Many of us understand the importance of thinking things through when it comes to forming beliefs about how best to deal with different aspects of our lives, such as when it comes to making important decisions.
Should I invest in this business scheme?
Should I buy this car?
Should I vote for this politician?
Should I try this herbal treatment for my illness?
Should I pray for a miracle?
Still, we often make bad decisions. Why?
It could be because there are roadblocks we’ve erected in our minds that prevent us from examining all the evidence objectively, or impartially, prior to forming beliefs. These mental roadblocks might be pre-existing beliefs that have been informed by culture, religion, political/social ideologies, personal prejudices, peer pressure, etc.
Having these mental roadblocks is one problem; the other problem is not knowing that you have those mental roadblocks. But perhaps the worst problem of all is not acknowledging that as human beings all of us are susceptible to having these mental roadblocks, at any given time. Acknowledging this should compel us to structure our thinking in such a way as to minimise, as much as possible, the degree to which these mental roadblocks might impede our ability to think objectively.
We should be willing to evaluate all kinds of information, including information that might go against what we currently believe about something, without allowing our mental roadblocks to interfere with that evaluation process. We also need to train ourselves to be able to use logic effectively – and to consistently use it when trying to make inferences about what it is we are forming beliefs about. We must also question our methods of reasoning. This, in a nutshell, is what it means to think critically.
Edward M. Glaser in his 1941 book “An Experiment in the Development of Critical Thinking” describes critical thinking as:
A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends.
Youtuber Qualia Soup explains what critical thinking is in this video:
As a freethinker, I advocate for the application of critical thinking across the board, on all issues, and I also encourage people to be consistent in their application of it. Indeed, I often have to remind myself to be consistent as well, because I know that mental roadblocks can pop up anytime, and unbeknownst to me, some might already be lurking about in my mind.
It is not easy to consistently apply critical thinking – but there is great value in striving to be as consistent as is humanly possible in our application of it.
In a world where all kinds of people are offering all kinds of get-rich-quick schemes or miracle cures for all kinds of ailments, it greatly helps to be a critical thinker. A person who applies critical thinking will be less likely to lose money to professional con-artists or fall prey to medical quackery. He or she will also be able to do a better job of analyzing problems and finding solutions to them. People who think critically will probably make better business/investment decisions as well, as compared to people who don’t.
From a social perspective, a good critical thinker is also less likely to hold prejudices that would prompt him or her to discriminate against people on the basis of race, tribe, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. He or she will also be less likely to engage in extreme forms of religious expression that are detrimental to their well-being, and the well-being of others.
What we’d like to discuss at the upcoming Freethinkers’ Night is HOW to communicate CRITICAL THINKING to the general public.
How do we encourage people to apply critical thinking, and to apply it consistently, in their lives? How do we get people to recognize that their mental roadblocks might be preventing them from thinking objectively?
This is a crucial issue for us, as it touches on what we consider to be our mandate as Freethought Kampala, which is:
Promoting Reason in a Highly Superstitious Society
Much of our focus for the last two years has been mainly to apply critical thinking in the evaluation of popular mystical/religious claims that abound in this country’s spiritual landscape – because there was simply nobody doing it. We acknowledge that the scope for critical thinking is much wider than this, but for strategic reasons we initially chose to narrow our focus to an area that we felt was being completely neglected in the national discourse. Perhaps at this meeting we might also talk about this focus, and whether or not we should broaden it.
The January 2012 Freethinkers’ Night will take place on Thursday, 26th January, at 4 Points Bar & Restaurant, Centenary Park, Kampala, starting 6PM. Entrance is FREE.
If you are an open minded person whose opinions are formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason and are interested in meeting like-minded individuals – you are more than welcome to join us.
Oh, and we’ll also be marking 2 years of Freethought Kampala as well!