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As time goes on, how to do good critical thinking is increasingly marginalized or even left out of the modern educational process.
Critical Thinking involves a mental process that is highly disciplined and therefore requires most practitioners to be trained in it. This training is best begun in the formative years, and it is best taught by energetic, motivated teachers who continually challenge, and debate, and demand increasingly rigorous thinking of their young students. However, as in all things, it is never to late to begin.
Critical thinking is the process of evaluating and analyzing a proposition or an argument that has been offered to the thinker, for criticism, as being true. There follows a process of reasoning, evaluation of the offered evidences, and reflection, always begun from a point of skepticism. A proper critique of the offered argument involves more than direct observation. Besides reasoning, cognition and experience, proper critical thinking also involves intellectual values that go beyond the specific argument or object being critically examined.
These intellectual values involve objective truth. Objective truth is that truth which comes from somewhere outside of our minds. Subjective truth is that truth which comes from within us; that which we feel, or sense, or believe it to be true. Objective truth stands alone, and does not depend upon us to remain true; it's completely independent of the mind of man. No matter what we think about it, how we think about it, or even if we think about it, objective truth remains objective truth, unchanged, and impervious. Objective truth must always be taken into consideration in order to do good critical thinking.
There are different forms of objective truth, ranging from solid to ephemeral. In the "hard science" fields, such as mathematics, physics and chemistry, the most recognized objective truths involve proven mathematical formulae, or recognized scientific Laws, or widely recognized and as yet un-refuted scientific theories. These "hard" objective truths are taken by the critical thinker to be axioms or givens, and thus, useful tools to help in the critical thinking process. The process thereby builds upon a foundation of previously proven truth.
Yet even with these "hard" truths, the seeker can be lead into error. For instance, the recognized gravitational constant that tells us that a falling object will accelerate at 32 feet per second, each second, is only true here on Earth. On the moon, or on Mars, where there is a different gravitational force, there would be need of another gravitational constant.
In mathematics, the Pythagorean Theory tells us that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. Today, this theory is taken to be axiomatic; no one seeks to prove or disprove it any more, it is simply a given, so widely accepted that engineers use it, tools are designed around it, and it's in constant use in measuring the height of tall objects, for instance, without the need to climb. At all reasonable Earthly distances, the theory always works.
And yet, Relativity and Quantum theory tell us that, across the vastness of space, over millions or billions or trillions of light years distance, space bends. Way out there, a straight line is not necessarily a straight line, and Pythagoras’s theory might not work. It is only a useful axiom here on Earth, and only when applied over Earthly distances.
Objective Truth gets less dependable as we move from the hard sciences to the soft sciences, and from subjects having less to do with physical phenomena and more to do with either pure theory, or with social and cultural subjects that are, necessarily, of a more subjective nature, because they have much to do with human perceptions.
When we move into the realms of cultural, legal and political arguments, there is another entirely new form of objective truth that is required, with which to do good critical thinking. Since man is by nature a social being, requiring as he does a society in which to live and operate, it becomes necessary for all members of a society of men to recognize some given or axiomatic truths in order for the larger society to be a stable, predictable environment for all members. All human cultures, throughout all of history, have had some set of these objective truths that were accepted and internalized by the majority, which then form a foundation for civil law.
Jews and Christians live by a collection of objective truths that are handed on to them through history, which were born of Revealed Truth. This Revelation provided them with a set of rules by which to live, which was and is recognized as the best set of living standards mankind has ever seen. All successful non-Jewish and non-Christian cultures have adopted these standards at least in part.
Call it an individual conscience, or a cultural ethos, or morality, or a value system, or whatever, there must be some fixed set of rules, boundaries and guidelines to assist the Critical Thinker in properly assessing any social/political/legal argument or a position. There must always be some limits beyond which we will not consciously go, in the interest of practicality, and in the name of human decency, and even in the name of civilization itself.
The thinking Jew, the thinking Catholic, and the non-Catholic thinking Christian, all, hold to certain objective truths which come from the original Judeo-Christian Revelation. And these objective truths form their basis or set of axioms, from which to guide their moral choices and pursue their philosophy, or quest for ultimate truth. They form (or should form) the bedrock foundation for civil law for any Judeo-Christian culture. The thinking atheist, on the other hand, holds to no such Revelation and no such objective truths, and his unlimited thinking on social/political/legal issues is therefore more randomly oriented, more likely to be or become anti-social, and more likely to be seen as immoral by the standards of most of the world's non-Marxist, non-Islamic cultures.
The ethos, if you can call it that, of the atheist, or the dialectic-materialist, or the Marxist, has been amply demonstrated in history by the actions of many self-avowed atheist personages, such as Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Ho, Pol Pot, and many others. Atheists hold no such boundaries or rules to limit their critical thinking in areas of social and political decisions and actions. Since they deny the very notion of sacredness, they hold nothing whatsoever to be sacred, certainly not human life. Therefore, if any human life stands in the way of any goal deemed worthy of attainment, well then, that human life may simply be done away with. The ends justify the means. The favorite motto of these “thinkers” is you cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs, most often heard some time after another atrocity is discovered.
The most striking difference between the Judeo-Christian ethos and the materialist-Marxist non-ethos (or, actually, the materialist-Marxist rejection and repudiation of and concerted opposition to our Judeo-Christian ethos) involves Marxism’s undeniable historical record of: forced slavery, concentration camps, re-education camps, gulags, enslaved nations, iron curtains, bamboo curtains, stifling of the citizen voice, terrorism applied to whole populations, forced movement of whole populations, murder or “purging” of political opposition, mass murder done on a grand scale, and even genocide. This is the undeniable, historically proven, inevitable path of the critically thinking pure materialist.
It is the path of the world. In Scriptural terms, it is the path of the flesh, as opposed to the path of the Spirit. Critical thinking is always necessary, but, in all areas outside of mathematics and the other “hard” sciences, critical thinking must be always tempered by reason informed by faith.
Throughout the history of Western Civilization, great luminaries including John Paul the Great have taught that faith may (and should) be informed by reason. It follows from that, that reason may (and should) be informed by faith. The two belong together, and should not ever be irrevocably divorced.
By contrast, in areas involving social/political/legal topics, the atheist is more randomly, chaotically and immorally oriented, because the atheist lives a completely purposeless and pointless existence.
If the atheist has any purpose at all, it is short-term, involving The World only, and this life only, and whatever he can get out of it in the short time he believes that he has, having rejected any notion of eternal existence.
Regarding well disciplined thought, visit the Critical Thinking WebSite link for a more detailed, how-to analysis. This is a site dedicated solely to critical thinking.
No matter how technically advanced we ever become, we are all, individually and collectively, called to think about things. It is our human nature.
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Date: Mon Oct 13 2014
From: Vic Biorseth
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