I’m a fan of knowledge, learning, and education. We should learn not just facts but also how to think critically: how to evaluate evidence to find the correct, or best, answer. I said this to someone years ago and they replied that people already know how to think. I mostly disagree with this. Everyone can think logically (“I’m hungry, so I need to eat”; “If I speed, then I might get a ticket”) but not everyone thinks critically. You’d hope that “logical” and “critical” would be synonyms, but it isn’t so. There is semantic overlap: critical thinking requires logical thinking, but logical thinking isn’t always critical thinking. You can use logic to critique a point of view you don’t agree with, but critical thinking uses logic to critique all points of view. Even those who can think critically don’t always do it, because they might let their bias, prejudice, or emotions get in the way.
I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who quipped, “Most people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” This is true especially in institutions where dogma replaces rationalism and empiricism. I’m speaking, of course, about universities. (more…)