17 January 2008

The point of doubt

Back in this post, I wrote:
While McLeroy wants to been seen as a friend to critical thinking, I think what he's really trying to sell is doubt.
Something about how I phrased that bugged me, and I thought it warranted more explanation.

Doubt is absolutely necessary to critical thinking. My comment wasn't an attempt to undermine its importance. You can't accept everything unreservedly. You have to look at evidence carefully, and you need to be willing to doubt conclusions, interpretations, how data were collected, and do on.

But the point of doubt, and of critical thinking generally, is not to live in a continual state of doubt: it's to arrive at a conclusion.

A lot of people who toss around the idea of "critical thinking" are purely in the business of getting people to hold off on making conclusions. Just keep pushing doubt, awaiting more evidence, and the status quo can continue even when strong evidence suggests change is warranted.

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