Monday, September 3, 2012

If I could teach one thing to everyone

Today I was thinking about people I know who don't know how to think critically. This is often due to how people are raised, and people don't learn how to separate truth from fiction. Perhaps the biggest example are the majority of conspiracy theories which do not hold up to a little investigation. I find people I know and respect can believe the most outrageous things, and they usually never learned how to ask questions and think critically, to no fault of their own.

Millions of people believe things like this, because millions of people never learn how to think for themselves and how to appropriately discern the two. When I look at claims I ask myself whether the person has good credentials, and whether what they are saying makes sense with what is already known in science. I go through a process with things like this, and always ask questions. If something is true, than questioning will show its true value, if something is false, questioning will again show its true value. Then I will show examples and how it can expose the truth. The claims are from snopes.

1. Are they using sources, and what are they? Are the sources valid, if so, why? Are the sources from experts in the field that used rigorous research and/or experimentation?

2. Is this person an expert? If so, how much? Why should I trust them?

3. If I ask the opposite question, will the opposite claim fail the test? (MOST IMPORTANT)

4. Is there a conflict of interest? Does this person have a personal investment in the outcome, and does it hurt their credibility?

These are the sorts of questions I ask with religion, politics, and other important topics. I find they help me discern what is true and what is false, and keeps my views with reality. When it comes to incredibly controversial subjects, like religion and politics, I can argue my point of view reasonably and blow the opposition out of the water when I ask for sources because I understand their arguments fully, including their flaws, because of point number 3.