A Critical Issue

Critical thinking is loosely defined as a conscientious, competent, reflective and reasonable thought process.  A critically thoughtful person has the ability to pose suitable questions, assimilate pertinent information in an organized manner, creatively and efficiently reason this information logically then come to a trustworthy and reliable conclusion.

This ability enables such a person to successfully navigate their lives in a world that bombards one with conflicting information.  The aptitude to think critically can only be learned; it is not inherent.

The critically thinking person is a critical evaluator of information; they are driven to search for evidence and reasons.  They develop this skill by cultivating particular patterns of thought such as learning to identify unfounded types of arguments and understanding the method by which to postulate and support merits.

The critically thinking person has both the skills necessary to seek out truth, evidence and reasons in addition to having a sufficient disposition to search for these things.

Similar concepts such as decision making, reasoning, logic and problem solving are associated with critical thinking.  Decision making entails evaluating advantages gained or lost if a course of action is followed, a process determined by specific criteria.

Reasoning involves reaching a conclusion beginning with a specific premise or given information.  Logic is concerned with the scrutinizing of argumentation which is the ability to construct and analyze arguments utilizing specific criteria.  Problem solving refers to narrowing alternatives so as to come to a favorable outcome.

Occam’s Razor principle is but one example of how critical thinking is practically employed.  This centuries-old principle remains a staple of the scientific thought process to this day.  Simply stated, ‘All things being equal, the simplest explanation is probably the correct one.’

Atheists have used this example of critical thought, specifically Newton’s version, to debunk the existence of God. However, they themselves are not sufficiently employing the critical thinking process.  While it is true that the existence of a God cannot be proven, it can neither be disproved as well.  It leads one to wonder about other aspects of their lives that they claim to know as a true.

A critical thinker is quite unashamed to admit they do not know even when they choose to believe.

Critical thinking allows a person to think independently and to automatically question other’s beliefs as well as their own.  Critical thinkers are inquirers.  They investigate issues without bias and continually ask questions which challenge authority, traditions, beliefs, doctrines, dogmas and the status quo in general.

Critical thinking is not simply the acquisition and retention of facts nor is it a skill which is used as one sees fit.  Once exercised, it becomes an integral part of one’s inner self, a tool that is utilized without conscious thought.  No point of view is summarily dismissed or accepted.  It is examined and challenged.  It is also, unfortunately, a far under-used commodity.

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