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Critical Thinking
How to Honestly Evaluate Programs and Products

Are you a critical thinker?
Are you a critical thinker?

In America, the success of our children’s education is measured by how many facts they’ve memorized.

If you wanted to read the entire Encyclopædia Britannica in 1810, you could do it in about 67 days. That’s assuming it took you 2 minutes to read a page, and you read for 8 hours a day. By 2010 that time had more than doubled to 136 days because of all the information added.

Just 12 years later, in January of 2022, it would take you more than 73 YEARS to go through only the English entries of Wikipedia; and that’s without ever taking a weekend off!

Memorizing all those facts is simply impossible. It’s also pointless since we can answer so many questions in seconds. Why remember trivia when you can ask Alexa, Siri or Google?

This myth is that anyone can “do their own research” to unlock the truth. BUT, there’s so much information available; your inexperience will inevitably give you blind spots.

The idea that spending a few minutes on Google can replace decades of professional training is laughable. We know so little about so many subjects we cannot understand our own ignorance. In other words, we’re too stupid to know just how stupid we are.

Don’t worry; everyone is in the same situation.

Every day you're bombarded with information about health and fitness products that promise to change your life. Sifting through the avalanche of data can overwhelm you unless you apply critical thinking. You don't have to be an expert in everything, to make more informed decisions. You just have to learn how to judge claims based on facts and logic.

To become a critical thinker, there are some tools you’ll need. In mathematics, we learn the basics, then build on that to more advanced concepts. Counting is followed by arithmetic, number theory, geometry, algebra, etc.

David Hundsness proposed a series of eight steps for Critical Thinkers. Here they are.

Fact Versus Opinion

When we look for answers on health and fitness topics, it’s essential to get good information. Simply doing a Google search may turn up the answer, but it can also show you hundreds of pages filled with misleading or false information. Do you know the facts, or do you just have strong opinions?

Correlation Versus Causation

Correlation does not automatically lead to causation. There may be many underlying factors to consider.

Here’s an example. The average height of NBA players is 6’6” tall. There’s a correlation between height, professional athletes and the NBA. But you probably wouldn’t claim that playing in the NBA CAUSES someone to grow tall.

Logical Fallacies

A failure in the argument that comes from a flaw in reasoning. Sometimes it’s a trick or a misrepresentation of facts to hide the truth.

There are formal fallacies that happen within the way the argument is formed. The conclusion cannot be reached if you start with the premise. Examples include the bad reason fallacy, quantification fallacies, propositional fallacies and syllogistic fallacies.

And there are informal fallacies where the premises do not support the conclusion of an argument. There are lots of these, including the Ad Hominem, the appeal to nature, circular reasoning, proof by verbosity and 40 more.

Confirmation Bias

When we look for evidence that confirms our emotional beliefs, we dismiss arguments that challenge us. We only want to hear things that verify our preconceived notions.

Credibility & Bias

That Facebook meme, Tik Tok video, or Reddit discussion thread is not as credible as a double-blind placebo-controlled study published in a reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal.

They are both opinions, but the clinical study is backed up with verifiable data. It’s put together into a paper that has been reviewed, critiqued and corrected by experts in the field.

Every organization also has some level of bias, so it’s important you source information from the most transparent ones. You can reduce bias by choosing sources that document everything so other researchers can reproduce the results. You also want to look for notices about potential conflicts of interest and details about sponsors.

Lying with Statistics and Misleading Data

Misleading statistics are a common way for companies to sell products. The tricks include biased sampling, poorly chosen averages, misleading graphs and the post-hoc fallacy. Learning how to recognize the most common ways they’re used to deceive can help you make better choices.

Experimental Method

The experimental method is a research process that can identify cause and effect relationships. By taking things that can be manipulated at the start of the experiment, you can document all the different outcomes at the end of the experiment. It’s one of the few ways to link one thing to another directly.

Then we end up at Critical Thinking.

You have to take all the information and arguments you learned from the previous steps to filter out the good from the bad. Then you evaluate everything so you can make a judgement based on the facts and logic.

A critical thinker doesn’t let ideas become an identity. You apply just as much effort in disproving what you believe as you do building it up. Facts, results and data win over hunches, beliefs and speculation.

If you want to learn more, we’ve put detailed information and videos explaining each step, with examples of how you can use them in everyday life. It’s all free online at www.HowToThinkCritically.com.

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