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  1. #1 Critical Discussion 
    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    If this thread is a success can a moderator please sticky it?

    my interpretation of "Key components of argumentation" as explained here
    1: Understand the others' point(s)
    2: Identify their support for their point(s)
    3: Establish "burden of proof"- whoever states a point has to support it
    4: Try to identify fault in the argument


    What I notice happening a lot is that people make a very general point but don't provide any specific examples, and expect others to prove their point wrong. It's a lot harder to prove a claim wrong than to prove that one's support for a claim is wrong.

    For example saying "Critical thought will help make discussions more productive" is a point lacking support, you can prove this wrong, but it will probably be a lot easier to prove my reasons wrong.

    "Critical thought is the consideration of all available evidence" is a description found here, not a point "I've seen many discussions turn into arguments because claims were not supported" is an observation, again, not a point.

    But when you support for your point you accomplish 3 things

    A: You give your listener/reader a chance to consider your evidence, which is required to exercise critical thought. So by simply providing a couple examples you are helping others to think more critically.

    B: You clarify your point which helps to prevent misunderstandings, off topic discussion and arguments.

    C: You set the bar so that when someone responds they will be more likely to provided support for their points. This allows you and the rest of the readers/listeners to exercise critical thinking skills.

    So simply by saying "Critical thinking is the consideration of all available evidence. If people provided more support for their views there would be less misunderstanding about what their views were. This would prevent off topic argument and allow us all to exercise our critical thinking skills."

    You understand what I am talking about and why I think the way I do.

    So maybe you agree with my point but disagree with my support. Maybe you disagree with my definition of critical thinking but agree with all the rest. This promotes discussion and critical thought rather than if I just said

    'Critical thinking is good. USE IT!'
    even thought that that's more or less my point, expressing it like this shows a lack of critical thinking skills and demotivates readers from thinking critical

    So to sum it up, critical thinking and effective communication are not abstract concepts and highly technical skills available only to the few. All you need to do to both think critically and communicate effectively is to think in 3 steps.

    What is the point?
    What is the support for the point?
    Is the support relevant?

    If you can't answer any of these questions then it doesn't mean your not smart enough it means that you don't know enough about the subject to comment. That's when you ask questions.

    If you don't know someones point ask "What is your point?"

    if you don't see any evidence for what someone claims ask "Can you support that?"

    if you don't know if the evidence is relevant, or think that it isn't, than ask "In what way is that relevant?"

    It's pretty simple and I don't know why they don't teach this stuff in grade school. Part of me thinks "they" want us to argue so that those who are naturally inclined to think critically develop an elitist world view. The only support for this is the observation that those who preach CT the most are those least willing/able to teach it.


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  3. #2 Re: Critical Discussion 
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    If you can't answer any of these questions then it doesn't mean your not smart enough it means that you don't know enough about the subject to comment. That's when you ask questions.
    unfortunately it's a very human characteristic (1) to be opinionated (often without a well-thought set of reasons behind that opinion), and (2) to jump to conclusions, based on what filters through your opinion filter, and not what your opponent actually said

    even if you're aware that this might happen, you're still vulnerable to it, and whilst education might help, it's no guarantee that it will


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  4. #3 Re: Critical Discussion 
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    It's pretty simple and I don't know why they don't teach this stuff in grade school.
    In Holland they do (at least at my level of education). Still there are lot of people who do not follow these argumentations when needed. Why? I'm not sure, though MarnixR's point might be very well it.

    Also not everyone will be convinced by your arguments, since every argument is debateble itself. This means that, even when sticking to your argumentation plan, debate is inevitable.
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    it's a theory of mine that when confronted with an argument, people compare it with their preconceptions, and depending on how well it matches those, react in one of 2 ways :

    (1) uncritical acceptance of what matches the preconception
    (2) trying to pick holes into anything that doesn't match the preconception
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  6. #5  
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    That depends on their paradigm marnixR but critical thought doesn't demand a change in paradigm, it's merely a skill that atheists, theists and anyone with a paradigm that allows for it can learn, we could probably even teach chimps to use a basic form of it, although I doubt chimps go through psychological changes equivalent to paradigm shifts, and we wont be able to teach them what they are doing so whether or not it is truly "critical" is up for debate. We can indeed teach them to consider evidence while making decisions.

    For example there was a test done.

    Two people one chimp. One person offers a banana and the other person does not. When the chimp approaches the one who offers a banana the banana is taken away. Eventually the chimp distrusts the one offering the banana and goes to the one who is just standing there

    When the chimp approaches the one offering no banana, he reveals one from behind his back and gives it to him

    The chimp then goes to the person who offers nothing

    This shows basic critical thinking skills. Evidence was presented to make the chimp see past the obvious offering, because experience(a form of evidence) taught the chimp to think twice and look for more subtle signs(hand behind back) to determine whether or not they were going to get a banana.



    The basis of critical thinking is not a theory to be contested or proved. It's a skill. There are theories about what you can use the skill for and theories about how to develop the skill, but what critical thinking is, is not a theory, but a skill. TO be precise it's one' ability to recognize support.

    My theory about how to develop the skill is that to use more support to back up your claims, you in turn look for more support in other peoples claims, and this will help in making you think more critically.

    It bears repeating though. Critical thought is not pessimism, skepticism or elitism. Critical thought is one's ability to recognize the relationship between a claim and the evidence that supports it. You use critical thought, not just when critiquing others claims, but also when making claims of your own so that others can see what thinking critically means.

    "Bob is a nasty person" is not a critical statement, and considering the ambiguity of the word "nasty" you don't get much from this statement.

    being slightly more critical one could say
    "Bob works shoveling shit. He sleeps outside and is more often than not covered in mud and manure. He smells like cow pasture and sweat. Dispite his uncleanliness, he is always smiling and very friendly. Some even say he's too helpful."

    So instead of saying "nasty" which can mean unclean as well as mean, this description of Bob tells you what "nasty" was otherwise meant to portray, but leaves less up to imagination of the reader.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman

    My theory about how to develop the skill is that to use more support to back up your claims, you in turn look for more support in other peoples claims, and this will help in making you think more critically.
    That's only a small part to the whole concept of critical thinking. It's little wonder why your theory will fail.
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  8. #7  
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    You are right, but do you know what parts of critical thinking I am missing and why I implied that this technique will help develop these?

    I could take a whack at it, but your the one with the claim, please feel free to support it.

    I can just as easily say "No, your theory about my theory is wrong" but unless I show you why, why would you consider what I have to say?

    Do I have to appease your ego or something?
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  9. #8  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    The basis of critical thinking is not a theory to be contested or proved. It's a skill. There are theories about what you can use the skill for and theories about how to develop the skill, but what critical thinking is, is not a theory, but a skill. TO be precise it's one' ability to recognize support.
    point taken - but it still depends on the willingness of the person to apply that skill, even when capable of doing so, for that skill to become useful
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  10. #9  
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    indeed

    do you have any ideas about how to share the usefullness of applying it?

    My theory about how to get more people to think critically involves leading by example

    If you think critically, and write critically(by making a clear point and then supporting that point logically) others are forced to read critically. Is this flawed logic?
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    You are right, but do you know what parts of critical thinking I am missing ...?
    Yes, I do.

    I could take a whack at it, but your the one with the claim, please feel free to support it.
    I don't need to support critical learning training courses that are already well established.

    I can just as easily say "No, your theory about my theory is wrong" but unless I show you why, why would you consider what I have to say?
    Your request would imply you did not research current course offerings, hence you would know quite well where your theory lacked.

    Do I have to appease your ego or something?
    Of course not. Instead, do your homework before making theories.
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  12. #11  
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    "Quote:
    Do I have to appease your ego or something?


    Of course not. Instead, do your homework before making theories. Very Happy"

    Well you seem to have this theory that I haven't. So far your continue to talk talk talk your claims and fail to provide support. Nowhere did I say "You must provide support" but it's a suggestion if you want to partake in pragmatic discussion, it helps to give people a reason to listen to what you have to say.

    I learned that from a critical thinking/writing course, which is where I got all this from.

    I'm assuming you will claim the course is wrong, maybe I'm wrong in assuming this, but I just want to ask you, that if you think this is not indeed a part of critical thinking and a good way to begin using critical thinking skills on a forum than explain what such courses tought you or at least why these are flawed.

    Without support for your claims on a science forum you are no different than a religious troll quack, except maybe your slightly less abrasive, that's largely subjective and I consider it due to the fact that I am confident your intentions are more rational. How you go about exacting your intentions though seems to be no less fanatical. I don't know about others but I have a hard time understanding how someone can preach against faith yet require people to have faith in their own unsupported claims.
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    If you think critically, and write critically(by making a clear point and then supporting that point logically) others are forced to read critically. Is this flawed logic?
    probably - i could rephrase your sentence as follows :

    "If you think critically, and write critically(by making a clear point and then supporting that point logically) others are forced to read critically, or completely miss the point."

    the fact that you think / write critically doesn't force anyone else to follow suit
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  14. #13  
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    So you don't think that by supporting your point with details you avoid misunderstandings?
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    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    misunderstandings can find their origin both from the source and from the recipient
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  16. #15  
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    You didn't answer my question.

    Will more supporting details lessen misunderstandings?

    If not then why do writers describe things? why do textbooks explain things?

    I believe in the idea that communication skills make communication easier. I'm not seeking to make communication 100% accurate, just as close as possible, but so long as it's better than chance, I'm all set.

    What we find in many situations is that people have the preconception that noone wants to hear what they have to say. So they oversimplify it. But lots of people do in fact enjoy intelligent conversations even when they don't have much to offer. assuming you are talking about something they find somewhat interesting. Lots of people like to think they know something abotu everything, because we have all heard so much, but when it comes down to it, whether or not they are willing to listen to reason is more up to your attitude when you correct them.

    You have to ask them questions, then you both know that they know very little about their claims, and then you can explain what you know and why their claim doesn't sound logical. This is critical discussion. Saying "b is wrong, x is right" is not very critical, doesn't teach anyone anything, and just promotes having faith in empty claims.
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  17. #16  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    Will more supporting details lessen misunderstandings?
    depends on how severe the mental block is
    take for instance jollybear in the "radioisotope dating" thread : several people have attempted to explain what geology, astronomy, evolution and science in general is about without as much as a dent being made in his armour of preconceptions - anything he agrees with passes uncritically, but anything that doesn't match his preconceptions is challenged on the most spurious of grounds

    considering that many people have made various attempts with varying degrees of eloquence, and none of them have got through, i'd have to say that at least in the case of jollybear, even the most lucid of explanations gets filtered beyond all recognition before it even gets through to his brain
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  18. #17  
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    Don't consider specifics. When talking one on one there are different communication skills being used then when talking to a group, or writing as an author does or we are doing on the forum.

    I think half the miscommunications on a forum come from people writing as though they are talking, expecting the reader to hear what they have to say and the attitude in which it is said, as they would if in person.

    In general, when lecturing to a group, or writing a book to be read by many, supporting details and explanation will be a deciding factor in whether or not your point is understood, and whether or not people consider your claims valid.

    No?
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  19. #18  
    WYSIWYG Moderator marnixR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcusclayman
    In general, when lecturing to a group, or writing a book to be read by many, supporting details and explanation will be a deciding factor in whether or not your point is understood, and whether or not people consider your claims valid.

    No?
    as i've said : only if they're willing to consider the information at face value
    say, i set out to lecture to a crowd of creationists about evolution, i'm sure the collective shutters would come down, triggered by a few bug-bear words, and those shutters would prevent any information to come through undistorted

    this probably can be generalised to anyone having a strong opinion about any subject : their preconceptions will prevent them from hearing what you're really saying
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  20. #19  
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    but you know that, and so you can prepare

    do you think authors don't think about their target audience when they write?

    what would you think about in such a situation? you might choose different support for your argument, and you might frame your argument differently

    it's not any different in conversation one on one, unless your naturally compatable someone has to compromise to suit the other person or conflict will arise.

    If person A: is talking real fast real loud to person B: who thinks before speaking and generally speaks slowly and quietly, naturally, if B has something complicated to say, it might be hard to get it across without being interupted by A

    So B will have to adapt and say something more simply to get A's attention, THEN when A is willing to listen and B can explain.

    To paraphrase "The first skill of the orator is to say what the listener is ready to hear"

    So if your speaking to a group of creationists about evolution, you as the lecturer set the bar. If it's too high then they can't reach, but if it's too low then you don't have much to teach.

    Anyway, your lecture has to be more precise than "Evolution for creationists" although that might be a good name for it. the main topic might be "Evolution and creationism are not incompatible" and most everything you say is to support this point.

    If you just say "evolution and creationism are not incompatible" people have to make up their own minds, and seeing as most of them already have made up their minds, this will not be very successful. In supporting this claim however, depending on how you go about doing it, you have the opportunity to change people's minds. If lectures didn't work then they would have gone out of style a very VERY long time ago.

    Assume the majority of them are there to criticize evolutionary theory. So they are ready to hear about the "flaws" in the theory. In knowing this you can right off the back mention these commonly used "flaws" and address them throughout your lecture. That can be most, if not all, of your lecture.

    Again, your not trying to be 100%, your trying to be better than chance

    saying "Evolution is right, creationism is wrong" is less than chance

    saying "Evolution and Creationism is not incompatible" is slightly better, but probably still less than chance


    The difficulty lies when you don't know who you are talking to, like here on a forum. Many people come here just to express their distrust for one another more than they come here to discuss and learn.

    So it's practically useless to frame an argument unless you know who your arguing with.

    It's best to stay short and sweat, but this doesn't make it justifiable to never support your claims.

    Those who have mental blocks should not be the focus of your attention anyway. If your interested in discussing something and learning then those who are also interested in discussing something and learning should be your target audience.
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