Don’t be a Dupe. Be a Critical and Creative Thinker!

George Kneller quoted, “Creativity, it has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we don’t know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.” Critical thinking is a very important tool in any creative endeavour. Critical thinking is a friend of creativity, not a foe! CREATIVITY AND CRITICAL THINKING: FRIENDS, NOT FOES!

Critical thinking Critical Thinking, also called critical analysis, is clear, rational thinking involving critique. Its details vary amongst those who define it. According to Barry K. Beyer (1995), critical thinking means making clear, reasoned judgments.

During the process of critical thinking, ideas should be reasoned, well thought out, and judged.[1] The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking[2] defines critical thinking as the ‘intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.’[3]

One of the main purposes of a good education is to learn to think critically. Critical thinking leads to one of the highest forms of human knowing.

Creative thinking is divergent, critical thinking is convergent; whereas creative thinking tries to create something new, critical thinking seeks to assess worth or validity in something that exists; whereas creative thinking is carried on by violating accepted principles, critical thinking is carried on by applying accepted principles.

Although creative and critical thinking may very well be different sides of the same coin they are not identical (Beyer, 1987, p.35). Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking

If you want to save democracy, learn to think like a scientist

Fake news is running rampant on the internet, but blaming social media sites like Facebook for not filtering it out doesn’t address the larger issue at hand. Bogus news isn’t the real problem: The problem is that we undervalue the type of critical thinking needed to spot it. 

We shouldn’t expect a social media site to tell us what is and is not real. We are bombarded with nonsense on a daily basis, and navigating through it is a life skill we must learn. We can’t expect others to do it for us.

A lack of critical thinking and scepticism creates problems beyond politics. It makes us vulnerable to scams and pyramid schemes as well as phoney products like weight-loss drugs and “miracle cures” that are really only as effective as placebos. It leads us to ignore existential threats like global warming and perpetuates harmful conspiracy theories such as the idea that vaccines cause autism.

If there’s overwhelming evidence for something—like man-made climate change—and you don’t believe it, you aren’t being a sceptic, you are in denial. Being sceptical means demanding evidence, not ignoring it.

In this new age of social media, our news is no longer being filtered through major media outlets that have teams of meticulous and principled fact checkers. As a result, empiricism is more important than ever. We all must be trained to navigate through the false information, and we can do that by thinking like scientists.

  • What is empiricism? — Empiricism means a method of study relying on empirical evidence, which includes things you’ve experienced: stuff you can see and touch. Empiricism is based on facts, evidence, and research. Scholars and researchers deal in empiricism. If you believe in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus, you’re out of the realm of empiricism — there are no facts to support those myths. If you want to get something practical done, or to really know what the deal is with something, empiricism is the way to go.
We must be empiricists, not ideologues
Ideologue —-an advocate of some ideology.
  • What is ‘Ideology’?—-  An ideology is a set of opinions or beliefs of a group or an individual. Very often ideology refers to a set of political beliefs or a set of ideas that characterise a particular culture. Capitalism, communism, socialism, and Marxism are ideologies. But not all -ism words are. Think: cronyism (a system of graft whereby friends unfairly help each other make money.) Our English noun is from French idéologie. The suffix –logy, used with many English words describing theories or doctrines, is from Greek logos “word, reason, speech, account.”

Our ideologies blind us and bias our behaviour. For that reason, we should all be empiricists, not ideologues. Empiricists form their beliefs and opinions about the world based on facts and observation; ideologues, by definition, are uncompromising, dogmatic, and committed to specific principles. They are therefore unlikely to change their views based on new evidence. By self-identifying first and foremost as empiricists, we commit ourselves to a worldview that is shaped by reality.

Unfortunately, we often don’t feel compelled to check the accuracy of something that already aligns with our ideals and worldview. This is bad practice. We must continue to demand evidence—even when the claims in question come from the side that shares our beliefs and values.

A recent Buzzfeed News analysis of Facebook activity found that while 38% of news shared on popular right-leaning Facebook pages was false, so was 19% of the news shared on popular liberal Facebook pages. Given that liberals have also been known to peddle pseudoscience and ignore facts, as can be seen by the anti-vaxxer movement, this should be no surprise.

But how do we all become empiricists without training?

Scientists and researchers are trained to sniff out untruths, but you don’t need to be a scientist to do what scientists do.

We must create tests

When scientists want to understand how reality works, they devise experiments to test their questions. If they want to know if a specific treatment works—for example, if a certain diet makes people healthier, or if a particular medicine is effective—they design a study that will determine whether or not a hypothesis is true. If the hypothesis is supported, it becomes the reigning explanation while it continues to be tested further. This is an ongoing process that should continue until almost no uncertainty remains.

Derren Brown, a famous British magician and mentalist (think David Blaine, but more focused on mental tricks) is an expert at appearing to have psychic abilities. He is also a sceptic who exposes those who try to claim they have them for real. In an interview with prominent evolutionary biologist and outspoken sceptic Richard Dawkins, Brown describes a simple test that he has suggested to non-empiricists in the past.

“I think it feels unfashionable to talk to people about the importance of evidence, of testing things,” Derren said to Dawkins. “A friend of mine, who’s a psychic, told me she puts crystals in her plants and they grow better. So I said, well you’ve got loads of plants—have you ever put two in the same window? Maybe just put crystals in one and not the other?”

This anecdote illustrates just how easy it can be to start testing your beliefs.

It is also important to teach children to demand evidence and think critically from an early age. A few months ago on the Late Late Show with James Corden, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson told a wonderful story about the way he and his wife gave their child a lesson in critical thinking.

After their daughter lost a tooth, they told her that they heard if you put a tooth under your pillow, the tooth fairy visits. That night the little girl did just that, and Tyson swapped the tooth for money while she slept. The next morning, after their daughter had shown them her gift, they asked her a question that prompted her to think sceptically. “How do you know it was the tooth fairy?” they asked, to which the daughter replied, “Oh no, I don’t know, I just know that there’s money here.”

With her curiosity stirred, their daughter began setting traps for the fairy—for example, foil on the floor to hear when it arrived—and when those didn’t work, she and her equally suspicious schoolmates thought of a test. The next one to lose a tooth would put it under their pillow—without telling their parents.

The next day, when the tooth did not turn into money, the children worked out that their parents were the perpetrators of the hoax. This doesn’t mean that you should crush all the magical beliefs that children have—it only means that you should teach them to question. As adults, we must do the same to set a good example. When something sounds outlandish or simply incredible, we must investigate. Without conducting our tests in controlled settings, it can be difficult to make any definite conclusions. But these steps will still likely help us identify many bogus claims without stepping foot inside a lab.

We must encourage others to be empiricists

It is often said that we should let people believe whatever they want as long as they aren’t hurting others. “Ignorance is bliss,” as some say. However, we can no longer ignore the fact that when people don’t think critically, it actually harms others. When candidates who peddle false information get elected into office, they are more likely to also ignore crucial evidence when making decisions or policy. Do we want the person making decisions concerning climate change to be someone who ignores all the data that’s been carefully collected by scientists? That’s a recipe for catastrophe.

We must, therefore, encourage our friends to think critically and to test things. When they make claims or decisions that ignore the evidence, they should be confronted. We speak up when someone we love has an addiction or some chronic bad habit. We should feel a similar moral obligation.

Lastly, we all must all demand that our celebrities, influencers, and politicians also think critically and refrain from making claims that ignore evidence. Spreading lies and misinformation to millions of people can have some serious real world effects. Conservative or liberal, there’s just no excuse for it. Consistency is crucial.

Scientific advances come from critical thinking and curiosity. Science is also successful because it is self-correcting. When new evidence doesn’t support our previous conclusions, they must be abandoned and replaced by evidence-based assertions. Good science is also consistent in its methods; so that opinions and biases do not get in the way of logic and measurement. We do not get to pick and choose which rules to follow. Instilling these principles in society will bring about progress.


Critical thinkers:

  • Try to understand and then describe what someone claims;
  • Determine the merit of those claims by applying criteria; and
  • Rationally justify their criteria (explain their reasoning process).

If the criteria are good ones, then a critical thinker can discriminate mere opinions and false beliefs from true facts and verifiable knowledge. Critical thinkers can determine false or unverifiable claims and can tell you why. Just because someone else writes something or says something does not mean it is true or has merit.

To be a good writer, critical thinking is essential. If you need some help with your writing, here’s an inexpensive and excellent resource:

Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (2008). The craft of research (3rd. Ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Turabian, K. L. (2013). A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, And Dissertations (8th. Ed.). The University of Chicago Press.

Take advantage of your education and learn something. Be a critical thinker. Don’t be a dupe. Source

Reference and note for above:

Jeff Foxworthy. (2015). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 9:48 a.m. EST, April 8, 2015, from

Leaders are expected to take right decisions after considering various facets of a given problem – just like an expert jeweller looks at a diamond. Logic looks at problems as a coin with just two sides whereas critical thinking is all about looking at the same problem as a diamond with multiple facets. Source

The fact is that a leader needs a fine balance of emotion and rationality to succeed. They need to connect with their people using emotion and decide what is best for them using rational thought. Critical Thinking is the connecting link between emotions and intelligence.  Source

Critical thinking is an antidote to cognitive biases. When we think critically, we recognise our own assumptions, evaluate arguments and draw conclusions. Source

The truth is that conflicts if managed well, are an opportunity to understand better, get to the root causes, introspect, improve and learn. A well-managed conflict often leads to improved clarity, better relationships and win-win situations.  Source

There is a difference between creative thinking and creativity. Creative thinking is the process of ideation (thinking). Creativity is about bringing that idea to life (execution). Source

If communication is defined as a meaningful exchange of information, thoughts and feelings between two living creatures, critical thinking is the engine that provides this meaning. Source

Employers look for employees who reinforce their creativity by showing certain characteristics in the selection process:

  1. Able to look spontaneously beyond the specifics of a question (78 percent).
  2. Respond well to hypothetical scenarios (70 percent).
  3. Able to identify new patterns of behaviour or new combination of actions.
  4. Integrate knowledge across different disciplines.
  5. Show ability to originate new ideas.
  6. Comfortable with the notion of “no right answer”.
  7. Fundamentally curious.
  8. Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work.
  9. Show ability to take risks.
  10. Tolerant of ambiguity.
  11. Show ability to communicate new ideas to others.


Standards should serve as a flexible framework to meet the academic, social, emotional, and vocational needs of diverse learners and NOT a forced march to meet the data-driven demands of standardised tests.

Rather than rating and sorting students according to a common and narrow set of testable academic skills, we should be celebrating and cultivating uncommon talents and divergent thinking in our classrooms.

As Arnold Dodge explains, schools should be honouring and uplifting the creative “characters” in their classrooms…

Many of our schools have become dry, lifeless places. Joy and spirited emotions have been replaced by fear, generated by masters from afar. These remote overseers — politicians, policy-makers, test prep executives — have decided that tests and numbers and drills and worksheets and threats and ultimatums will somehow improve the learning process…

When a student does well on a reading test, the results tell us nothing about how well s/he will use reading as a tool to learn larger topics, nor does it tell us that s/he will be interested in reading at all. What it tells us is that s/he is good at taking a reading test…

With the battle cry “College and Career Ready,” the champions of standardisation are determined to drum out every last bit of creativity, unpredictability, humour, improvisation and genuine emotion from the education process in the name of useful “outcomes.”

The self-righteous and powerful, if they have their way, will eliminate from schools kids who have character — or kids who are characters, for that matter…

But there is another way. If we believe that children are imaginative creatures by nature with vast amounts of talent waiting to be mined, and if we believe that opening children’s minds and hearts to the thrill of learning — without competition and ranking — is a healthy approach to child development, then we are off to a good start…

William Glasser, M.D., studied schools for over 30 years and in his seminal work, The Quality School, he outlines five basic needs that all human beings are born with: survival, love, power, fun and freedom.

How many policymakers today would subscribe to having fun or experiencing freedom as a goal of our educational system?

Just think of the possibilities if they did. Kids actually laughing in school and not being punished for it.

Students feeling strong enough to talk truth to power and not being silenced. Youngsters feeling free to write with creativity and originality without being ridiculed for deviating from state test guidelines.

And that’s before we even get to love.

Think of the characters that would emerge from such an environment.

Comedians, orators, raconteurs, revolutionaries, magicians, clowns, young people with agency and drive, having fun, not afraid to take risks or make mistakes. Not afraid to be children…

Reference: Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking


3 thoughts on “Don’t be a Dupe. Be a Critical and Creative Thinker!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s