Critical thinking is an approach to gathering data and making inferences about the world. It draws heavily on ideas from the scientific revolution and advocates an approach of data acquisition and rational assessment. When applying critical thinking, the goal is to collect as much relevant data as possible, assess that data for accuracy, and finally use the data to arrive at the most justified conclusions possible.
Critical thinking is an ongoing process, and even ideas that one feels are well supported need to be occasionally reevaluated to see if new information might change one's mind. For example, critical thinking eventually showed that Copernicus was correct in claiming that the Sun was the center of the solar system, even though many people believed this to be false at the time. However, this didn't make him completely correct either, since more critical thinking showed that he was wrong on other things (he also thought that the Sun was the center of the universe).
Critical thinking uses many aspects of formal logic and informal logic. It also focuses on discovering bias, propaganda, delusion and deception (more generally, logical fallacies) both in the sources of one's information and one's own views and approaches to reasoning problems out. Teachers often cite learning critical thinking as one of the most important goals of getting an education.
Some leftists, however, conflate critical thinking with critical theory.
Atheism and critical thinking
- The Thinker's Way by John Chaffee, Ph.D, 1998, Publisher: Little Brown and Company ISBN 978-0-316-13317-3