Why learn to think critically? Because the world is a much more complex place than it was even ten or twenty years ago. The rise of technology has given rise to the need for individuals to work harder to search for the truth. This is because we are bombarded with a wide diversity of opinion on most every issue we face as humans and as citizens. Let’s examine a few of these controversial issues so that we can get a sense of the value of being able to think critically about them:
Our Global Environment
Does human-generated activity influence the climate on our planet? Does the pollution put out by our factories and automobiles here on Earth damage our atmosphere to the degree that this damage will eventually cause mass flooding and devastating weather incidents?
Many scientists believe that the human race will eventually destroy itself if we continue to use carbon-based fuels such as oil and coal, and yet many others are of the belief that the earth’s atmosphere is so complex and influenced by so many variables that there is nothing man can do to damage it. Both sides have examined climactic and atmospheric data over the course of the years. The controversy exists because both sides interpret the data differently. In other words, even though they are viewing essentially the same information, both sides are making assumptions about that data, and drawing conclusions and formulating implications based upon that data, that are very different.
Consequently, we as consumers of mass media and news are presented both sides of the argument and are then expected to make important decisions about what, if anything, should be done about this concept of global warming. Generally speaking, liberal politicians in the United States support the belief that global warming is something that should be addressed now, as opposed to later.
In fact, in 2006, former presidential candidate Al Gore produced and narrated a movie called “An Inconvenient Truth,” in which he purported the effects of global warming and advocated for immediate plans and action in order to reduce the threat. On the other side of the argument, represented by mostly conservatives in the U.S. and elsewhere, there is a strong belief that while climate may be in a state of change during the last ten or twenty years, it is a natural change, one of many that have occurred since the beginning of time. Adherents of this argument are of the belief that man has no control over climactic changes and money spent on the effort to reduce greenhouse gases is money wasted.
To most people, this argument may not seem important, but decisions regarding the concept of global warming have the potential to affect all of us. People who have worked in coal mines and in oil refineries are affected because if efforts to seek alternative energy sources are ramped up, their jobs could be affected. Already, many coal miners have been put out of work in the U.S. as the popularity of cleaner energy sources, such as natural gas, solar power, and wind power, have been developed and put into operation. As coal mines have closed in parts of the United States, people move away from those areas, and those trends mean that other industries that support that area will suffer as well.
As a critical thinker, your mission is to examine the information available to you regarding global warming, if in fact you view this as a potentially critical issue. There are essentially two ways to do this: one is to get the data from those who have studied it and interpreted it, and the other is to find the raw data and interpret it for yourself. Which of these methods do you think would be easier? Which method do you think would allow you to develop a more accurate picture of the problem, or lack thereof?