How Important Is It To Think Critically Before Making Up Your Mind?
I was thinking about what I wanted to write about next on my blog, and it occurred to me that thinking critically is certainly something worth writing about.
Creative thinking is also important, no doubt, because it leads to innovation, small or large steps forward towards a desired result. But what about critical thinking? When you think critically, what does that mean to you? How do you think critically? Or is this the first time you ever thought about it? And how do you act on something that is critical to your success in life without becoming too critical in your thinking to act?
I think people shy away from paying much attention to this because they seek to avoid the complexity that makes it hard to navigate through life. Yet much attention is needed, and without that thinking, the complexity that feels the vacuum left by your disinterest has the potential to grow rapidly.
Thinking critically means thinking things through, asking yourself uncomfortable questions, testing your assumptions, and filling in the missing pieces. Just for an example, let’s talk about drugs and the role of thinking in arriving at the decision to take them.
Because here’s a thought that has occurred to me, but seems not to have occurred to most Americans, who are more hooked on drugs now than ever.
How much medication do people really need?
When you consider how medicated the American culture is, I think you’ll find, as I did, that it’s shocking. It’s as if people think that taking drugs is nature’s plan. They associate various drugs to quality of life, and assume they’ll get the best possible result, the one advertised, in exchange for the expense of it all.
When I think critically about the issue of American dependence on pharmaceutical products, I find myself wondering where people got the idea that they need all those drugs they’re taking. It makes me wonder if they took even a little time to think through the impact of those drugs on their quality of life, in the present and in the future. I realize that people in pain aren’t thinking clearly, but maybe they should at least try. Because all the disclaimers that are practically whispered at the end of drug advertising on television, or contained in the pages that follow drug ads in magazines, aren’t there for window dressing. They are real warnings of real consequences.
Here’s another question: What do you think about the profit motive in the practice of medicine? Some people swear that somehow this is a better idea. But when I think about it, it is apparent to me that people get drugs and procedures that aren’t really necessary, because they are lucrative sources of revenue to the doctors and the drug companies. Meanwhile, most of what ails people can be meaningfully influenced by making some simple lifestyle changes that allow them to recover their health, unless you throw drugs into the mix.
That’s just one example. Many others come to mind. Here’s another example, one I got from my daughter.
Years ago, the Portland Oregonian newspaper ran a cover story on Hizbollah and Hamas suicide bombers, and what motivated them to do such destructive acts. The article said that the murderers were mostly young men, and had been given promises about the afterlife that made it sound far better than their actual life. They were told they would be welcomed, that they would have 72 virgins available, and that all the pleasures denied them in this life would be theirs for the asking in the next.
My daughter read the article and then asked me, “Dad, I don’t get it. Why would they believe that the people telling them these things know what they’re talking about?” I replied, ” Because in their society, obedience to religious authority is considerably more important than thinking for oneself. In closed societies, thinking for yourself might get you killed – as opposed to these weak minded true believers killing themselves because someone told them to do so.”
My daughter said, “Boy, if some guy was telling me all that stuff, I’d have LOTS of questions!” “Like what?” I asked her. “For starters, how do they know they’ll get 72 virgins?” (Yes, I was shocked when she asked it, but if you think about it, it’s a very good question!) She went on, “Does every bomber get the same 72 virgins? What do you do with 72 virgins? Why is that a good thing? What do the girls get?” She was just getting on a roll. “Dad, I’d like to know what the virgins think about this system! I mean, are they like ‘Here’s your new suicide bomber, have fun!?”
I was laughing pretty hard at that point. All of her questions were good ones. Made me proud as can be of my daughter’s ability to think for herself. And I hope I’ve got you thinking about all the things people say are true that they don’t actually know any more about than you. Think about that!
Last point in this week’s post: There’s a time and a place for everything, but it isn’t all the time and every place. Sometimes, you think something through and then move in one direction or another, because you know that you’ll always be able to find more questions and more answers, and that won’t necessarily help you resolve anything. When the preponderance of available evidence tells you to do or not to do, you know what to do.
Your comments and feedback are always welcome. If you promise to think about what you’re saying, I promise to think about what you say before I respond!