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Critical Thinking Skills in Environmental Sciences

A Problem well stated is a problem half solved.- Charles Kittering

Critical Thinking Skills

      One of the chief tools a good scientist (and many a great thinker) has is a skill called critical thinking.

      Critical thinking is a capacity to distinguish between beliefs (What we think is true) and knowledge(facts that are backed by accurate observation and valid experimentation).thus critical thinking helps us separate judgment from facts.

      Critical thinking involves subjecting facts and conclusions to careful analysis, looking for weakness in logic and other errors of reasoning.

      Critical thinking skills are essential in analysing a wide range of environmental problems, issues, and information.So how can one think critically?

      Clearly, there is no single formula. however, most critical thinkers would agree that several steps contribute to this process.

Key concept: critical thinking is an acquired skill that helps us analyse issues and discern the validity of experimental results and assertions.


 Critical thinking rules or principles or steps

1. Gather all information.

      Dig deeper.

      Learn all you can before you decide.

      Don’t mistake ignorance for perspective.

2.Understand all terms.

      Define all terms you use.

      Be sure you understand terms and concepts others use.

3.Question how information/ facts were derived

      Were they derived from scientific studies?

      Were the studies well conceived and carried out?

      Were there an adequate number of subjects?

      Was there a control group and an experimental group?

      Has the study been repeated successfully?

4.Question the source of information

      Is the source invested in the outcome of issue?

      Is the source biased?

      Do underlying assumptions affect the view point of the source?

5.Question the conclusions.

      Do the facts support the conclusion?

      Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.

6.Expect and tolerate uncertainty.

      Hard and fast answers are not always possible.

      Learn to be comfortable with not knowing.

7.Examine the big picture.

      Study the whole system.

      Look for hidden causes and effects.

      Avoid simplistic thinking.

      Avoid dualistic thinking.

Key concept: to be a critical thinker it is necessary to examine the big picture- relationships and entire systems.

To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.-Bronson Alcott

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