- In your own words, what do you understand by “Critical Thinking”? To what extent do you believe that you HAVE BEEN REQUIRED to do this within various units that you have studied?
Critical Thinking focuses on enabling students to not just learn content, but to analyse that content, to identify weaknesses in the information such as where logic of arguments breakdown, or where assumptions are unjustified.
Critical Thinking applies within units where there is scope for two or more alternative views (opinions) in interpreting certain evidence and/or arguments, and where students need to present their own ideas and their reasons for holding those ideas. Areas such as politics, history, literature and art often involve two or more alternative interpretations of evidence and argument. Ethics is also an example of such an area, which this unit happens to consider in some detail.
While units such as mathematics and programming require applied logic, it is at least qualitatively different to Critical Thinking in that these areas are generally not open to individuals to hold different ideas and interpretations, but rather, require all students to acquire the same (or at least similar) ways of approaching problem solving in those areas, such as mathematics. Some elements of “programming” ARE open to discussion and interpretation; where there is MORE THAN ONE way of designing something.
- In your own words, what do you understand by “Critical Theory” (search if need be)? How does Critical Theory interrelate with Critical Thinking? Specifically, what ideas of caution does it raise about sourcing information?
Critical Theory considers the relation between those people and organisations in a position of power and authority with the objectiveness (or rather, the biased nature) of reporting evidence and providing arguments.
One of the tenants of Critical Theory is to be wary of the source of information, and that conflicts of interest will tend to bias the reporting of evidence and the interpretation of arguments.
For example, a company that produces and sells a particular product is motivated to only report good things about the product and to only provide arguments in favour of the product, while ignoring facts and arguments that work against their product (and therefore against their profits).
Consider the manufacture and sale of tobacco, pharmaceutical drugs, nuclear power…for each of these, the information provided by the relevant industry should be viewed with a level of skepticism regarding the correctness and completeness of information and arguments provided as only those aspects that are favourable to their product will tend to be presented.
- Regardless of your political persuasion, why do you think that political debate seems to be endless? What (if any) are some of the key traits of political “marketing” (and argument) that align to fallacies of argument? (refer to lecture Week 2)
Politics is a key example where sets of information may be interpreted and applied within arguments in different ways.
People tend to interpret information and develop arguments that are favourable to their own political views, while disregarding and/or disputing information and arguments that are contrary to their personal views.
Politics often involves “attacking” the personal standing of an opponent, raising the fear of a “slippery slope” continuum towards disaster, the presentation of a “straw man” to knock down and the presentation of a “false dichotomy” to unfairly represent a potentially complex situation as simple. Many other examples will also apply here.
- What do you think are some of the contributing reasons as to why the “debate” about climate change (and what to do about it) has become “topical”? Identify some premises in the public arena that you think may be questionable…and why.
Climate change presents the proposition that the global climate is changing due to the activities of humans.
One of the most well known features of climate change is “global warming” due to the “greenhouse effect”. In brief, this identifies that activities such as the burning of fossil fuels (coal, petrol) and deforestation (clearing, and burning, of forested lands to make way for farmlands) adds Carbon Dioxide to the Earths atmosphere, and that this gas has the property of retaining heat…and so the temperature of the globe increases.
The processes are much more complex than this, and it is no longer thought that a uniform linear increase in temperature will occur across the globe, but rather, that the dynamics of weather mean that there will be more intense weather events (bigger floods, longer droughts, more extreme temperature), and that they will occur more often.
If this argument is correct then it has immense implications to the sustainability of human society on the planet as we know it, and indeed, to the sustainability and biodiversity of life in general for all plants and animals.
There are many powerful invested interests in this issue.
As developing countries build the capacity to generate and use more power these problems will increase. There are predictions of the melting of ice caps, the raising of sea levels, and the loss of agricultural lands for farming (due to a decrease of rainfall).
Evidence is provided from sources such as ice core samples, weather balloons, satellite images of shrinking ice caps, ocean currents and temperatures, and computer modeling.
But there appears to be skepticism in some circles about the capacity for Earths climate to be so affected….after all, the world is very large and to date has been able to “absorb” human impact….
I leave it to students to offer what they personally consider to be premises that are questionable in this broad area…whether they are for or against the general proposition of climate change. After all, at least some of the “observations” are open to multiple interpretations.
- Scoring out of a possible 7 (1 = not at all concerned about climate change, 7 = extremely concerned about climate change)…how concerned are you?
Please be willing to justify your position (as best you can) based upon an argument….and what premises you consider to be “fact”?
In principle, any value from 1 to 7 is acceptable here….as long as it is SUPPORTED by a set of observations (information), and an argument based around those observations (pieces of information).
The point of this activity is to demonstrate that different people may have access to different pieces of information, or interpret the same pieces of information differently, or weigh the importance of various pieces of information differently….and that different people will generate different arguments, often derived from their personal belief structures around the issue.
In areas such as this the answer will not be clear cut…but rather will need to incorporate and balance a wide range of views, interpretations and arguments.
- For each of the following fallacies of argument, try to provide an example that has been (may have been) presented in the media within the last few years.
Attacking the person
Any time someone says “You can’t believe that person because he/she is…of a particular sexuality, or religion or ethnicity”.
Any time an argument is presented along the lines of “We cannot allow that (small thing) to happen because if we do then it will lead to many other (bigger) things happening too.”
Appeal to authority
Any time an argument is presented as having to be correct because a specified person (who may be well respected) thinks it is.
Any time an argument is presented that confuses events that are correlated (tend to occur at the same time perhaps due to a common cause) with a deterministic relation that interprets one event to be the cause of the other.
- Wasons’ 4 Card problem.
A deck of cards is such that every card has a letter on one side and a number on the other.
Four cards are randomly placed on the table, showing “A”, “B”, “2” and “3”.
It is suggested (hypothesized) that the entire pack of cards is subject to a rule as follows: “If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other side”
Which of the four cards (if any) need to be turned over in order to “test” the rule? To turn a card costs you money…so you ONLY turn cards that are “worth” turning.
There are two cards that need to be turned; A, and 3
If turn over “A” and find an even number, then is consistent with the rule, but this does not prove rule true. However, if turn over and find an odd number on the other side then has proven the rule False.
If turn over “B” and find an even number, then is consistent with the rule, because the rule does NOT say anything about non-vowels. That is, it does not say that only vowels can have an even number on the other side. If turn over and find an odd number, then is again consistent with the rule, because the rule does NOT say anything about non-vowels.
If turn over “2” and find a vowel, then is consistent with the rule, because it is an instance of a vowel on one side plus an even number on the other side, but again, does not prove the rule true. If turn over and find a consonant (non-vowel), then is again consistent with the rule, because the rule does NOT say anything about non-vowels.
If turn over “3” and find a consonant (non-vowel), then is consistent with the rule, because the rule does NOT say anything about non-vowels. If turn over and find a vowel, then have found an instance of a vowel on one side and an odd number on the other…and so has proven the rule False.
- Why is Wasons’ 4 card problem typically found to be difficult…even by university educated professionals? What insight can you gain from this problem regarding the natural thinking capabilities of humans?
Wasons’ Four Card Problem presents a scenario that we have not encountered in real life. We are forced to use our powers of “logic” to solve it.
Many people read “If p then q” to also mean “If q then p”…and this is not correct.
For example, “If it is a fish, then it can swim” does not mean that “If it can swim then it is a fish” and we know this to be true because many other animals can swim, including dogs, frogs, snakes and humans.
Wasons’ Four Card Problem demonstrates that people, even those that are university educated, do not “naturally” demonstrate all aspects of applied logic and critical thinking. People need to be formally educated in aspects of logic and critical thinking.
- Explore the MySCU site for Contemporary Issues.
- Identify the Discussion Board and how to post to a forum.
- visit the Library, and determine how to search for books, relevant journals and newspapers.
Undertake activities in exploring the on-line and library resources that you have access to that may provide you with suitable references for Contemporary Issues in Multimedia and Information Technology.
- Identify two (2) potential areas for your Report in this unit. Remember, there is a requirement for the topic to require elements of critical thought in considering the positive, and negative, effects for individuals and society.
Any two potential areas you care to consider are suitable, but try to be mindful of selecting areas that you find personally interesting, that you think are likely to be relevant to your future studies and/or employment aspirations, and that you are likely to be able to find sufficient content on.
Use this as an opportunity to explore different areas that may lead to a suitable Report topic.