The Principles of Critical Thought

My DayOne journal reminded me that I wrote this entry two years ago today. Given what’s happened in the world this year, it seemed appropriate to make it the first post for this year. I’m quite sure that this is not my original material, unfortunately, I carelessly omitted to note the source in my journal. So apologies to whoever it is I am ripping off and and Happy New Year to everyone.


Critical thinking is:

  • Questioning information rather than merely receiving it (trust but verify),
  • A constant skill applied to all knowledge and belief (not to be compartmentalised).
  • Not an exercise; but a tool for belief testing and filtering (defence against false beliefs).
  • Must be applied to yourself as well as others (self-question, self-test, self-critique).
  • Not radical scepticism (work out when information is enough to settle a conclusion).

Step 1: Check the facts (check multiple sources and evaluate their reliability).
Step 2: Check for biases and fallacies (your own and those of others).
Step 3: Consider alternative explanations of the evidence and test them.

  • Find the best defences of either side of a dispute and compare them.
  • Consider your existing background knowledge and endeavour to acquire more of it.
  • Rely on facts & evidence, not assumptions.
  • Update your beliefs when evidence goes against them.
  • Restate all your beliefs as probabilities; then justify those probabilities (or change them if you can’t).

No, Bacon Is Not as Bad for You as Smoking

… the goal is reasonable life extension: not foolishly reducing your life span (or adding decades of misery from chronic illnesses caused by risky behaviors) but also not foolishly extending it by failing to enjoy the life you have. For more years of a shitty life is worth less than less years of an excellent one.

Source: No, Bacon Is Not as Bad for You as Smoking

Good piece by Richard Carrier, despite the fact he should have said fewer years.

Enjoy

What’s the point of fact checking?

The underlying idea is that bad information, whether maliciously or innocently entered into the debate, can be corrected with good information. In an active and vigorous political culture, lies will be punished and truth will rise to the top.

via What’s the point of fact checking? — Medium.

Unfortunately, this idea is apparently pants. Ergo, Fox News.

The Baloney Detection Kit

The Baloney Detection Kit.

Another great post from farnham street. Coincidentally, I’m currently reading Carl Sagan’s The Demon-haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark, but I haven’t got to the chapter that inspired the linked video.