THE LATEST THINKING
The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.
How to Be a Critical Thinker in One Easy Step
There's an easy, popular way to become a critical thinker. Or at least a way to feel like you're one.
So you want to feel like you're a critical thinker – someone who's not easily fooled but evaluates the evidence to find out the real truth.
Someone might tell you that it's hard work, gathering all the evidence and overcoming your own biases. But you're critical enough to know better than that. All it takes is one simple step:
When something is widely believed or handed to you as the truth, believe in something else instead.
That's it. That's all you need to do.
Scientific consensus? All it takes to overturn that is the claim the scientists are bought off. The official truth, confirmed by a neutral investigation? Just proof of a conspiracy.
What's important is that you stop right there. As soon as you have your alternative explanation, which you just made up in your head or heard in a YouTube video, stick with that and don't critically evaluate it. That would mean actual work, and you couldn't be smugly certain you're right and know better than everyone else.
Instead, if someone else questions your position, you get to say they're naïve and uncritical. Believe what you're told to believe? Hah! They're sheep and don't even know it! It's much better to unquestioningly believe the second thing you hear.
And if they talk to you about the evidence? How can they believe such faked evidence? How can they believe in all the scientific evidence when this guy with a blog said it's false?
People who are naïve uncritically believe the obvious explanation, therefore everyone who believes the obvious explanation is naïve and uncritical. Critical thinkers sometimes dispute the obvious explanation, therefore anyone who disputes the obvious explanation is a critical thinker. The fact that this reasoning would be considered logically fallacious is just proof that Aristotle was part of the conspiracy.
Seriously speaking... Being a critical thinker means questioning everything in equal measure. The obvious or official "truth" can most certainly be false. That doesn't mean conspiracy theories about how the official truth is false are more likely to be true. If anyone's even less likely to give you the truth than politicians, it's conspiracy theorists.
What if you're believing your own theory? Unless you have access to a lot of data and a lot of expertise, it's just a guess. And the thing we all need to be the most critical of is what we'd like to believe.
Scientific truths deserve a special mention: science applies methods and often even ethics that make its results likely to be true than its competitors, or other kinds of official truths for that matter. If you'd question science, what else are you going to find that's more reliable? Of course, there's always the question of how you can tell what's really the scientific or expert consensus in the first place...
In sum, if you don't want to be fooled, you should be a critical thinker, but what that means is demanding the same standard of proof for everything. It's hard work.