Mr. Noodle

Mr. Noodle
Mr. Noodle

Monday, February 28, 2011

Critical thinking

This topic has been stewing in my head for some time. You may recall me last week talking about how I got flamed on Facebook and how that was not cool. What got me the flaming was in challenging other people's criticisms.

When I went to university, I was trained to be a critical thinker. This means being able to see more than one side of the story, for when you write a literary essay, you must argue your point and be able to defend it. When considering how to do this, you must also consider other points that could be used against your arguement. Being good and articulate at arguing your point, as in being persuasive, is what makes a good literary essay.  I also studied for the LSAT a few times (Law School Assessment Test) and quite a large portion of that test is critical thinking.

This skill has served me well in my later education, because when I encountered things like tall claims or strong opinions, I could challenge them by questioning the underlying assumptions. If I challenge someone's opinion, it doesn't mean I think they are wrong, per se, just that I wonder what led them to the conclusion they have come to. Strong opinions, in my view, are often borne from a lack of information, or an unquestioning belief that the source of that information is correct and well-founded. For example, my sister's husband believes that such-and-such a truck is the best truck, and so-and-so makes the best farming equipment. Do they really? Is there empirical evidence to prove that?

This is where being a scientist can get me into trouble. See, people with strongly held views like this have accepted their belief as fact, something that I was trained out of in my education. When you challenge them, they get mad, they may even see your challenging as a personal attack.

This is the point where I try really hard not to look down my nose at someone with less education than me for not having the cognitive ability to understand that others might have a different opinion. I get really irritated when someone is uber-critical of a given topic for no real reason, it seems, other than wanting to spread some venom around. Maybe there is a culture of this on Facebook that I just don't understand and wasn't formerly exposed to. Somebody posted a photo of something and proceeded to tear apart the thing the photo was of. I thought the subject of the photo was rather interesting, and I could appreciate it from an artistic perspective, but my opinion was absolutely silenced when a dozen people seemed to jump on the critical bandwagon to bitch about the thing in the picture. I couldn't believe it. Why would you spend so much energy on negativity?

It's one thing to have strong opinions, but if you assume that your opinions are the right ones and everyone else is wrong, my bullshit filter flings itself into action and I lose respect for what you say. I know I'm not perfect, but I do try to reconcile an issue when an inconsistency in my thinking is pointed out to me. I have often felt compelled to do the same for others, since I feel I have benefited so much from it, but I just know my observations would be met with hostility and give up before even trying.


  1. That's a total bummer! Flaming is completely useless. I'm all for a good conversation and even a good argument as long as it's respectful, but when you're just being negative seemingly for the sake of it, it's an utter waste of energy.

    I think it's society's norm at the moment. I hope and pray for the day when the fad ends, but until then, society as a whole seems to love being better than someone else without any real effort. I think that's why people still watch soap operas and reality tv and even celebrity gossip shows: Those people are richer/prettier/more famous/etc than I am, but look at how horrible their lives are (appear to be).

    I for one am cool with a discussion, so if you want to question my thoughts, have at it! I won't get mad or flamey at you, I promise :D
    And good for you for being bold enough to speak up for your differing opinion! Respect!

  2. Facebook is a detriment to the human race. I know this because I BELIEVE IT TO BE TRUE. f* them i say. XO

  3. I totally understand where you're coming from. I know sometimes I get a little zealous in my belief of things, usually because I've had no evidence to the contrary. Of course, when I do, I try to let it influence what I'm thinking, even though I might need to sulk a bit about it and get over myself. Don't let them get you down, it's just Facebook anyway. :P