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Okay, want to hear something funny? Funny – sad, not funny – haha. The New York Times has made the argument that critical thinking is bad. Instead of looking at a news items from various perspectives and/or seeking additional sources to validate (or debunk) the information, its far better to trust whatever data you find quickly and proceed from there. Why? Anything else is a waste of time. Here is a direct quote from Charlie Warzel of NYT. His piece: “Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole Critical thinking, as we’re taught to do it, isn’t helping in the fight against misinformation.”
A reporter working on an investigative story or trying to synthesize complex information will have to go deep. But for someone just trying to figure out a basic fact, it’s helpful not to get bogged down. “We’ve been trained to think that Googling or just checking one resource we trust is almost like cheating,” he said. “But when people search Google, the best results may not always be first, but the good information is usually near the top. Often you see a pattern in the links of a consensus that’s been formed. But deeper into the process, it often gets weirder. It’s important to know when to stop.”
He goes on to explain something called the SIFT method which is being taught in the USA and Canada. The essence of the instruction is that it should take no more than 90 seconds to fact check someone. To quote:
The SIFT method and the instructional teaching unit (about six hours of class work) that accompanies it has been picked up by dozens of universities across the country and in some Canadian high schools. What is potentially revolutionary about SIFT is that it focuses on making quick judgments. A SIFT fact check can and should take just 30, 60, 90 seconds to evaluate a piece of content.
The four steps are based on the premise that you often make a better decision with less informationthan you do with more. Also, spending 15 minutes to determine a single fact in order to decipher a tweet or a piece of news coming from a source you’ve never seen before will often leave you more confused than you were before.
I disagree with this line of thinking. If someone is to get to the bottom of a subject, you cannot always take things at face value. For one, all too often news (mainstream news especially) is agenda driven and left leaning. Fox being a notable exception; there news leans conservative, although that’s debatable these days.
So, let’s experiment with this short fact check verification method by doing some quick research on Google News. I look up “how long will be wearing masks?” and I quickly discover that according to Dr. Fauci, we may be wearing them until 2022.
If you want to hear it from him directly, check out the tweet below.
If Fauci says we are “possibly” going to be wearing masks until 2022, my critical thinking has me wondering why; especially when there are credible opposing views? Consider this quote from The Wall Street Journal from the article, “We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April.”
Amid the dire Covid warnings, one crucial fact has been largely ignored: Cases are down 77% over the past six weeks. If a medication slashed cases by 77%, we’d call it a miracle pill. Why is the number of cases plummeting much faster than experts predicted?
In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing. Testing has been capturing only from 10% to 25% of infections, depending on when during the pandemic someone got the virus. Applying a time-weighted case capture average of 1 in 6.5 to the cumulative 28 million confirmed cases would mean about 55% of Americans have natural immunity.
Now add people getting vaccinated. As of this week, 15% of Americans have received the vaccine, and the figure is rising fast. Former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb estimates 250 million doses will have been delivered to some 150 million people by the end of March. There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection.
So, should I simply take what Fauci has to say as gospel because a quick Google search confirms it? Or, should I research further based on what I found in the Wall Street Journal? Hmm… It might take longer than 90 seconds to research further what was said in the WSJ so (according to methods that Charlie Warzell of NYT proposes), I should just go with my Google search results and not waste my time further. Sigh. If you listen carefully, you can literally hear my eyes rolling.
And just in case my sarcasm was unclear, critical thinking is never a waste of time. News, especially mainstream news (or anything I share), is only a starting point. Do your own research and take longer than 90 seconds to do it.
That’s it for now. More rants tomorrow.
Oh, pictured in the header is the great Thomas Sowell. Look him up. He knows how to think.