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Asking the Right Questions: Chapter 1

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1 Asking the Right Questions: Chapter 1
Dr. Alan Haffa

2 Sorting out Opinions and Facts
How do you find out the Truth about something? Consult Experts? But how do you know who is an expert? And what if the experts disagree? “You need to build skills and attitudes that will enable you to decide for yourself which opinions to make your own (1).”

3 Method: Asking Questions
Asking questions as we read and listen But what kinds of questions? How do we evaluate the answers to the questions to discover the most reasonable position?

4 Learning like a Sponge Suck up information like a sponge absorbs water
Requires concentration and memory Good for learning a large set of established facts Good when you can be absolutely certain of the source of information Good where there is agreement among experts

5 Limits of Sponge Learning
No method for deciding which information and opinions to believe Information overload Would lead to believing whatever you heard or read last

6 Panning for Gold Method
Separate the gold from the gravel Empowers you to form your own judgments Interactive: you engage with the text or lecture in active way by asking questions

7 Mental Check: Basic Questions
WHY does someone want me to believe something? Did I take notes? Did I evaluate? Did I form my own conclusion about the topic based on what seemed most reasonable?

8 Contrast Panning for Gold vs. Sponge
Reads sentences carefully, trying to remember as much as possible Underlines or highlights key words or sentences Checks notes to be sure he didn’t miss anything important Memorizes facts, but doesn’t evaluate Reads carefully also, but goes beyond basic comprehension Asks key questions as he or she reads Considers authorial background and motive Looks for omissions Evaluates logic of arguments Evaluates the scope of claims and their support

9 Consider Argument for Banning Guns (4)
Read text (p. 4-5) Circle words that appear judgmental or loosely defined Put a question mark in margin if an argument is not clear Write “Source ?” in margin if an unsupported claim is made Write “Fallacy” in margin if there appears to be something wrong or uncertain in the logic of an argument Circle words that imply the writer is fudging their claim—usually this is an adjective or adverb that is vague. At the end, ask yourself what the core points of support for the argument are.

10 Questions for Evaluating
What words are ambiguous or confusing? How adequate were the cited research studies? Were the samples large enough, random, and diverse? Was anything omitted that might have helped the opposing viewpoint? Were there any logical fallacies in the reasoning? Does the writer’s tone appear balanced and neutral or do they appear to have an ideological bias?

11 Myth of “Right Answer” Scientific World: Physical science and mathematics Social Sciences and Humanities are more ambiguous Human behavior and morals are so complex and difficult to study that finding a single “right” answer isn’t always possible Seek a “Reasonable” answer Result of a thoughtful evaluation of facts and arguments from multiple points of view

12 Weak-Sense and Strong-Sense
“Weak-sense critical thinking is the use of critical thinking to DEFEND your current beliefs. Strong-sense critical thinking is the use of the same skills to evaluate all claims and beliefs, ESPECIALLY YOUR OWN.” (8) “Strong-sense critical thinking requires us to apply the critical questions to all claims, including our own. By forcing ourselves to look critically at our initial beliefs, we help protect against self-deception and conformity.” (8)

13 The Value of Strong-Sense
“He who knows only his side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may have been good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side he has no ground for preferring either opinion.” (9) John Stuart Mill

14 The Right Questions (10) What are the issues and conclusions?
What are the reasons? Which words or phrases are ambiguous? What are the value and descriptive assumptions? Are there any fallacies in the reasoning? How good is the evidence? Are there rival causes? Are the statistics deceptive? What significant information is omitted? What reasonable conclusions are possible?

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