Critical thinking is not merely a bag of tools for a person to use within an academic course. Nor are critical thinking tools a way of arguing to silence an opponent. Critical thinking is thinking about our thinking in everyday life. The Paul-Elder approach to critical thinking states it like this:
Whenever people reason, they reason for a purpose, in answering a question or given set of questions; they use information, in making inferences and coming to conclusions; they take certain beliefs for granted (make assumptions) in conceptualizing situations and experiences; they reason from some point of view; and there are implications of their thinking.
In problem solving I am given a problem and asked to solve it. Critical thinking is problem solving, but it is more than problem solving. Some issues are too ill-defined or ill-formed to be problems, but they do require critical thought, such as reading an editorial.
I have to ask: why is the editor writing this? What are the sources of his or her information and are they reliable? What are the inferences being made and what conclusions are reached? What is the conceptual framework of his or her argument and the assumptions being made? What is his or her point of view? What are the implications of his point of view?
Now, I think through the editorial, not to build an opposing argument, but to understand what the editor is writing. To respond intelligently to the editor, I must be aware of the concepts, point of view, etc. that I hold. If the editor has a conclusion better than mine about the issue, then I should be open to changing and/or revising my thinking.
On a personal level, I have studied, and continue to study, both science and the Bible. A question arises: how did the universe originate? I might assume there are major conflicts between what I learn from science with what I learn from the Bible. Or I could assume there are no conflicts, or only few conflicts. The point of view, concepts, and assumptions I hold color the conclusions I reach.
I understand the naturalist view of creation just happening by chance and respect it. However, my thinking processes have led me to conclude that there is a God who, over a long period of time, has been creating, and continues to create, the universe, and that the Big Bang theory is currently the best explanation for how God began to create. I have concluded, too, that the naturalist view of creation is basically a philosophical interpretation of scientific data, just as my conclusions are basically a theological interpretation.
In a polarized world, we must do more than simply throw stones at one another or that we must win the debate. No one has complete knowledge and not all ideas are equal. So, part of my critical thinking is to continually look for those answers that are better.