Wisdom – Discernment – Truth – Deceit and Delusion

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By Denis Korn                          

Update June 2016:
I last shared this post in 2014 and it becomes more and more important as significant and troubling events unfold before our very eyes.  In my 47 years of studying prophecies, philosophy and cultural phenomenon, and in my 41 years of being in the emergency preparedness business, I have not experienced such a societal and cultural unraveling and deterioration.  It is essential that we embrace the thoughts and suggestions expressed in this post.  It appears self-evident that our country and society will be tested and subjected to events of great consequence and magnitude.  We must be equipped spiritually, emotionally and physically to prevail during the months ahead.  I implore all those reading this post to earnestly pray and prepare for the critical challenges ahead.  I feel a great chastisement and tribulation is soon to be upon us as a nation.
I yearn that those reading this post will develop the wisdom to discern the truth from opinion, deceit and delusion.
August 2014:

I am sharing once again what has been one of the most read of all my posts – Barriers to Critical Thinking – (See below).  It continues to be even more timely given the issues that we face as a country and as a civilization today.  I re-post and update this article periodically and I continually receive comments on how relevant and important it is for not only students, but for adults.

This is a blog site that primarily focuses on the process of emergency preparedness planning, and it is essential that one develops an effective foundation and skill set for critical evaluation and assessment of facts and circumstances that lead to actions that are effectual, appropriate and beneficial.   My philosophical background can’t help but guide me to the two core aspects of the critical thinking process: freedom and choice.

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our happiness.

— Viktor Frankl, MD, PhD 1905 – 1997  Psychologist, Philosopher, Author and Survivor of 4 Nazi Concentration Camps

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”    

–Viktor Frankl

As an expanded Cherokee Proverb states so well:  

There Is A Battle Of Two Wolves Inside Us All

One is evil.  It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, sorrow, regret, self-pity, guilt, false pride, resentment, lies, inferiority, elitist superiority and ego.

The other is good.  It is joy, peace, serenity, generosity, compassion, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, faith and truth.

The one who wins?  The one you feed.

What we cultivate and nurture will determine our result and experience.  This applies to building a preparedness program and to all aspects of our encounter with life and our perception of reality.  Do we choose freedom and being responsible for our choices and the rewards that follow, or are we going to thoughtlessly and recklessly react without engaging in a critical thinking process?

As an observer of the current events in our society, it is blatantly obvious that those in positions of leadership and influence – government, commerce, media and education – are suffering from “serious delusion and self-interest syndrome.”  The polarization, manipulation and deterioration of our society is so insidious and pervasive that I continue to pray and yearn for our citizens, educators and leaders to embrace and embody the skills of critical thinking, truthful evaluation, selflessness and discernment.  The lying and deception being imposed upon the people by the government, media and the self-serving has reached epidemic proportions – so many folks are reacting not thinking – fear, selfishness and confusion has robed our populace of the basic fundamentals of thoughtful reasoning.

“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”

— H. L. Mencken

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” 

— George Orwell

Has decades of incompetent, agenda driven and indoctrinating education finally taken its toll on common sense and judicious thinking?

The following list of the barriers to critical thinking, common sense and rational judgment is overwhelming and intimidating to many – so in your quest to be a skilled thinker you are encouraged to overcome obstacles that will appear in your path.  Be dedicated, competent and persistent – and be willing to help others to be successful and effective thinkers.

Here are the Seven Essential Questions that must be reflected upon and honestly answered to begin the process of developing critical thinking skills:

  1. What is the truth?  Can you differentiate the difference between truth and opinion? (hint: truth is discovered – it is what is — opinion is created by people – it is opinion that is relative not truth)
  2. Who do you trust? Why?
  3. From where do you obtain the information that forms your worldview?  Why?
  4. Can you discern the truth from the lie – the real from the false?  How do you discern? – Try logic, reason, rational evaluation, reliable intuition, common sense, anecdotal evidence, nonjudgmental observation and selfless reflection.
  5. Can you recognize “what really is” from what you believe “ought to be?” – It has been said that strife and discord in life arise from the struggle between “what is” and “what ought to be.”  What do you do when you discover this conflict? 
  6. Can you formulate conclusions and judgments based upon the ability to access, evaluate and determine the relevancy and reliability of facts and evidence?
  7. Which barriers are the most prevalent in your critical thinking process, and which ones do you experience most prevalent in others?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

June 2011

I have decided to post this article on the barriers to critical thinking, which I use in teaching, as the 3rd in a series of posts dealing with the psychological, emotional and spiritual components of emergency and disaster preparedness planning.

Normalcy Bias – Why People are attached to Inaction

The Emotional and Spiritual Components of Preparedness

As I have stated before, there is more to preparing for emergencies than the physical “stuff” you surround yourself with.  Evaluating, understanding and acknowledging all aspects of the planning process is essential for a proper and complete preparedness program.

This article, which I wrote, was an important part of the college course I taught on Critical Thinking – a class I believe to be an essential part of a college experience.  I have not changed it for this post – this is what the students read, reflected upon and discussed in class.  Most struggle with its implications and accuracy.  It not only applies to preparedness planning – but to all aspects of human deliberation.

BARRIERS TO CRITICAL THINKING – from my college course on Critical Thinking

Your responsibility as a critical thinker is to be aware of the barriers, acknowledge the challenges they present, and overcome them to the best of your ability.

“If critical thinking is so important, why is it that uncritical thinking is so common?  Why is it that so many people – including many highly educated and intelligent people – find critical thinking so difficult?”[1] And I [Denis] might add – impossible!

Discovering the answers to these questions is crucial to the understanding of what is required to be a true critical thinker, and the reasons you will encounter from those who resist embodying critical thinking skills are often quite complex, and can be both subtle and blatant.  The following list of barriers to critical thinking will help guide you to recognizing the challenges that await you and was compiled from Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction, our text Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking, and personal observation.

  • pride
  • greed
  • egocentrism (self-centered thinking)
  • sociocentrism or ethnocentrism (group/society/cultural-centered thinking)
  • an over-reliance on feelings
  • self-deception
  • the erroneous belief of personal infallible intuition
  • unconscious reaction
  • reacting in self-defense – fear of personal attack – believing one’s ideas and beliefs are an extension of one’s self and must be defended at all costs
  • fear of change or an unwillingness to change
  • a pathological inability to evaluate, recognize, or accept an idea or point of view that differs from one’s own
  • a less than honorable agenda
  • lack of relevant background information or ignorance
  • inappropriate bias
  • prejudice
  • unwarranted assumptions
  • overpowering or addictive emotions
  • fear of being wrong or face-saving
  • selective perception and selective memory
  • peer pressure
  • conformism (mindless conformity)
  • indoctrination initiated by uncritical thinkers with malicious and selfish intent
  • provincialism (restricted and unsophisticated thinking)
  • narrow-mindedness or close-mindedness
  • lack of discernment
  • distrust in reason
  • relativism (relativistic thinking)
  • absolutism (there are no exceptions)
  • stereotyping
  • scapegoating (blaming others)
  • denial
  • wishful thinking
  • short-term thinking
  • political correctness
  • superstition
  • being influenced by drugs
  • excessive anger, hate, or bitterness
  • disturbing one’s comfort
  • lack of personal honesty
  • apathy
  • poor reading and comprehension skills
  • poor or dysfunctional communication skills
  • excessive addiction
  • a mental disorder
  • cognitive dissonance (psychological conflict resulting from incompatible beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously)
  • lack of humility
  • the effects of radiation and man-made atmospheric chemicals
  • debilitating fear and uncertainty
  • reliance on main stream television, newspapers and other media for information
  • the effects of television and electronic media on memory, cognition and brain function

In general – the older one becomes the more well-established and rooted these barriers are in the thought process, and the harder it is to overcome them – they become part of you like a scar.  It is suggested to triumph over them as soon as possible.

Questions for reflection:

– What is the purpose and value in gaining critical thinking skills?  – Is it really necessary?

– What are the rewards?  – What are the challenges?

– Am I willing to do what it takes?  – How important is it for me?  – Can I do it?

– Do I realize that demonstrating, sharing, and embodying wisdom and discernment requires exemplifying critical thinking skills and overcoming its barriers?  –  Are all these barriers overwhelming?

– Do I realize this is a lifelong process?  – What is the difference between intelligence and wisdom?

– What are the steps required for developing critical thinking skills?

– How do I communicate with others who are not critical thinkers and have embodied these barriers to such an extent that they are unwilling to engage in a meaningful dialogue or acknowledge any responsibility in the communication breakdown?  – Or do I bother at all?

– How am I to react or respond when I experience a lack of critical thinking in the media, among friends and family, at the work place, and in my academic courses and studies?

While many think developing critical thinking skills are for the beginning philosophy student, they are in fact vital for everyone.  Recognizing and overcoming the barriers to critical thinking listed above is essential in creating and maintaining genuine, honest, and nurturing relationships – developing leadership skills for both family and vocational choices – fulfilling the goals and missions of businesses and organizations – and discovering and achieving purpose and fulfillment in all aspects of one’s life.  Many of the barriers to critical thinking are barriers to joyfulness, selflessness, and contentment.

Do not be discouraged by the enormity of the task of reflecting upon, acknowledging, and overcoming these barriers.  Have confidence that you will recognize the hold these barriers have on your thought process, and I encourage you to be committed to achieving the obtainable rewards awaiting you when you have accomplished the goal of prevailing over these barriers one by one.

A common denominator of these barriers is that the individual has no control over their effects.  They are held captive by defective responses and impressions.   One “reacts” to a situation, idea, or challenge, whereas the critical thinker “chooses” the process of thoughtful evaluation – embracing – and embodiment.  The critical thinker has the freedom to rightly assess circumstances and concepts, and the result is to arrive at an appropriate and insightful conclusion and reasonable outcome.

Evaluating and embracing an idea, information, knowledge, guideline, doctrine or theology is a mental exercise and is just the beginning of the process – embodiment is the goal and requires diligent and persistent action for true fulfillment and success.

In the pursuit of the embodiment of critical thinking skills always be mindful of the value and necessity of honesty, wisdom, discernment, and the need to distinguish the truth from the lie.  We live in an unprecedented time of media, institutional, educational, and political self-interest that will not hesitate to use any means possible to achieve its objectives including deceptive indoctrination techniques, propaganda, deceitfulness, fallacious argumentation, and fraud.

Life is like riding a bicycle.

To keep your balance you must keep moving.

Albert Einstein, in a letter to his son Eduard, February 5, 1930

The Problem of Egocentric Thinking[2]

Egocentric thinking results from the unfortunate fact that humans do not naturally consider the rights and needs of others.  We do not naturally appreciate the point of view of others nor the limitations in our own point of view.  We become explicitly aware or our egocentric thinking only if trained to do so.  We do not naturally recognize our egocentric assumptions, the egocentric way we use information, the egocentric way we interpret data, the source of our egocentric concepts and ideas, the implications of our egocentric thought.  We do not naturally recognize our self-serving perspective.

As humans we live with the unrealistic but confident sense that we have fundamentally figured out the way things actually are, and that we have done this objectively.  We naturally believe in our intuitive perceptions – however inaccurate [Denis – I personally believe that intuitive perceptions are vital to critical thinking – providing one possesses the required discernment skills].  Instead of using intellectual standards in thinking, we often use self-centered psychological standards to determine what to believe and what to reject.  Here are the most commonly used psychological standards in human thinking.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT.”  Innate egocentrism: I assume that what I believe is true even though I have never questioned the basis for many of my beliefs.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IT.”  Innate sociocentrism: I assume that the dominant beliefs of the groups to which I belong are true even though I have never questioned the basis for those beliefs.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I WANT TO BELIEVE IT.”  Innate wish fulfillment: I belief in whatever puts me (or the groups to which I belong) in a positive light.  I believe what “feels good,” what does not require me to change my thinking in any significant way, what does not require me to admit I have been wrong.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED IT.”  Innate self-validation: I have a strong desire to maintain beliefs I have long held, even though I have not seriously considered the extent to which those beliefs are justified by the evidence.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE IT IS IN MY SELFISH INTEREST TO BELIEVE IT.”  Innate selfishness: I believe whatever justifies my getting more power, money, or personal advantage even though those beliefs are not grounded in sound reasoning or evidence.

Seriously reflect on this post!

Seriously reflect on this post!


[1] Gregory Bassham, Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction, 3rded., (New York, McGraw-Hill, 2008), p. 11

[2] Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder

The post Wisdom – Discernment – Truth – Deceit and Delusion appeared first on Learn To Prepare – Expert Emergency Preparedness Information.

12 Crucial Questions of Preparedness Planning

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By Denis Korn                                                12-questions

Of the 15 Foundational Articles on the right hand column of this blog, I believe this to be the primary foundational article required for effective and thorough preparedness planning. 

It is featured this month for those who may not be familiar with these essential questions, or who need to be reminded of the substance and basis of effective preparedness planning.

These 12 crucial questions of preparedness planning are a result of an ongoing expansion and modification of questions given in The Essential Emergency Planning Guide for Food and Water.  They apply to any preparedness planning scenario you believe to be appropriate.  Answer them carefully – your safety, health (emotional and physical), peace of mind, and comfort depend on it.

Preparedness planning is fundamentally built on two principles – (1) developing a philosophical or personal worldview while evaluating and assessing the current state of affairs – (2) then developing a specific plan of action based upon your reflective conclusions, needs, and the physical conditions that you anticipate can occur.

Thank you for having made a wise and sound decision to take responsibility for you and your family to be prepared in the event of unforeseen circumstances.  A proper attitude during the preparedness planning process is essential, and it is made more effective by exercising competent critical thinking skills. Reacting from a position of fear or confusion can be an obstacle to efficient planning.  Please remember, when it comes to seeking reliable information and essential provisions for nourishment, health, and safety – ask: Who do you trust? and Why?

As you evaluate your answers to the following crucial questions and the circumstances for which you are preparing, there is another underlying issue to consider when considering provisions – cost verses quality.  Are the equipment and supplies necessary to fulfill your needs going to be based on how cheap they are , or on the quality, value, and reliability of the product?  What are the repercussions or benefits from the choices that are made?  Who is affected?  What chances are you willing to take with inferior and inadequate provisions?  Answer these questions carefully – your safety, health (emotional and physical), peace of mind and comfort depend on it.

Food issues and questions are of special importance to me personally – since I have been providing, developing, and promoting quality food reserves for over 40 years.  When purchasing food provisions, especially pre-configured assortments, it is essential to know exactly the quantity of food you are getting for the price you are paying.  “X” amount of servings, or “X month’s supply” doesn’t give you the accurate information you need for proper planning.  You need to know the answer to these questions: What is the basis for the manufacturer’s claims?  What is the nutritional value, quantity, and quality of food and the caloric value of each serving?  “X” months gives me how many calories per day, and of what quality and nutritional value are the foods?  Beware of companies claiming “freeze-dried” with little to no freeze-dried ingredients used in meal formulations.  The most obvious RED FLAG are claims of a 25 year shelf life for foods packed in pouches.  This is a suspicious marketing deception and companies advertising these excessive shelf life pouched foods are to be considered highly questionable.

It always has been and always will be the policy of Learn To Prepare and PrepareDirect to provide products, information, perspectives, insights, and recommendations for action with an attitude of helpfulness and respect for an individual’s choice based on evaluation and thoughtful judgment.  Be conscientious and diligent in your planning, and demand truthfulness and accuracy from your suppliers.  You evaluate – you choose – you own your decisions.  If you need help, contact us at PrepareDirect/Learn To Prepare.

The Questions

  1. What are the circumstances or scenarios you have determined may exist that will require you to rely upon your preparedness supplies? (This is not only the most important and first question to answer, it is often the question most overlooked, or not considered critically enough).  What will be the severity and impact of those circumstances on your life?  Given your potential scenarios, how thoroughly have you researched the available options for food, water, medical, shelter, hygiene, and other categories of critical supplies?  Are you prepared for emergencies during all seasons of the year?  Is your family more susceptible to certain emergencies?  How would your scenarios impact you or your family’s daily routine?  Work or livelihood?  How will you protect yourself and family against those who might do you harm?  The grid is essential to most homes and businesses – if it is down, how long could you function?  What would society look like without the grid, and a prolonged cessation of the availability of vital goods and services?  Do you have back up power?
  2. How long will your emergency scenario last, and what is the duration of time for which you will be preparing? This is another critical question, and while it is difficult to envision the difficult details that might occur, the adequacy of your preparedness planning and supplies is directly tied to honestly answering this question.  Needless to say, the longer the duration of the emergency the more effect it will have on multiple aspects of one’s daily routine and lifestyle, and the need to be focused on the diversity of situations that will surround you.
  3. What attitude are you willing to embody and express during the uncertainty and stress of the emergency scenarios you have determined may exist?  An appropriate attitude is essential to survival and effective functioning during a serious emergency or disaster. Your emotional and spiritual viewpoint is the foundational component of any emergency circumstance. The longer the emergency the greater degree of stress, which will affect your well-being. Do you believe it is essential for you and your family to incorporate the proper emotional and spiritual attitude in your preparedness planning? Do you have a biblical worldview regarding trials and tribulations?  Who do you ultimately rely on for comfort, strength and hope?  Where is your faith?
  4. What preparedness knowledge do you personally have that is important in providing specific information and instructions needed during the emergency or emergencies for which you are preparing? How about the knowledge of family or friends?  What informational resources and references – books and other tangible items – do you personally have or have access to?
  5. During an emergency what facilities, stores, resources, supplies, and assistance is available in your area apart from family and friends? This includes not only information and education, but also essentials such as food, water, shelter, energy, communication, and medical supplies.  What utilities in your area are vulnerable to disruption or elimination?  What will you do to compensate for the loss of electricity, water, gas, or phone service?
  6. Are you dependent upon someone or something else to get you through and supply your needs during the emergency scenarios you presume will occur? Are your neighbors or friends stocking up on enough supplies for you also?  Do you honestly believe some level of government will be there to assist and resolve the situation?  Do you have a community support network available?  What skills and knowledge do you possess that you can contribute?  How many people are you planning to provide with emergency provisions? Extended family?  Friends?  Church members?  Community?
  7. Do you have a list of essential supplies you believe will be necessary to have on hand during your estimated emergency? Is it prioritized?  Do you have a list of the essential categories your supplies fall under? What do you have on hand now?  Are you actively storing provisions?  If not – why not?
  8. Do you have an understanding of the financial implications of your projected emergency scenarios? This includes the costs of preparation, other financial obligations that might occur during and after the emergency, and understanding the choices needing to be made to adequately be prepared.  For most folks it will be necessary to honestly assess the personal and family financial priorities in the preparedness process.  Do you keep enough cash or items for barter on hand for unforeseen emergencies?  Do you have back up hard copies of essential financial documents?
  9. What are the special needs of yourself, family, or others you care for that might arise during the scenarios you find likely? This especially includes medical issues, nutritional requirements, and physical and emotional limitations.  What psychological, social, medical, or unique factors could potentially arise from a long-term (6 months or more) catastrophic event?  Also consider your personal, family, work, and community needs for timely communication during an emergency.  Are any pets involved in your planning?  Have you had a family, company, or group meeting to directly and honestly discuss what actions are to be implemented during an emergency of the type you determined might occur?  For many individuals and families the religious or spiritual factor in preparedness planning and implementation – especially during a serious or catastrophic event – is the most important.  If this applies to you, make sure all family members and friends are in prayer.
  10. In your expected emergency scenarios will you be stationary and remain where you are, or is it possible you will have to be mobile and relocate? This could include different responses depending on your predictions of the duration and severity of the emergency.  Are you aware of all the implications and planning required depending upon your answer to this question?  This is another one those very difficult questions to fully comprehend, because not only can there be many perspectives to consider, being prepared to be mobile and leave an established residence or homestead requires a whole different set of planning points.  If you had to evacuate or relocate right now, where would you go?  With prior planning where would you prefer to go?  Do you have a bug-out or grab-and-go bag/device?  Do you think you need one?  If you do have one, is it adequately supplied with essential provisions?  Do you know how to use the items it contains?  If you have to carry it – can you?
  11. What means of communication do you have available to you during an emergency and with whom do you need to communicate? This includes both two-way communication with others, including family, friends and associates, and one-way communication from radio stations, emergency broadcasts, or individuals via short wave.  Do you have a cell phone?  Will towers be functioning?  Land lines?  Internet?  Hand held walkie-talkies?  Satellite phone?  Short wave radios?  Citizens band radios?  Emergency and/or ham radios with two-way communication capability?  During a serious emergency accurate information and updates are essential for survival.  What if an EMP (electro-magnetic-pulse) from a solar flare or nuclear device renders all unprotected electronics useless?  How will this effect communication equipment you are relying upon?
  12. In your expected emergency scenarios what transportation options will be necessary and available? Needing to be mobile requires serious planning and so does remaining in place if your anticipated scenario lasts for a long duration and you need to travel within your area.  What vehicles are available?  What fuels do they need to operate?  What do you have on hand?  If you must relocate, how much space and weight is needed to transport your supplies?  Do you have a bicycle?  Small solar or gas scooter?  Adequate foot gear?  A horse?  What if the emergency is in the winter – a harsh winter?  What if an EMP (electro-magnetic-pulse) from a solar flare or nuclear device renders all unprotected electronics useless?  How will this effect vehicles you are relying upon?

Proper preparedness planning requires a serious commitment – your life or health and the life and health of your family may depend upon it!

The post 12 Crucial Questions of Preparedness Planning appeared first on Learn To Prepare – Expert Emergency Preparedness Information.

Barriers to Critical Thinking & The 7 Essential Questions for Reflection

Click here to view the original post.

By Denis Korn                          

I am sharing once again what has been one of the most read of all my posts – Barriers to Critical Thinking.  It continues to be even more timely given the issues that we face as a country and as a civilization today.  I re-post and update this article periodically and I continually receive comments on how relevant and important it is for not only students, but for adults.

This is a blog site that primarily focuses on the process of emergency preparedness planning, and it is essential that one develops an effective foundation and skill set for critical evaluation and assessment of facts and circumstances that lead to actions that are effectual, appropriate and beneficial.   My philosophical background can’t help but guide me to the two core aspects of the critical thinking process: freedom and choice.

Between stimulus and response, there is a space.

In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our happiness.

— Viktor Frankl, MD, PhD 1905 – 1997  Psychologist, Philosopher, Author and Survivor of 4 Nazi Concentration Camps

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”    

–Viktor Frankl

As an expanded Cherokee Proverb states so well:  

There Is A Battle Of Two Wolves Inside Us All

One is evil.  It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, sorrow, regret, self-pity, guilt, false pride, resentment, lies, inferiority, elitist superiority and ego.

The other is good.  It is joy, peace, serenity, generosity, compassion, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, faith and truth.

The one who wins?  The one you feed.

What we cultivate and nurture will determine our result and experience.  This applies to building a preparedness program and to all aspects of our encounter with life and our perception of reality.  Do we choose freedom and being responsible for our choices and the rewards that follow, or are we going to thoughtlessly and recklessly react without engaging in a critical thinking process?

As an observer of the current events in our society, it is blatantly obvious that those in positions of leadership and influence – government, commerce, media and education – are suffering from “serious delusion and self-interest syndrome.”  The polarization, manipulation and deterioration of our society is so insidious and pervasive that I continue to pray and yearn for our citizens, educators and leaders to embrace and embody the skills of critical thinking, truthful evaluation, selflessness and discernment.  The lying and deception being imposed upon the people by the government, media and the self-serving has reached epidemic proportions – so many folks are reacting not thinking – fear, selfishness and confusion has robed our populace of the basic fundamentals of thoughtful reasoning.

“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable.”

— H. L. Mencken

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” 

— George Orwell

Has decades of incompetent, agenda driven and indoctrinating education finally taken its toll on common sense and judicious thinking?

The following list of the barriers to critical thinking, common sense and rational judgment is overwhelming and intimidating to many – so in your quest to be a skilled thinker you are encouraged to overcome obstacles that will appear in your path.  Be dedicated, competent and persistent – and be willing to help others to be successful and effective thinkers.

Here are the Seven Essential Questions that must be reflected upon and honestly answered to begin the process of developing critical thinking skills:

  1. What is the truth?  Can you differentiate the difference between truth and opinion? (hint: truth is discovered – it is what is — opinion is created by people – it is opinion that is relative not truth)
  2. Who do you trust? Why?
  3. From where do you obtain the information that forms your worldview?  Why?
  4. Can you discern the truth from the lie – the real from the false?  How do you discern? – Try logic, reason, rational evaluation, reliable intuition, common sense, anecdotal evidence, nonjudgmental observation and selfless reflection.
  5. Can you recognize “what really is” from what you believe “ought to be?” – It has been said that strife and discord in life arise from the struggle between “what is” and “what ought to be.”  What do you do when you discover this conflict? 
  6. Can you formulate conclusions and judgments based upon the ability to access, evaluate and determine the relevancy and reliability of facts and evidence?
  7. Which barriers are the most prevalent in your critical thinking process, and which ones do you experience most prevalent in others?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

June 2011

I have decided to post this article on the barriers to critical thinking, which I use in teaching, as the 3rd in a series of posts dealing with the psychological, emotional and spiritual components of emergency and disaster preparedness planning.

Normalcy Bias – Why People are attached to Inaction

The Emotional and Spiritual Components of Preparedness

As I have stated before, there is more to preparing for emergencies than the physical “stuff” you surround yourself with.  Evaluating, understanding and acknowledging all aspects of the planning process is essential for a proper and complete preparedness program.

This article, which I wrote, was an important part of the college course I taught on Critical Thinking – a class I believe to be an essential part of a college experience.  I have not changed it for this post – this is what the students read, reflected upon and discussed in class.  Most struggle with its implications and accuracy.  It not only applies to preparedness planning – but to all aspects of human deliberation.

BARRIERS TO CRITICAL THINKING – from my college course on Critical Thinking

Your responsibility as a critical thinker is to be aware of the barriers, acknowledge the challenges they present, and overcome them to the best of your ability.

“If critical thinking is so important, why is it that uncritical thinking is so common?  Why is it that so many people – including many highly educated and intelligent people – find critical thinking so difficult?”[1] And I [Denis] might add – impossible!

Discovering the answers to these questions is crucial to the understanding of what is required to be a true critical thinker, and the reasons you will encounter from those who resist embodying critical thinking skills are often quite complex, and can be both subtle and blatant.  The following list of barriers to critical thinking will help guide you to recognizing the challenges that await you and was compiled from Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction, our text Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking, and personal observation.

  • pride
  • greed
  • egocentrism (self-centered thinking)
  • sociocentrism or ethnocentrism (group/society/cultural-centered thinking)
  • an over-reliance on feelings
  • self-deception
  • the erroneous belief of personal infallible intuition
  • unconscious reaction
  • reacting in self-defense – fear of personal attack – believing one’s ideas and beliefs are an extension of one’s self and must be defended at all costs
  • fear of change or an unwillingness to change
  • a pathological inability to evaluate, recognize, or accept an idea or point of view that differs from one’s own
  • a less than honorable agenda
  • lack of relevant background information or ignorance
  • inappropriate bias
  • prejudice
  • unwarranted assumptions
  • overpowering or addictive emotions
  • fear of being wrong or face-saving
  • selective perception and selective memory
  • peer pressure
  • conformism (mindless conformity)
  • indoctrination initiated by uncritical thinkers with malicious and selfish intent
  • provincialism (restricted and unsophisticated thinking)
  • narrow-mindedness or close-mindedness
  • lack of discernment
  • distrust in reason
  • relativism (relativistic thinking)
  • absolutism (there are no exceptions)
  • stereotyping
  • scapegoating (blaming others)
  • denial
  • wishful thinking
  • short-term thinking
  • political correctness
  • superstition
  • being influenced by drugs
  • excessive anger, hate, or bitterness
  • disturbing one’s comfort
  • lack of personal honesty
  • apathy
  • poor reading and comprehension skills
  • poor or dysfunctional communication skills
  • excessive addiction
  • a mental disorder
  • cognitive dissonance (psychological conflict resulting from incompatible beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously)
  • lack of humility
  • the effects of radiation and man-made atmospheric chemicals
  • debilitating fear and uncertainty
  • reliance on main stream television, newspapers and other media for information
  • the effects of television and electronic media on memory, cognition and brain function

In general – the older one becomes the more well-established and rooted these barriers are in the thought process, and the harder it is to overcome them – they become part of you like a scar.  It is suggested to triumph over them as soon as possible.

Questions for reflection:

 

– What is the purpose and value in gaining critical thinking skills?  – Is it really necessary?

– What are the rewards?  – What are the challenges?

– Am I willing to do what it takes?  – How important is it for me?  – Can I do it?

– Do I realize that demonstrating, sharing, and embodying wisdom and discernment requires exemplifying critical thinking skills and overcoming its barriers?  –  Are all these barriers overwhelming?

– Do I realize this is a lifelong process?  – What is the difference between intelligence and wisdom?

– What are the steps required for developing critical thinking skills?

– How do I communicate with others who are not critical thinkers and have embodied these barriers to such an extent that they are unwilling to engage in a meaningful dialogue or acknowledge any responsibility in the communication breakdown?  – Or do I bother at all?

– How am I to react or respond when I experience a lack of critical thinking in the media, among friends and family, at the work place, and in my academic courses and studies?

While many think developing critical thinking skills are for the beginning philosophy student, they are in fact vital for everyone.  Recognizing and overcoming the barriers to critical thinking listed above is essential in creating and maintaining genuine, honest, and nurturing relationships – developing leadership skills for both family and vocational choices – fulfilling the goals and missions of businesses and organizations – and discovering and achieving purpose and fulfillment in all aspects of one’s life.  Many of the barriers to critical thinking are barriers to joyfulness, selflessness, and contentment.

Do not be discouraged by the enormity of the task of reflecting upon, acknowledging, and overcoming these barriers.  Have confidence that you will recognize the hold these barriers have on your thought process, and I encourage you to be committed to achieving the obtainable rewards awaiting you when you have accomplished the goal of prevailing over these barriers one by one.

A common denominator of these barriers is that the individual has no control over their effects.  They are held captive by defective responses and impressions.   One “reacts” to a situation, idea, or challenge, whereas the critical thinker “chooses” the process of thoughtful evaluation – embracing – and embodiment.  The critical thinker has the freedom to rightly assess circumstances and concepts, and the result is to arrive at an appropriate and insightful conclusion and reasonable outcome.

Evaluating and embracing an idea, information, knowledge, guideline, doctrine or theology is a mental exercise and is the just the beginning of the process – embodiment is the goal and requires diligent and persistent action for true fulfillment and success.

In the pursuit of the embodiment of critical thinking skills always be mindful of the value and necessity of honesty, wisdom, discernment, and the need to distinguish the truth from the lie.  We live in an unprecedented time of media, institutional, educational, and political self-interest that will not hesitate to use any means possible to achieve its objectives including deceptive indoctrination techniques, propaganda, deceitfulness, fallacious argumentation, and fraud.

Life is like riding a bicycle.

To keep your balance you must keep moving.

Albert Einstein, in a letter to his son Eduard, February 5, 1930

The Problem of Egocentric Thinking[2]

Egocentric thinking results from the unfortunate fact that humans do not naturally consider the rights and needs of others.  We do not naturally appreciate the point of view of others nor the limitations in our own point of view.  We become explicitly aware or our egocentric thinking only if trained to do so.  We do not naturally recognize our egocentric assumptions, the egocentric way we use information, the egocentric way we interpret data, the source of our egocentric concepts and ideas, the implications of our egocentric thought.  We do not naturally recognize our self-serving perspective.

As humans we live with the unrealistic but confident sense that we have fundamentally figured out the way things actually are, and that we have done this objectively.  We naturally believe in our intuitive perceptions – however inaccurate [Denis – I personally believe that intuitive perceptions are vital to critical thinking – providing one possesses the required discernment skills].  Instead of using intellectual standards in thinking, we often use self-centered psychological standards to determine what to believe and what to reject.  Here are the most commonly used psychological standards in human thinking.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT.”  Innate egocentrism: I assume that what I believe is true even though I have never questioned the basis for many of my beliefs.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IT.”  Innate sociocentrism: I assume that the dominant beliefs of the groups to which I belong are true even though I have never questioned the basis for those beliefs.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I WANT TO BELIEVE IT.”  Innate wish fulfillment: I belief in whatever puts me (or the groups to which I belong) in a positive light.  I believe what “feels good,” what does not require me to change my thinking in any significant way, what does not require me to admit I have been wrong.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED IT.”  Innate self-validation: I have a strong desire to maintain beliefs I have long held, even though I have not seriously considered the extent to which those beliefs are justified by the evidence.

“IT’S TRUE BECAUSE IT IS IN MY SELFISH INTEREST TO BELIEVE IT.”  Innate selfishness: I believe whatever justifies my getting more power, money, or personal advantage even though those beliefs are not grounded in sound reasoning or evidence.

Seriously reflect on this post!

Seriously reflect on this post!


[1] Gregory Bassham, Critical Thinking: A Student’s Introduction, 3rded., (New York, McGraw-Hill, 2008), p. 11

[2] Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder

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