Critical Thought

Why should it be that whenever men have looked for something on which to found their lives they have chosen not the facts in which the world abounds, but myths of immemorial imagination.      
- Joseph Campbell, 1992

Critical thinking is reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do using purposeful, self-regulatory judgment 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.

Critical thinking includes a commitment to using reason in the formulation of our beliefs.

Critical thinking within the framework of scientific skepticism involves the careful acquisition and interpretation of information and use of it to reach a well-justified conclusion.  Scientific skepticism, sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry, is the practice of questioning whether claims are supported by empirical research and have reproducibility, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge". Specifically, all ideas must be tested and are subject to rigorous, structured community scrutiny.

Critical thinking a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends. It calls for the ability to:
  • Raise important questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
  • Appreciate the importance of prioritization and order of precedence in problem solving
  • Gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
  • Recognize unstated assumptions and values
  • Interpret data, to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments
  • Recognize the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions
  • Draw warranted conclusions and generalizations
  • Test the conclusions and generalizations against relevant criteria and standards
  • Think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences
  • Reconstruct one's patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience

Critical thinking is important in the academia because it expects one to analyze, evaluate, explain, and restructure their thinking, thereby decreasing the risk of adopting, acting on, or thinking with, a false belief.

Validating the evidence: The first critical step in the analysis after clearly defining the question.

Micheal Shermer the author of Why People Believe Weird Things and How We Believe provides ten tests to determine the scientific worthiness of any claim.  Here is our interpretation of those tests.