Most of us have heard someone complaining, “There’s a lack of critical thinking here.” But what do they usually really mean?          

If we stop for a moment, perhaps we will realize that it often means, “I disagree with your conclusion.” But does that mean that the thought processes used were inadequate?

Critical thinking is poorly defined, and there is no generally agreed-on definition. But one thing that many people confuse it with is logic.

In a way, logic is the opposite of critical thinking. Let’s be clear: In one way, logic is the opposite of critical thinking. Obviously, they are both tools that may be used to evaluate information and data. Logic always starts by assuming that the initial facts are correct, while a, if not the, major point of critical thinking (in the way I will define it soon) is to evaluate whether the initial facts are correct and, perhaps more importantly, relevant. Furthermore, it won’t take long to demonstrate that logic isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be!

Let’s look at a few statements and see how we could use them to build a logical argument.


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Statement 1: Snow and ice are solid forms of water that exist at temperatures lower than those at which liquid water exists. If I heat water ice to 2̊°C, it will turn to liquid water.

Comments: If we had a bit of knowledge of the nature of weather, climate, mixing cocktails or winter sports, we would likely know that water solidifies when the environment cools enough. Furthermore, anyone likely to be reading this knows, just from living on planet Earth, that ice and snow turn to water after warming up. We could taste the water, and determine that it is likely water, if we are close enough to the water itself rather than reading about melting ice.

Finding: Even though many logical statements sound simple, it doesn’t take a lot of research to realize that they are not necessarily that simple or self-evident. What if there was salt or sugar dissolved in the water used to make the ice? That would change the transformation temperature without necessarily changing the appearance of either the liquid or solid substance.

Did you know? It’s also possible to make water from ice by applying pressure. That’s why ice skaters slide so easily. A film of water forms between the bottom of their blade and the top of the sheet of ice. Temperature changes do not tell us the whole story about the form in which water molecules will find themselves.