Does “Critical Thinking” matter? It certainly does if one wants to ensure the survival of America.
So just what is “Critical Thinking,” anyway?
Two simple letters, “P” and “Q” with an arrow in between have powerful implications for politics.
What does this expression mean?
This is one of the simplest expressions in logic, and it is called a conditional proposition.
It means, “P” implies “Q.” It can also be said, “If P, then Q.”
“P” is called the hypothesis or antecedent, and “Q” is the conclusion or consequent.
“P” is constructed by assembling information from which a hypothesis is formed. From that information, a conclusion can be drawn.
Here is a simple example.
- Chicago is in Illinois (information)
- John lives in Chicago (information)
- If John lives in Chicago, (Hypothesis)
- Then John lives in Illinois (Conclusion)
In order for a listener to be sure that a conclusion is true, the information that forms the hypothesis MUST be true. (In this case, Chicago IS in Illinois, and John DOES live in Chicago.)
If the information that forms the hypothesis is NOT TRUE, then the conclusion drawn can be EITHER TRUE OR FALSE. You don’t know and can’t be sure.
In fact, if you use false information to develop a hypothesis, you can draw whatever conclusion you want.
This is where politicians and some news people have a field day.
- President Johnson went on national television and announced that the North Vietnamese had attacked our Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. (This was not true.) But then he drew the conclusion that this action was a cause for war.
- President Roosevelt went before a joint session of congress and told them that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. (This was true). He then asked for a declaration of war.
- Kellyanne Conway famously described the information that formed the hypothesis of her argument as “alternative facts.” She confirmed that her conclusions were (and still seem to be) independent of any facts that are validated or tested for truth. She can draw whatever conclusions she wants – and does.
The conclusion(s) you draw from your hypotheses (whether true or false) form the foundation of the recommendations you make and, ultimately, the action you take.
A common trick that some politicians and news organizations use is to start with a conclusion, and then cherry pick or make up information to form a hypothesis. Then they use this hypothesis, based on whatever information they cherry picked or made up, to draw the conclusion they want the listener (or reader) to hear.
The use of the conditional proposition is based on information that, hopefully, is carefully checked and validated BEFORE a conclusion is drawn from the hypothesis that is created. Carefully checking and validating the information for truth does NOT mean simply accepting the information as axiomatic—accepting it without proof. Nor does it mean accepting the information on faith.
It is interesting to have conversations with individuals who do not subscribe to the notion that man has caused global warming. It is true that the vast majority of scientists support this conclusion and it is perfectly fine for someone to demand ultra hard evidence to support the global warming conclusion. In that respect, the global warming skeptic is exercising a rigorous demand for the facts, evidence and information about global warming to be true.
It is also interesting to have conversations with individuals who have a serious illness. They demand that the physician and medical system perform the appropriate tests and, from the test results, draw accurate conclusions and diagnoses about their medical problem so that the right remedies may be utilized.
In each of these cases, the individual is demanding (rightly so) that the evidence upon which they want to base their hypothesis is valid and true.
It is also interesting that some of these same people who demand hard evidence—tested for validity and truth—can leave their demands for rigorous truth in their hypotheses outside as they walk through the doors of a church. In this case, they seem to throw all logic out the window and draw their conclusions based on faith. This is not meant to criticize religion—it is merely intended to point out that in some circumstances, even individuals who utilize sound logic ignore it when it is convenient.
In summary, the whole point is this:
P implies Q. Your hypotheses will lead you to conclusions. In order for you to have confidence that your conclusions are true, the information that led to the formulation of your hypothesis MUST be true.