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COVID-19 & Critical Thinking: Assessing Claims

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Critical thinking can save your life, especially during a pandemic of viruses, disinformation and misinformation. Laying aside all the academic jargon, critical thinking is the rational assessment of a claim in order to determine whether you should accept a claim as true, reject it as false or suspend judgment about the claim. People often forget that they have the option to suspend judgment—in a time of misinformation and disinformation this can sometimes be the best option. Image Credit Suppose that you see a post on Facebook claiming that drinking alcohol will reduce your chances of getting sick, you see a tweet about how gargling with bleach can kill the virus,  or you hear President Trump extoling the virtues of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the virus. How can you rationally assess these claims if you are not a medical expert? Fortunately, critical thinking can help you here, even if you got most of your medical knowledge from watching Grey’s Anatomy. When you get a claim that is worth assessing, the first step is to run it against your own observations and see if it matches them. If it does not, then this is a mark against it. If it does, that is a plus. Take the bleach claim as an example. If you go look at a bottle of bleach you will observe that it has clear safety warnings. While it will probably kill viruses it contacts, the warning label also indicates that it will also hurt you. Hence, the rational assessment of the claim that gargling bleach is a good way to protect yourself against the virus will reveal that this is not true. While your own observations are a good check on claims, they are obviously not infallible—so it is wise to critically consider their reliability. But do not gargle with bleach. The second step, which usually happens automatically, is to test the claim against your background information. Your background information is all the stuff you have learned over the years. When you get a claim worth testing, you. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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