Critical Thinking

Recognizing Your Own Ignorance & Avoiding Sensationalism

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Let’s admit it.
Critical self-reflection is a lost art. And I don’t mean finding faults in your physical appearance while trying to take a selfie. I mean intellectual critical self-reflection. We have no idea how to do this.

Yet, it is probably one of the most important things we can do, as seekers of the truth. We have to be able to look at a situation, idea, or event and say, “wow, yea I really have no idea what’s happening here. Maybe I should wait a frickin second before diving into this with my unjustified opinion!“.

Unfortunately, most people don’t do that. Uninformed people make uninformed decisions and this inspires other uninformed people make additional uninformed opinions that none of them understand. And they all get together and pat each other on the back cuz of how incredibly informed they believe they are.

The problem is worse than just a bunch of ignorant people, however. The effect of this inability to engage in critical self-reflection is compounded when paired with our ever-problematic pride.
I’ve experienced this first hand. As soon as you publicly attach your name to a particular ideology, it is very difficult to reverse that decision. Even when that position is obviously wrong! Because not only would you have to admit that you were wrong about something, but you’d have to re-evaluate how you come to your conclusions. And if that isn’t a punch in the pride, I don’t know what is.

This re-evaluation would FORCE you into being the kind of person who doesn’t immediately have a loud opinion he can shout as soon as something important happens!
And that kind of person is so boring! Waiting to understand a situation is totally lame. How else are we supposed to feign being informed for 27 facebook likes and 17 retweets? We want knee-jerk emotional reactions to all things, right away! And we want to form groups of people who have the exact same knee-jerk, emotional reactions to everything, so that we can be isolated from alternative opinions!

Here’s my solution. Be actively thinking about your own self-reflection. You ought to know yourself better than anyone else, other than possibly your significant other. Or your mom.
I have found that when I am ignorant on a topic and someone presents an opinion that I think is wrong, I immediately feel an anger well up inside of me. I have this unrelenting urge to tear them to pieces, but I have no idea how to do that. And my inability to slap them around makes me even MORE ANGRY!

I was presented with a situation like this a few weeks ago. I forget the topic, but I found myself immediately angry. I stopped myself and thought, “wow, ok. So this anger means that I am ignorant about this topic. Instead of publicly declaring my knee-jerk, emotional opinion on this (that I will likely have to revoke later, with my tail between my legs), I should do a bit of research.”

And I’m glad I did.
Turns out, I was wrong. And had I publicly declared my opinion on it, I would have had to defend the false view in order to maintain my pride.

So, if you’re like me and you find yourself angry at a particular topic, follow these steps:

  1. Ask, “why am I angry?”
  2. Is it because I am ignorant about this topic?
  3. Should I delete what I just wrote, or take back what I just said?
  4. How can I become more informed on this topic?
  5. What does the other person believe about it, and why?

If we all could just chill out for 1/2 a second before launching into an ideological battle about something we haven’t studied at all… the world would be a better place.
Start with yourself.
Today.
Be the change you want to see in the world.