Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Exhibit Two: The Fundamentals of Critical Thinking. re CC/Steele Debate

Exhibit Two is a quick review of the Critical Thinking skills that are required for honestly evaluating the difference between serious science and tactical misinformation created within a politically motivated echo-chamber.  First I repost Professor Robert Ennis' outline, followed by a short and simple video from YouTube's QualiaSoup which does a wonderful job of summarizing key components of critical thinking.

Then I share a couple videos that introduce an interesting recent study:

"The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks" - 2012

A study that finds political social associations are often more powerful than scientific knowledge when it comes to rationally evaluating climate and other scientific information.

I close out with links to Craig Rusbult's "Critical Thinking Skills in Education and Life." 

The Nature of Critical Thinking: 
Outlines of General Critical Thinking Dispositions and Abilities 

"Critical thinking is "reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do." This definition (or concept) of critical thinking I believe captures the core of the way the term is ordinarily used by supporters of critical thinking. In deciding what to believe or do, one is helped by the employment of a set of critical thinking dispositions and abilities (which is a conception of critical thinking) that I outline in detail below. ..."

"... For the sake of brevity, clarification in the form of examples, qualifications, and more detail, including more criteria, are omitted, but can be found in sources listed below, including "Critical Thinking: A Streamlined Conception" (1991b), "A Taxonomy of Critical Thinking Dispositions and Abilities" (1987a), and "A Conception of Rational Thinking" (1980), but more fully in Critical Thinking (1996a).  See Note 1. ... "


Ideal critical thinkers are disposed to 

1. Seek and offer clear statements of the thesis or question
2. Seek and offer clear reasons
3. Try to be well informed
4. Use credible sources and observations, and usually mention them
5. Take into account the total situation
6. Keep in mind the basic concern in the context
7. Be alert for alternatives
8. Be open-minded
    a. Seriously consider otherpoints of view 
    b. Withhold judgment when the evidence and reasons
       are insufficient
9. Take a position and change a position when the evidence
       and reasons are sufficient
10. Seek as much precision as the nature of the subject admits
11. Seek the truth when it makes sense to do so, and more broadly, try to "get it right" to the extent possible or feasible
12. Employ their critical thinking abilities and dispositions


A summary outline is presented first, followed by a detailed outline that includes criteria and details, is difficult reading when read straight through, and should be consulted when in search of details and criteria. At appropriate points in the detailed outline one will find some references to prior work that provides enlightening discussion, and a number of principles and criteria, especially for the more advanced topics (e.g., argument and inference to best explanation, ascribing assumptions, definition).

Summary outline of general critical thinking abilities (or skills):

Ideal critical thinkers have the ability to: 
                (Basic Clarification)

1. Focus on a question
2. Analyze arguments
3. Ask and answer clarification questions
4. Understand and use "graphs & maths"
                (Bases for a Decision)
5. Judge the credibility of a source
6. Observe, and judge observation reports
7. Use existing knowledge
     a. background knowledge, including (with discretion) internet material
     b. their knowledge of the situation
     c. their previously-established conclusions
8. Deduce, and judge deductions
9. Make, and judge inductive inferences and arguments 
    a. Enumerative induction
    b. Argument and inference to best explanation
10. Make, and judge value judgments
                 (Advanced Clarification)
11. Define terms, and judge definitions
12. Handle equivocation appropriately
13. Attribute and judge unstated assumptions 
14. Think suppositionally
15. Deal with fallacy labels
                 (Non-Constitutive, But Helpful)
16. Be aware of, and check the quality of, their own thinking
17. Deal with things in an orderly manner
18. Deal with rhetorical strategies


Here's a simplified but well made introduction by YouTube's QualiaSoup:

Uploaded on Dec 24, 2009
A look at some of the principles of critical thinking.

Here's an interesting look at whether climate science "skepticism" is rooted in lack of knowledge and critical thinking or if our cultural cognition plays a greater roll in our thinking process than most care to recognize.

Published on Feb 5, 2015
Are global warming deniers just uneducated or stupid? This paper examines two competing models of why people would dispute the conclusion of 97% of the world's climatologists. Is it simply a matter of lacking knowledge and critical thinking?

This is a verbatim reading of sections of:
"The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks",  
Donald Braman et. at.,  2 Nature Climate Change 732 (2012). 

I encourage you to read the full results and discuss them in comments below. I found cultural cognition thesis to be a near-perfect fit for my own experiences on Youtube. Cultural cognition raises questions for me about my persuasive tactics to date, and I hope it does for you, too.

More about cultural cognition here:

My thanks to Dan Kahan, who brings this work to life in his many videos here on Youtube:

Speaking of Dan Kahan, here he talks about "What it would mean to treat the protection of the science communication environment as a collective good."

Dan M. Kahan -
Science Communication as the "New Political Science" for Democracy

Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia

Published on Jul 2, 2012
The Sackler Colloquium The Science of Science Communication surveyed the state of the art of empirical social science research in science communication and focused on research in psychology, decision science, mass communication, risk communication, health communication, political science, sociology, and related fields on the communication dynamics surrounding issues in science, engineering, technology, and medicine. This interdisciplinary scientific meeting was held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. May 21-22, 2012. Dan M. Kahan (Yale Law School)


Critical Thinking Skills in Education and Life 

2001 by Craig Rusbult     

The sections in this page are:

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