Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birth, observation, curiosity, critical thinking, learning, critical thinking, applying, critical thinkging, mastering...

Early in the 21st Century, it is clear that critical thinking is a trait too few possess. A dramatic number of people are born, grow old going through the motions, and along the way, mindlessly gather information in 10 second soundbites, from 140-character shorthand or via quick blips on Facebook. Most of which is carelessly constructed by acquaintances with the sole purpose of getting 'likes' and gaining a perceived popularity among one's online social media circles. Some of the most poignant thoughts are posted in a digitally framed image consisting of a solid color background with a retro sketch, doodled beside a single sentence phrase describing some trending aspect of society.

Common type of image that gets re-posted countless times on social media networks.

The general acceptance of this type of information occurs throughout every facet of life. At work, at school, at church and in politics, without any deliberate effort, we as humans accept what we hear and what we read the same, whether it is true or false. The curiosity that has pushed our species to build science and civilization, send us to the surface of the moon and create amazing amounts of new technology is missing. Curiosity, and by extension, critical thinking is largely void in our world.

Take, for example, the recent political debates in America. A healthy portion of the population believed that if one party's candidate were to prevail in the election, the uteruses (uteri?) of all women in the country would be at risk. They would be removed or harmed in some way. Partisans at various events and conventions directly cited this belief as a reason to support said candidate's opponent. It was their firm belief that women's health and well-being would be sacrificed on the executive branch's altar. Think about that for a minute. Voting against a candidate because he would put the health of women today and in the future at risk. Sounds like a good reason to vote against someone, right?

Only problem with it is the premise is incorrect. The real debate was whether tax dollars should be used for contraception or if birth control and related products should be the responsibility of the individual desiring to use them. The individuals who believed one man's electoral success could stifle the advancement of women's rights never asked the 'hows' or the 'whys'. How would one individual's policies jeopardize women's health? How could he or she implement the harmful policies? Why would he or she want to bring about policies detrimental to the health of half the country? Now throw in a 'what' question: What has he or she written, said or done that indicates he or she holds destructive points of view? Now try a 'who' question: Who was my source for the information upon which I am basing my resolute belief?

Now back to the 'why' questions: Why did the source not permit me to hear the statement in context? Why does the source want me to hear this message? What is the background and reliability of my source? (And perhaps: Why is the YouTube video so poorly spliced?)

Bottom line is that there was no evidence that any of the candidates in the 2012 elections tried to harm anyone's health. If there had been sincere, human nature-based curiosity, a different conclusion would have been reached. The thinking individuals would most certainly follow the curiosity with study and thought. Through critical thinking it would have been clear to a reasonable, honest thinker that the notion of one candidate's triumph leading to a 'turning back of the clock' some 40 years would have been ridiculous (and Constitutionally impossible). 

We live in an age where tweets, Facebook posts, texts and emails are our source of information. As we glance from one headline or story to the next, we absorb it all, but we fail to discern the quality of the information and the qualifications of the source. Essentially, human beings in the early 21st Century have outsourced their critical thinking to ambitious propagandizers and social media circles.

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