How to Practice Critical Thinking

The importance of critical thinking cannot be understated. Its significance bleeds into every aspect of our lives. In my opinion, joining a debate club is the best way to practice. Because it directs you to engage in these thinking patterns. Furthermore, the debating format forces you to think about your assumptions and fallacies and makes sure you do not build your thinking on quicksand.

Open to the possibility that I am wrong

Instead of valuing the ability to win an argument or being in the right. I make the shift in mindset that it’s more important to pursue what’s objectively true than to hold on to what I believe to be true. Ultimately, if I value truth more than being right, I will also end up being more right. So it’s a win-win.

Become familiar with common logical fallacies

Natural fallacy – is thinking that what comes from nature is somehow inherently better than what may be artificial. People might say that microwaves are unhealthy because they are not natural. But at the same time, they might forget that the plant belladonna or the mushroom fly agaric is also natural but at the same time highly toxic.

Appeal to authority – is when someone argues for a point of view and claims it’s true because an expert in a field says so. However, an expert is only as good as his arguments. That is why scientists must always cite their sources. Because everything that can be claimed without evidence can be ignored without evidence. Furthermore, citing a source is good practice, but it’s also important to read the study cited and examine the evidence for yourself. Since a lot of people do not have a problem with misrepresenting the data.

The Straw Man Fallacy – is the weakest representation of your opponent’s argument. It’s when we take words out of context and misrepresent them so we have an easier time knocking the argument over.

The correlation/causation fallacy – is when we confuse correlation for causation. Just because 2 things occur together does not mean that 1 causes the other. Twin brothers may both go to school but we cannot assume that one brother going to school causes the other brother to go to school as well. It is more likely it is the mother that’s the common factor for the twins going to school.

The fallacy-fallacy – is when we think that something is wrong because they use a fallacy to prove it. A friend might say a raspberry is good for you because it’s natural. Where in fact it’s good because it’s nutritious and not poisonous, not because it’s natural. Because as we know natural things can also be poisonous.

Moving the goalpost – a friend might argue that microwaves are bad for you because they are not natural and that’s the reason she does not use them. However, when you point out that natural things can also be bad for you. She may follow up that you do not know how microwaves work and the threats they may pose. So the argument is not any more whether something is natural and therefore good, but whether I understand how microwaves work.

Fallacious ad hominem – is when we attack the character of the person making the argument instead of evaluating the quality of the argument itself. I might be skinny and say sugar causes people to gain weight. My opponent might make a fallacious ad hominem attack and say how could I be right if I myself am skinny.

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