The true meaning of critical thinking

One of the common arguments being put forward by anti vaxxers towards those of us who support vaccines is that we are unable to engage in critical thinking. It’s an argument that doesn’t wash when it comes down to brass tacks, when one actually understands what critical thinking is, and more importantly what it’s not.

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

It entails the examination of those structures or elements of thought implicit in all reasoning: purpose, problem, or question-at-issue; assumptions; concepts; empirical grounding; reasoning leading to conclusions; implications and consequences; objections from alternative viewpoints; and frame of reference. Critical thinking — in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes — is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking, among them: scientific thinking, mathematical thinking, historical thinking, anthropological thinking, economic thinking, moral thinking, and philosophical thinking.

Critical Thinking as Defined by the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking, 1987

Yes that’s 30 years old but it’s a definition that stands the test of time.

Now what brought this subject to my attention was a link on my website forum from one of it’s members, that makes it clear that true critical thinking does not allow for an arbitrary judgement. Heavy emphasis on the adjective I just used there, because there is a difference between an arbitrary judgement and a final judgement. The latter can only be made when all the information relevant to the subject is available.

Now let’s apply this to the Vaccine War (as I call it);

1. The anti vaxxers will claim that they have conceptualised, applied, analysed, synthesised, and/or evaluated information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. Now maybe they have, but the issue here is belief. Belief is not the final judgement and should never be, unless it is based in proven fact. And then there is the information gathered and taken into account. Now has it all been taken into account? I say in the case of the anti vaxxers it hasn’t, because they refuse to take on information that they see as biased (ie paid for by Big Pharma etc etc). And this is the key flaw. There is absolutely no foundation in this claim, so it defaults to being an assumption. It is there that the test of critical thinking fails

2. The pro vaxxers including myself have made the same claim. And like the anti vaxxers claim they have, we have as well. Now unlike the anti vaxxers we are aware of the pitfalls of belief alone in making a judgement, so we seek proven fact. That’s why in the first instance we reject the argument of bias due to lack of evidence. For example the profits made by Big Pharma, and the insistence by anti vaxxers that this is the proof when it’s an assumption based on the idea that vaccines are a part of those profits, pressing figures of money made. Accountancy is clearly not their strong point and it’s at this basic level that I have some knowledge as I studied Accounting at high school. Incoming revenue does not automatically become a profit. Simple. When expenditure is taken into account, and vaccines are expensive to manufacture compared to other Big Pharma products, any revenue is cancelled out. It’s called Profit and Loss in a Balance Sheet. Now we on the pro vax side do look at all the information, and using the very method of critical thinking combined with listening to those with the proper expertise, we are able to come to a final judgement which is far less arbitrary than the anti vaxxers.

Now let’s look at the second paragraph;

a. Purpose – Now obviously the two sides are coming from polar opposites. One sets out to prove vaccines are dangerous. The other sets out to prove vaccines are okay.

b. Problem – See what I just said.

c. Question at issue – See what I just said again.

d. Assumptions – This is the first divide as I previously covered. Anti vaxxers rely on assumptions. Pro vaxxers rely on established and proven scientific fact.

e. Concepts – Now there are plenty of these from both sides, but the anti vaxxers ignore all pro vax concepts in their so called effort at critical thinking.

f. Empirical grounding – Now here’s a real divide. The grounding of the pro vax argument is far stronger than that of the anti vax and this is based on how many holes each ground has. And the anti vax grounding speaking empirically is full of holes. The odd grounding on the pro vax side may have a couple of holes as well as no one is perfect, but we are on far firmer ground than the anti vaxxers.

g. Reasoning leading to conclusions – Now this is an area where I have criticised some anti vaxxers myself directly. Reasoning has to come from neutral ground and emotions have to be kept out of it because it clouds judgement. That’s why I get peeved at parents who yell at me that I can’t make a judgement because of one fact about me – I have no kids. That’s actually a win for me because I can reason without the emotions to interfere. The only time I may get emotional is when some upstart lights the blue touch paper with me and claims that vaccines cause Autism. And at least I’m aware of it and seek to control it. I’m not seeing anything like that on the other side of the divide.

h. Implications and consequences – Here’s another act of arbitrary judgement by the anti vaxxers, refusing to see the consequences of their efforts. That’s the return of preventable disease to it’s former levels, leading to an increase in illness and the return of death from said diseases. Anti vaxxers promote childhood disease as nothing to worry about, especially the measles which can and has killed. And what about the pressure on the health system even if there aren’t any deaths? And in the case of the measles, what about the threat of encephalitis? That’s just one example, and I could go on about influenza especially from my own experience!

i. Objections from alternative viewpoints – The height of the dispute comes out here. Reactions to objections. For a long time pro vaxxers have kept their civil tongue in, but in more recent times we’ve been fighting back. That’s why the governments of the world have started to act whether it be Australia’s No Jab No Pay, No Jab No Play at state level in Australia, SB277 in California in the United States, and so on. Anti vaxxers won’t listen to objections and insist that they are right and toss around links that have been proven to be unreliable either by direct objection to the content, or by identification of a person who is not an expert in the field or is otherwise compromised.

j. Frame of reference – Anti vaxxers try to bias this and are very quickly hauled back into line….well actually attempts are made.

As the quote states; “Critical thinking — in being responsive to variable subject matter, issues, and purposes — is incorporated in a family of interwoven modes of thinking”. Anti vaxxers refuse to interweave pro vaccine concepts, so this is another fail. Pro vaxxers do, through balancing the whole thing to the best of our ability. We think scientifically as far as our education will allow us, we think mathematically when required, we think historically – I know I certainly rely on history a lot – we recognise anthropology both in historical terms and empirical terms, we think economically, we certainly think morally and after all that philosophy is also a winner. Anti vaxxers fail on all those points. They say that they don’t but the reality is that they make their judgements based only on what they believe. As I said before – belief alone does not made for a final judgement. A final judgement must be made taking into account ALL information, and an ability to reasonably and justly set aside the incorrect information based on all critical thinking points, adopt the correct information – and proceed from there.

And if all those points are followed correctly and without emotion getting involved, a well educated person will always come to the same conclusion.

That vaccines are safe and effective when used correctly.

That is why, as a consequence of this critically thought out view that I certainly hold, I feel absolutely justified to pass out judgement on those listed on the AV Name Check. It’s not based on belief alone. It’s based on a well thought out proven scientific fact, that is yet to be proven to be wrong in a manner that ticks all the boxes of critical thinking.

5 thoughts on “The true meaning of critical thinking

  1. Eric Durak

    I wanted to comment on the aspects of this blog as an anti vaxxer for over 25 years. #1 – I had no preconceived notions about vaccines. Like most parents to be – I thought it would be part of standard care. Until I read the best-selling book by Dr. Bob Mendehlson – How to Raise a Healthy Child – In Spite of Your Doctor. In his vaccine chapter, he made tremendous arguments against vaccines (as a 35 year pediatrician who gave them). However – his chapter included many references. As a scientist who has published medical studies for over 30 years, I wanted to look up many of these references (especially those on diabetes and the coxackie B virus). The results of these reports were stunning to me. From a clinical and epidemiological stance, there is just as much research to refute vaccine safety and efficacy as to support it. Are there thousands of articles on the benefits of vaccines? Yes – but their foundation is based on faulty science. Supporters of vaccines should note that science doesn’t “prove” anything. There can be 100 papers in support of a subject, but when one paper refutes those results, we should try to understand why. Vaccine medicine is perhaps the only area of medical study where the conclusions are supported 100%, even now when there are 143 studies that support the vaccine – autism correlation, and a Dec. 2017 cadaver brain report that shows doses of heavy metals at 10X the baseline in autistic subjects. This is almost irrefutable evidence (the first of its kind) that shows the vaccine (heavy metal) and autism connection. Instead of looking at this critically, these results are pushed to the side because “vaccines are safe and don’t cause autism”. This is the result of research (like the 2004 study by DeStafano and Gerberding) where they lied about their results, and the countless reports of injuries and deaths in other countries that have resulted in law suits against every vaccine manufacturer. Of course this can’t happen in this country because of the 1986 law that essentially indemnifies each doctor and manufacturer in the case of ANY injury or death.
    I do agree that many on BOTH sides don’t use critical judgement. With your statement that since you don’t have kids – you can be neutral is not entirely correct. I chose not to vaccinate my kids based on the following: Dozens of studies I read that supported the “disproof” argument – and that vaccine inserts actually say the opposite of what most doctors and journalists were stating. In the 1990s I wrote letters to the editor of quite a few newspapers that stated – most persons pushing vaccines did NOT use a scientific approach. There is no scientific reason to boost vaccine doses from 4-7 shots in the 1960s to over 38 shots before age 5 today, and 74 shots before age 18. There have never been any dose-response, or long-term efficacy studies of these shots, and of course, none of these vaccines are scaled to body weight – something that every protein powder, aspirin, and weight loss plan is done in the US. There are charts and web sites that dictate how to scale based on both TBW and LBW in infants, children, and adults. Of course this is not used in vaccines. An infant gets over 25 times the amount of mercury in some vaccines than a full grown adult worker should be exposed to based on OSHA MSDS safety sheets. Yet vaccines are routinely given from day one.

    My last point is to refute your statement that vaccines are safe if properly used. Since we have 1.4 million children with autism, and over 50% of US children who have at least one chronic disease (many linked to vaccines). Research from Sheibner in the 1990s on SIDS points directly to vaccines, is well researched, and the results of her own experiments. No one is listening. Since vaccines are given rough shot, and have more to do with vaccine company profits that actual science – then it is yet another reason to not yield to their over-use. The major issue now is that state officials are now forcing vaccines on children, healthcare workers, and government employees. If you are the mindset that vaccines are poision, and do no good, and that proper integrative medicine (homeopathy, high dose Vitamin C [Klemmer’s research from the late 1940s and early 1950s], and proper quarantine procedures, most of these communicable diseases will run their course, and children will be immune for life. We have seen mumps and measles break outs in fully vaccinated students. We will see more. Like the opioid crisis and anti-biotic resistance, vaccines will become less effective than they already are (not very) and more people will suffer IBS, chronic diseases, and autoimmune dysfunction because you and your pro vaccine partners do not have a critical analysis of this issue. I would suggest reading Neil Miller’s book on 400 critical studies on vaccine safety. It summarizes beautifully the research that parents and non-scientists can understand. It puts forth a strong burden of disproof. Like cigarettes, which doctors and scientists stated were safe for decades, until the research became overwhelming that they did cause cancer – did public sentiment shift. Today every newspaper, TV station, and radio report all state what you do – vaccines are safe, so “get your damn shots” – with no opposing viewpoint. Only when critical mass of children are so sick that (according to Robert Kennedy Jr), our healthcare system implodes due to over $3 trillion in expenditures on long term autism care alone – will we hopefully change our tune. We thought antibiotics were great – not so much. We thought pain meds were great – not so much. The time is coming for vaccines. I hope it doesn’t come too late.

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    1. Timelord Phil Post author

      I’m going to tear this down piece by piece;

      1. I had no preconceived notions about vaccines.

      Yes you did, otherwise you wouldn’t have fallen for the anti vax rhetoric.

      2. Bob Mendehlson

      On a skim of a websearch – a holistic “doctor”, therefore he would have had ZERO understanding of vaccines.

      3. From a clinical and epidemiological stance, there is just as much research to refute vaccine safety and efficacy as to support it.

      And all of the “research” that refutes vaccine safety has been duly bunked in peer review.

      4. Supporters of vaccines should note that science doesn’t “prove” anything.

      Oh yes it does – when it is used as intended and not as an aggressive fist to the jaw (metaphorically speaking). That’s what the anti vax quacks do. That comment shows that you don’t understand science.

      5. There can be 100 papers in support of a subject, but when one paper refutes those results, we should try to understand why.

      And we do. That’s how Andrew Wakefield’s fraud was exposed – we sought to understand the refutation, and we did. It was a fraudulent study.

      6. Vaccine medicine is perhaps the only area of medical study where the conclusions are supported 100%, even now when there are 143 studies that support the vaccine – autism correlation

      WRONG!! That’s Ginger Taylor’s list and that is totaly unreliable because most of them are either about Autism and not vaccines or vice versa! The ones that are about both have already been bunked.

      7. a Dec. 2017 cadaver brain report that shows doses of heavy metals at 10X the baseline in autistic subjects.

      That’s not causation. That – if anything – is regression and can only happen if the Autism ALREADY EXISTS!!

      8. This is the result of research (like the 2004 study by DeStafano and Gerberding) where they lied about their results, and the countless reports of injuries and deaths in other countries that have resulted in law suits against every vaccine manufacturer.

      And NOT ONE of them succeeded! Why? Because it wasn’t the vaccine’s fault! It was a system error, if there was ever any injury to start with! Not a single report of vaccine injury by the vaccine alone has EVER been verified. EVER! And when the claimants are pressed for details by the authorities – I never saw a better Road Runner impression by the claimants!

      9. With your statement that since you don’t have kids – you can be neutral is not entirely correct.

      And yet you didn’t prove it.

      10. I chose not to vaccinate my kids based on the following: Dozens of studies I read that supported the “disproof” argument – and that vaccine inserts actually say the opposite of what most doctors and journalists were stating.

      You chose to place your children is serious danger from preventable disease. That has no acceptable excuse – at all. And not vaccinating your children also places vulnerable children in the vicinity of your own in danger as well due to the requirements of herd immunity.

      11. There is no scientific reason to boost vaccine doses from 4-7 shots in the 1960s to over 38 shots before age 5 today, and 74 shots before age 18.

      Yes there is! It’s called preventing disease! That is scientific by the way and not social. Biology in particular. It’s not without foundation that Paul Offit stated that a human being could take as many as 10,000 vaccines in a lifetime.

      12. There have never been any dose-response, or long-term efficacy studies of these shots, and of course, none of these vaccines are scaled to body weight – something that every protein powder, aspirin, and weight loss plan is done in the US.

      Oh what a lot of rot!! For a start, those studies HAVE been done! By the TGA in Australia as part of the regulations they are required to adhere to. Scaled to body weight?? You don’t know how vaccines work obviously. They aren’t protein powder, aspirin or anything else of that nature!

      13. An infant gets over 25 times the amount of mercury in some vaccines than a full grown adult worker should be exposed to based on OSHA MSDS safety sheets.

      That’s ETHYL mercury! The safety sheets you are talking about are about quicksilver – pure mercury in other words. Aside from the fact that thiomersal/thimerosal was removed from all vaccines except some flu shots YEARS ago!! Also aside from the fact that there wasn’t as much in those vaccines as you think! 12.5 micrograms per dose!

      I’m going to stop there because the rest of that is junk. Autism has been around to the current rate since Adam and Eve (metaphorically speaking) – close to it. There may be some incorrect DX’s that the DSM-5 is hopefully correcting. Chronic disease rises are due to poor lifestyle choices (exercise levels are dropping in children and increased stress are the major contributors there). The supposed link to vaccines from SIDS has been disproven many times – that’s why no one is listening. Vaccines do not make a profit. That’s impossible due to the amount research and manufacture costs. Disease break outs are the result of too many children not being vaccinated, placing even the vaccinated in danger because herd immunity isn’t there. The way to stop more outbreaks is to vaccinate. There is no other way in the modern world. We have already got rid of smallpox this way. Polio is gone in the western world. Measles would have been gone by now if it wasn’t for this anti vax nonsense. Not one genuine doctor declared smoking safe. Only fake ones – actors. Kennedy is an idiot smearing his family name. The only reason the American health system is imploding is because it’s not socially based. Obamacare would have started the solution to that – alongside England’s NHS and Australia’s Medicare.

      The time is not coming for vaccines. The time is coming for anti vaxxers. Idiots like you who are placing children’s lives at risk.

      And guess what? Eric Durak;
      YOU JUST MADE THE LIST!
      (The AV Name Check on the next update)

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    2. Helena Smirnis

      Very well written Eric and l agree with all that you have said. l am a Ex Vaxxer and am very proud to say that l made the list. The obviously paid person of this Website who has not got the courage to use his own name, is not doing a very good job, as 1000’s of names of people who have not vaccinated, themselves or their children are not on the list.

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
      1. Timelord Phil Post author

        You know perfectly well who I am, Smirnis! I am doing a great job and you can’t stand it – especially the fact that I am doing this VOLUNTARILY! I buried Durak and you are so stupid you can’t see it. Go back to vaxxing. Stopping was a massive mistake, and if I get my way, people like you will be in prison for inciting child neglect/abuse. Oh and those so called 1000’s are hiding. Hiding because they know if they come out into the open they will find themselves under the scrutiny of the authorities. Pride always comes before the fall, and for dangerous people like you that fall will be as painful as possible. That’s all idiots who threaten the lives of children deserve (and fail at critical thinking!). Little is just the first, only because his stupidity was so massive he got himself before the courts for other reasons.

        You are now banned from commenting.

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  2. Timelord Phil Post author

    To Jenny Hatch, I don’t add people to the AV Name Check without actual existing evidence of anti vax conduct. Deletions that are made plain on a web search are proof that you have already been punished.

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