I guess you may call this an “op ed” piece. I like the way that sounds. Stop the presses, Extra, Extra!! So much for my J. Jonah Jameson daydream. This past Sunday night Dave Scott hosted a special weekend edition of Spaced Out Radio. His guests were William Pullin and Everett Themer. The topic was critical thinking. Dave had recently written a blog on the same subject. I had mixed emotions if the subject matter would hold my attention. Being truthful I only tuned in because of loyalty to the show and I like hearing Dave, William, and Everett discuss issues. I was surprised how the show developed into an entertaining and thought-provoking night. If you did not catch the show live you should hop on YouTube and give it a listen. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSMmlYHhosk&t=3003s) If I could assign one criticism to the show I was confused about the definition of critical thinking.I wanted to think critically about critical thinking.
Now this may be my problem alone. I like working with a model. I create a paradigm and then I can function inside and outside of this model. Dave’s article did a good job giving a feel for critical thinking as did the show, but I wanted more. So off to Google to find a definition. One problem. I found many definitions of critical thinking. Thanks Google, how can I think if you don’t tell? I read five or ten websites and came up with my own working definition. Critical thinking means making rational judgments that are logical and well-thought out. You do not simply accept all arguments and conclusions but have an attitude of questioning such arguments and conclusions. Once again this was repeated in Dave’s blog and the show.
Thus far this is all well and good but how do you make this work. It is like that very old joke that asks, “How do you become a millionaire? I don’t know, how do you become a millionaire? Well, first get a million dollars”. (rim shot) I did find a list, serval lists, of skills needed in order to be able to think critically. Thank you Google I will never again doubt your ability to control my life. Some of the skills needed are observation, analysis or interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making.Let me expand of each of these.
Observation. Observation is the process of taking information in by observing. Well that cleared that up. Observation is not restricted to just looking at someone or something. It should utilize the other four senses as well. So, you’re walking in the forest and come upon some dark mud like substance laying on the trail. Now employ those senses. You have already looked at it. Now smell it, touch it, listen to it, and finally taste it. You are now well on your way to either the hospital for poisoning, the psychiatrist because you heard it speak, or critical thinking. At this point you may be saying, “We all know what this is.” But the point of critical thinking is not to jump to conclusions and challenge preconceived ideas.
Using as many of the five senses as possible ensures that the thing or situation being observed can now be analyzed or interpreted. This is the process of making sense of what has been observed. It is during this process the four “Ws” and the “H” are asked. These are Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? This is basic journalism 101. In addition, these questions are also used in the observation and interpretation stage of the scientific method. So, as we examine our specimen, we can’t answer the “who” yet. The “what” we can start forming a hypothesis. What is that? It looks, feels, smells and tastes (don’t ask) likes…scat. I bet you thought I was going to write something else. Shame on you.
Once again from the look, smell and taste you determine the “when”. Wow, that scat is fresh. Lucky you. The “where” can be something as broad as the Cascade Mountain Range or on a game trail. However, it can be as narrow as on a north south axis. Fun fact canines prefer to “do their business” along a North-South Axis. They use Earth’s magnetic fields to align their bowel and bladder movements. Canines will avoid going to the bathroom in an east-west direction. And now you know.
The “why” would lead you to believe that it is a biological animal and if the scat is dissected you may be able to tell its diet. Finally, we come to the “how”. Beyond the obvious answer the “how” may be informative in our scat problem. I can’t thinkhow it can be informative in our scenario. However, one Georgia Tech researcher wrote, “By understanding the physics of defecation, we will provide not only new ideas for medical diagnostics, diapers, and incontinence products but also transport methods for the feces of humans, pets, and agriculturally important animals…” What more can I say about that?
At this point in your critical thinking it is time to put forth a hypothesis that may explain our scat. Well, the scat. It is at this point you will want to be careful not to insert some preconceived outcome. You may be out looking for a Bigfoot and you will be quick to jump on the Bigfoot scat wagon. Unless there is some other information such as giant footprint or Bigfoot laughing at you because you tasted his poo it is still just mammal scat. You may have a theory, but a theory is not fact. It is a guess based on evidence you have gathered. Time to ask more questions and do more observation. For example, you may collect some scat, and have it analyzed. Critical thinking is about setting aside your preconceived assumptions and look at the evidence just as it is presented. Before jumping on the “it’s aliens” bandwagon or it’s a Bigfoot slow down and smell the scat. It may keep you from having…mud on your face.
Critical thinking is a discipline that you must practice in order to get better. As you improve in your critical thinking the results will be come apparent in your research and understanding of the paranormal world. The bottom line is that critical thinking is simply deciding what is true and what you should do about it.