Thinking

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Feb 22, 2017.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I agree. Among the many and varied definitions, one faculty keeps coming up--that of good judgment. And good judgement, whatever else it is, certainly can't be codified or broken down into a series of steps. It involves honesty, and conviction, and a moral devotion to the truth. I guess critical thinking then comes down to character and intuition, but even these are no guarantee for being delivered from the many layers of pet assumptions and emotional biases that permeate our every line of thinking.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
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  3. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps there might be a way to use technology to show critical thinking in action

    You will need a new fangled brain scanner

    One which shows brain activity in colour

    Place subject in said scanner and scan brain when subject is resting and as far as possible not thinking (hard to do) but you get a baseline scan

    Give subject increasing challenging puzzles

    The scanner will show increasing brain activity

    Somewhere on the way up in the increasing complex puzzles will be a puzzle requiring critical thinking

    That type of thinking will be required more and more the more complex the problem

    It should be noted that the definetion of critical thinking is NOT exact and not all in the field agree with the various definetions

    You want unchanging definetions go to physics

    Back to thinking and critical thinking

    To obtain the puzzles required the proponents will need to formulate the puzzles required and then test them on a random sample of people

    Have done that grade the questions from easy to hard

    Pick a point (question) where the proponents agree critical thinking should kick in

    Recording brain activity during the questions will show increasing activity

    At the tipping point question mark the activity in the thinking region

    No it will not be a razor sharp cut off point

    With enough subjects being tested there should be a general region of activity
    • below which is considered thinking
    • above which is considered critical thinking
    • within the region subject to debate

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  5. Bells Staff Member

    Says who? How would it hurt more than it would help?

    I would think that being open minded is essential in critical thinking. To be honest, I would think that being open minded is critical to scientific study. So how can that be harmful?

    The scientists who are studying near death experiences and attempting to learn why people have them, are very open minded. The basis of their research has opened up the knowledge of what the brain does when starved of oxygen or when the person thinks they are going to die. What they discovered was that one does not have to have a near death experience to see the proverbial white light and tunnel towards the white light. For some, they can trick the brain into thinking they are going to die into triggering that response. People mock those who experience near death experiences, but if it was not for the open minded nature of scientists, we would not know that the brain is triggering that response. If we were to adhere to the critical thinking of some individuals who mocked and denied the mere possibility and would consider it harmful or a waste of time and resources to study it, we would never know or even begin to understand just how the brain reacts under that kind of stress or fear of death.
    The irony is that we criticise the political right for their inability to be open minded about LGBT, for example, and see that lack of ability to be open minded to the realities of their fellow human beings as being harmful.


    As I pointed out, and as the author quoted in the OP pointed out, the argument for "critical thinking" denies what millions of people experience. It is only when some are open minded enough to delve into it, that we make frankly amazing discoveries about the human brain and human psyche.

    Critical thinking should never be used as a tool to silence or deny what people experience or feel. And in many ways, it has been. Certainly, a lot of it is bunk. But 100 years ago, people thought many of what we take for granted today as being bunk science. Hell, people used the same attitude as the 'critical thinkers' of today and denied the very process of evolution in the days of Darwin and saw him as being harmful and his beliefs as a form of abuse of science and what they believed was good sense.

    I'll put it this way.. Would you say that someone like Carl Sagan lacked in critical thinking abilities? Because Carl Sagan believed in the existence of aliens, as do many astronomers and other scientists because the improbability of our being the only forms of life in the whole universe would be remote. There is a reason why people believe in aliens. Sure, some believe that they visit Earth in flying saucers, but a plethora of scientists also believe that other intelligent life forms may be trying to make contact and have spent billions of dollars on various equipment around the planet and even in space, to try to receive those signals. We even sent a space probe with a disk on it, telling any intelligent life form that may come upon it at some point in the future, that we are here and where we are. But we all mock people who believe in UFO's and declare they lack critical thinking skills? Without realising that for an intelligent life form to come upon that probe, they would need to have the capability of traveling close to our solar system anyway....

    We mock those who believe aliens visit the Earth, because we do not think they would be interested in visiting us, would have the capability to traverse such great distances in space and if they did visit us, why wouldn't they make contact? And we sent a space probe out into space decades ago, with a map of how to get to us, in the hope that someone, somewhere out there, may get close enough to not just pick up on its faint signals, but read the map and come to us to see that we are here and told us about the human species on a recording carried on that probe, along with different recordings of music, children saying hell and whatnot... And that was decades ago.. Sent out by scientists who are revered today. But we refuse to believe that aliens may visit Earth in their space craft because it just seems so ridiculous that they would?

    And I mean, I am one of those who mock. But when I sit down and think about it, it's a bit hypocritical of me, isn't it?
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  7. Bells Staff Member

    Like the pixies?

    You mean your critical thinking skills missed the fact that if you identified it as a pixie, it cannot be a UFO for obvious reasons?

    But it is a myth in how some apply or wield it as some form of weapon against anyone who does not believe as they do. Because it is so subjective. Just because we do not like or believe what the other is saying does not mean it shows a lack of critical thinking.

    Or do you believe that people put on their 'critical thinking caps' and somehow or other think or do things differently because they are in critical thinking mode and somehow magically, all will arrive at the same answer or point of view? Critical thinking also involves one's history and personal experiences. It does affect it, whether we want it to or not.

    You mean he's using his critical thinking skills and saying there is no one true definition? It's astonishing what one can learn or hear or read what someone thinks or says or writes, if one actually discusses the topic instead of pixies and loftily declaring oneself a teacher and telling the perceived student that he just doesn't understand.. Kind of hope this is not how you teach anyone anything.. And people wonder and are concerned about the critical thinking abilities of students today...

    But he would be correct.

    Did you actually read the OP?

    Peter Ellerton, a lecturer on the subject of 'critical thinking' at the University of Queensland, had this to say about another university in Sydney, requiring all students to take a maths course, in a bid to give students critical thinking skills:

    This is a worthwhile goal, but what about critical thinking in general?

    Most tertiary institutions have listed among their graduate attributes the ability to think critically. This seems a desirable outcome, but what exactly does it mean to think critically and how do you get students to do it?

    The problem is that critical thinking is the Cheshire Cat of educational curricula – it is hinted at in all disciplines but appears fully formed in none. As soon as you push to see it in focus, it slips away.

    If you ask curriculum designers exactly how critical thinking skills are developed, the answers are often vague and unhelpful for those wanting to teach it.

    This is partly because of a lack of clarity about the term itself and because there are some who believe that critical thinking cannot be taught in isolation, that it can only be developed in a discipline context – after all, you have think critically about something.

    Which kind of goes to the heart of what the OP is actually on about. The lack of a true definition and the subjective nature of "critical thinking" across various fields and with pretty much everything one does in life on a day to day basis, makes it hard to pin down. The is no exact or true definition. Ellerton then sets out some guidelines, about how one could encourage students to think critically.. The psychology is particularly pertinent given what's happened in this thread and how you and others have approached this thread and subject matter..

    The messy business of our psychology – how our minds actuality work – is another necessary component of a solid critical thinking course.

    One of the great insights of psychology over the past few decades is the realisation that thinking is not so much something we do, as something that happens to us. We are not as in control of our decision-making as we think we are.

    We are masses of cognitive biases as much as we are rational beings. This does not mean we are flawed, it just means we don’t think in the nice, linear way that educators often like to think we do.

    It is a mistake to think of our minds as just running decision-making algorithms – we are much more complicated and idiosyncratic than this.

    How we arrive at conclusions, form beliefs and process information is very organic and idiosyncratic. We are not just clinical truth-seeking reasoning machines.

    Our thinking is also about our prior beliefs, our values, our biases and our desires

    To the one, some of the questions were downright stupid. Your foray into pixies being one of them. Something something about you and others having arrived at your conclusions about this thread from your beliefs and bias about the person who started it, applies here..

    Your questions were not examples.

    Your bid was clear from the outset. You wanted to trip him up and then go 'ha ha, you lack critical thinking skills!!'. Hell, you started doing that when you declared yourself a teacher and he the student and then mocked him for failing to answer your questions. All this, without realising that how he would arrive at those answers would be vastly different to how you would arrive at your own answers to those questions.

    You weakened your case right from the outset. You couldn't even answer a basic question of 'what is critical thinking?', which goes to the very core of the OP.. Instead, you asked him questions and then laud it over the fact that he wasn't answering them in a manner you deemed sufficient while ignoring the very nature of "critical thinking" and how it is subjective.

    Good grief!

    I think you jumped to the conclusion you believe is coming, and skipped all the steps in between.

    I think you looked at the source who posted the very interesting article in the OP and jumped to conclusions, without actually taking time to apply your own critical thinking skills and wondering whether there was a point in that OP after all. And believe me, there is. Critical thinking is a fairly hot topic nowdays. And the realisation that children are getting through 12 years of education without actually learning anything about it, teachers are not prepared or equipped to teach children how to develop and apply critical thinking skills, is becoming problematic. The inability to understand that it is so subjective and how some demand that it is set in stone in how they believe or think it, makes it even more problematic.

    The very nature of the article and what it said.. is constructive. How can you have missed that?
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  8. wellwisher Banned Banned

    When memory is created, an emotional tag is added to the memory when written. Our strongest memories will exhibit the strongest feelings, due to this tagging process; marriage, graduation, birth of a child, glory days, traumatic event, etc, all generate strong emotions. This dual memory schema is useful to an animal, since triggering a similar memory, will also trigger the attached feeling, with the animal acting on the feeling. The animal does not have to think, but can make quick judgements, based the valence of the triggered and attached feeling. If a dog sees another dog, who once attacked him, when trying to be friendly, the next time it sees that dog, the emotional tagging of the event will result in his feeling threat. He will avoid that dog, since the previous memory is tagged with flight/fight emotions. He does not try to reason than maybe this time he will be my friend or he had a bad day, etc.

    The net result for humans is there are two ways to approach our memory, due to this tagging duality. We can approach our memory from the thought side or from the feeling side of the memory. The former is the basis for critical thinking. While the latter is the basis for emotional thinking. Both use the same memory grid, but each will access the same memory differently. The confusion over critical thinking, is connected to emotional thinkers, assuming what they are doing, is critical thinking. These are two different things.

    As an example, after President Trump was elected, the left in America was overcome with strong emotions of anger and fear. The result was emotional thinking and not critical thinking, since all subsequent thinking was led by emotions. With emotional thinking, you can still perform reason and logic, however, the data that will appear will all have similar emotional tagging. The emotion will cherry pick the data, so one has an incomplete data set from which to reason.

    Looking at the bright side of Trump, like on the right, will create or need a different emotional tone. This data cannot be seen if you are induced to feel only doom and gloom. The depressed person cannot see the bright side of life, but only memories that reinforce and has the feeling tags of depression. The emotions of doom and gloom will cherry pick data from our memory, only memory with similar valance. Fear can induce images of Hitler and nuclear war, while the anger will justify riots and destruction as means of self defense. Within the limited data set, such actions may appear to follow logically from that limited data set.

    Critical thinking is more like Mr Spock, where you try to lower or shut off your emotions, so your brain does not data stack, based on one or two feelings. Instead you work from thought first which can move around the entire data field. This assures that your conclusions will be not biased by a narrow emotionally induced data set.

    If you can't help but think with emotions first, you will need to make an effort to feel conflicting feelings, to broaden the data base; empathize with both sides. Once the broader data base is there, one can reason and can draw conclusions using the principles of logic, but with more data. This allows a better conclusion, for emotional thinkers which can approach critical thinking.

    Let me give you an example, say I asked you to think of your favorite foods. The word favorite is subjective, to you, and has to do with your brain's emotional tagging of various foods based on many factors, to create your unique assigned memory valence. This will narrow your data set, away from all foods, to a small number of data. You can reason with just that set, if I then asked you next about your menu for the ideal party.

    If I asked another person to do the same, their list may be different, and they will reason the best party based on an emotionally biased data set. Critical thinking tries to open the data field, which requires neutralizing emotions or broadening emotions, so more food memories can appear in the data set. Now you have a larger data set to be more objective, so you can draw an objective conclusions, about the ideal party, that is fun for all, and not just a special interest.

    Fake news is usually connected to emotional thinking. The news cherry picks the data, so the data tells people what they wish to hear, based certain conditioned emotions. The left may provide only data that reinforces Trump is evil, or the right will provide data that Trump is good.

    The data can be valid, if taking in isolation, but the data is incomplete and cannot be used to draw a critical thinking conclusion. Instead it is designed to reinforce certain feelings, to close a thought feeling memory loop. Now critical thinking is impossible.

    I may often appear cold when it comes to social issues, that everyone else fawns overs. This is due to my trying to shut off my emotions to help broaden the available data. My conclusions may not give the proper emotional buzz, which is expected by emotional thinkers, therefore the logic may appear not add up, based on the expected limited data set.

    If you hate Trump, you will expect me to reinforce the hate with my data and logic or else it will feel wrong. In this case, the audience is the like the animal allowing emotions to think for it to terms of accessing the data and conclusions. Even science discussion is often emotional thinking. Censor tries to narrow the data set to create the correct data set so the traditions appear to add up to the right feeling; prestige.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
  9. Bells Staff Member

    I just passed wine through my nose from choking laughter..

    Good grief, Wellwisher!

    I have to ask, but do you worship Trump?

    Because you seem to bring him up in just about all of your posts.

    One the one hand, you don't seem to quite grasp what the subject is. And on the other hand, you just seem to throw Trump in, just because...

    Anywho, how about you take your Trump and go someplace else, preferably where you two can be alone, far far away?
  10. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    But pixies haven't been identified here (or anywhere).
    What you've said is equivalent to "I have identified it as a saucer shaped object with flashing lights. Now it no longer qualifies as an unidentified flying object."
    In fact, by your logic, the incident MR brought up was not a UFO.

    Look, it would be hypocritical now for me to address the rest of your response. I did say I would take a step back. You are not bound to acknowledge that, and are free to counter as much as you wish, despite me not being in a position to defend your counters.
  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Here we go with the "ufos are pixies" bullshit again.
  12. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    This assumes a consensus definition of critical thinking as puzzle solving. It assumes the identity of what it seeks to identify. That such and such is critical thinking and this is what it looks like inside the brain. Also how do we eliminate the possibility that critical thinking occurs in so many different modes that it's synaptic signatures may be as varied as snowflakes?
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    OK, stepping back doesn't mean I leave myself open to being misrepresented.
    Show where anyone said "UFOs are pixies". Quote it, or I will call you a great big pants on fire liar.

    (And I will show you excellent example of a failure in logic and critical thinking.)

  14. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    "Who says all these aerial phenomena are technologically sourced? Why not magical creatures?"

    Insert offtopic rambling bullshit about this here----->
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2017
  15. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Yes as ONE aspect

    And even in this one aspect there will not be 100% agreement

    There are a finite number of brain cells and reasonable well defined areas within the brain shown to deal with brain functions

    Apart from puzzles (I was trying to keep it simple) various other tests can be formulated

    Again a group of critical thinking proponents test a wide range of people

    Again proponents grade the answers from
    • not needing critical thinking
    • needs some
    • needs a lot
    Again you will not get all proponents to agree

    The idea to scan the brain is to provide a visual reference

    This reference can be shown people to explain the proponents position

    See this is the area of the brain involved in thinking and as more thinking is required around this level we think thinking becomes critical thinking

    Try thinking about deciding between height

    We decide height

    A group of proponents say we think at this height we go from tall to very tall

    Substitute thinking for tall and critical thinking for very tall and run through the above explanation again

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  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Again..this assumes critical thinking is limited to puzzle solving. What if it's varied and diverse as in this definition:

    "The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking[3] defines critical thinking as the "intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action."

    Any one of those stages of the critical thinking process will be different from the others in terms of their synaptic signature. For example, analyzing will look different from observing, and both will look different from synthesizing. There will not be one pattern for critical thinking since it occurs as part of an overall process and alters in it's nature over time. Also, the content of the critical thinking will vary the synaptic signature. Are we thinking about facts, or beliefs, or moral principles, or chess pieces, or mathematical constants, etc? Also, there are differences in how people process the same data. Some think concretely, relying more on examples, while others think abstractly, relying more on pure logic. Overall, there are too many variations here to isolate one synaptic pattern that we can call critical thinking.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2017
  17. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member


    But as I mentioned there is a section of the brain which lights up with thinking activity

    All of

    ' intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing '

    is in the soup of thinking


    ' evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action '

    is the making of the questions

    The ingredients (intellectually...etc) activities of the thinking soup cannot be seperated

    The firing of neurones creates a jumbled kaleidoscope from which a answer is produced

    ' There will not be one pattern for critical thinking since it occurs as part of an overall process and alters in it's nature over time '


    But there will be an increase in activity as more neurones are recruited to solve the problem

    ' Overall, there are too many variations here to isolate one synaptic pattern that we can call critical thinking '

    We don't isolate one synaptic pattern

    We measure increase in activity

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  18. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    You assume critical thinking is an increase in activity. What if it's a decrease and a focusing in on one answer or activity? What if it's an aspect of frequency, or as in consciousness itself, a matter of synchronization between synaptic firings? Again there's just too many variables to isolate something we can't even define to begin with.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2017
  19. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    I don't

    Those doing the brain scans and
    correlating the increase in activity with the questions deemed to require critical thinking

    Scan shows increase

    Since the brain has taken in all of the question (soup) all of the soup is in there being acted on

    This is your last WhatIf

    is the adult version of a kids ButMum and can go for ever

    It's also a cousin of PingPong replies

    My attention span runs out at the 3rd Ping

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  20. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    What scan? Show it to me.

    You have no idea what critical thinking is if it is indeed anything at all. So no amount of brainscanning will tell you when you've found it. As if finding it in the brain would tell you what it is. It won't. It will always be a subjective state of the mind--something that happens beyond the physical synapses of the brain.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2017
  21. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    That's as good as a WhatIf for me
  22. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Critical thinking requires you depart from emotional thinking, since emotional thinking will narrow the available data field. If the data field gets narrowed, even the best application of the process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action, will fall short of critical thinking.

    If you are a pure leftist, who denies the other way of looking at things, your data field becomes too narrow, such that even the best application of critical thinking will not have the proper data to be effective. This is why critical thinking is considered a myth by the left. They use the process but do not consider their data field as being too narrow to work.

    The left is so full of anger and self righteousness that these emotions narrow the mind and what data the mind can see and accept. The stronger the emotions the narrower the data field. The Tea Party was a very calm movement allowing a wider range of data. The black live matter is very emotional and therefore very narrow in terms of data, thereby creating internal inconsistencies with respect to reality. Trump was able to beat the odds because his base sees the bigger picture, instead of a narrow world of emotional thinking. It was not luck, but critical thinking using a bigger data field.

    The paradox of the left is they encompass most universities and professors who are smart and intellectuals. However, since indoctrination requires emotional thinking, they use their skills with poor data, making the smartest people appear like dummies, who lack any semblance of applied skills beyond all talk.

    It is like drawing the best curve though data. If you only use one data point, any curve will work, even all the wrong curves. As you use more and more data, the best curve reduces to one curve; only one logical conclusion. Emotional thinking zooms into the data field and loses peripheral data.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2017
  23. Sam Poole Registered Member

    An idea must first occur to someone before it can be evaluated and it is that which hasn't occurred to us that makes up the bulk of our ignorance. For example, to my knowledge it has not yet occurred to a dog to build itself a house by reason of a set of plans the dog created. However, once we have an idea we must test it because we have found that not every idea we have is accurate or readily transferred into knowledge. Critical thinking is a form of evaluation, one of several forms of evaluation used in validating an idea. In essence, critical thinking is the willingness and ability to properly falsify an idea, especially ones own, in order to avoid bias contamination. Bias both for and against must be avoided if non-biased understanding is to come about. This is not the end of the evaluation but rather the beginning. If an idea can be eliminated by testing, such as the idea the planet earth is flat as we experience it, then it is not being cleverly dismissed out of hand among us. If an idea cannot be tested directly then it must be subjected to indirect tests such as mathematics, logic, and reason. If the idea cannot be tested indirectly it isn't dismissed it is then up to be debated to see if there is a form of comprehension and understanding that does exist in the case at hand but doesn't lend itself to the previous ways of knowing. For example, it is widely known that nuclear weapons are a terrifyingly real menace whose existence isn't debated or scrutinized by further scientific testing. In the same way, the idea of god is constantly debated since it can't be tested and mathematics and logic have yielded results that require further debate, the ultimate end of which so far has been that we cannot say as a group that we have a clear understanding of the idea of god. However, this doesn't mean that there isn't that which could be defined and known by us as a god or gods truly in existence. Therefore, it is always good to keep an open mind and be alert to new information pertaining to that which hasn't yet been made known.

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