dc meeting summary Feb '10

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Ellen's picture

Democratic circle, February 18, 2010 and March 18, 2010
Critical Thinking: Applying it in Our Community

Ellen A. Wilkin

Critical Thinking: Applying it in Our Community
I. Definition
II. Understanding Probability (Example 1)
III. Tools of Critical Thinking
IV. Evaluating a Claim: Crime Stats (Example 2)
V. Scientific Method Review
VI. Evaluating Complex Claims (Example 3)

Ia. Critical Thinking: Definition
Determining the meaning and significance of what is observed or expressed, or, concerning a given inference or argument, determining whether there is adequate justification to accept the conclusion as true. Skilled, active, interpretation and evaluation of observations, communications, information, and argumentation. (1)

Ib. Critical thinking versus everday thinking
Thinking is often casual and informal, whereas critical thinking deliberately evaluates the quality of thinking. (1) Meta-thinking, if you will.
Critical thinking can occur when you judge, decide, or solve a problem: whenever you must figure out what to believe or what to do, and do so in a reasonable and reflective way. (1)

Ic. How do you know you are thinking critically?
o Raise vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
o Gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it
effectively
o Come to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant
criteria and standards
o Think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and
assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences
o Communicate effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems
without being unduly influenced by others' thinking on the topic(1)

Id. Not matters of faith
For our purposes, when I talk about using critical thinking, I am talking about applying reasoned thinking to claims of logic or science.

Ie. Have to fight basic human urges
o “Reptile” brain
o Back of car wish
o Education helps
o Practice helps

II. Understanding probability
Example 1: Birthday Probability problem
What if somebody offered to bet you that at least two people in the last meeting of the HOA had the same birthday? Would you take the bet?
(http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.birthdayprob.html)

III. Tools
a. Logic
b. Argument
c. Intellectual criteria (Clarity, Credibility, Accuracy, Precision, Relevance, Significance, Fairness)
d. Scientific method
e. Skill

IIIa. Logic
Basic Truths or the Laws of Thought:
o The law of contradiction: A is B and A is not B are mutually exclusive
o The law of identity: A = A.
o The law of excluded middle: Either P or not P

Claim: a reason for a belief, position, phenomena
Premise: a claim that supports another claim
Conclusion: the claim that the premise supports

Argument: a set of related claims; includes at least one premise and one conclusion
Example
All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Socrates is mortal.

IV. Evaluating a Claim: Crime Stats (Example 2)
Times Call heading: "Major crime down 15.8% in past year"

Argument: “While I don't doubt the facts stated in this piece, the headline is not accurate and intentionally misleading, given the 27% increase in burglaries. Please TC, try to be more objective, and not just act as a conduit for the Police (and Schools, etc.). – MichaelG, Longmont, Colorado, 2/11/2010 9:29 AM

IVa Do you agree or disagree with MichaelG?
Breaks down into 3 arguments:

Argument 1: Because there has been a 27% increase in burglaries, the headline is
inaccurate

Argument 2: Because there has been a 27% increase in burglaries, the headline is
intentionally misleading

Argument 3: Because of the claims in Argument 1 and Argument 2, the Times Call is just
a conduit for the Police and Schools, etc.

IVb. Actual 2009 numbers

IVc. Argument 1: Inaccurate
o Number of 2009 Part I crimes/Number of 2008 Part I crimes x 100% =
2,644/3,092 x 100% = 0.855 x 100% = 85%
o The number of Part I crimes committed overall in 2009 is only 85% of the number of crimes committed in 2008. In other words, in 2009, crime was down 15%. Overall.
o Therefore, Argument 1 is FALSE.

IVd. Argument 2: Intentially Misleading
Argument 2 says the headline is ”intentionally misleading”
o How can we prove the intention of someone else? We cannot.
o We can only evaluate the claim that the headline is misleading.
o The premise does support the conclusion that the headline is misleading, but, again, does not prove that it was intentional.

IVe. The stats show that:
o Burglaries are up 27%
o Arson is up 3%
o Homicide is up 100% (1 homicide)

A rise in crime in some areas (not overall) that is very concerning

Conclusion: The headline is, at best, incomplete. At worst, it is misleading.

Intention is not proved. Argument 2 is partially TRUE

IVf. Argument 3: TC is a Conduit
Argument 3 says: Because of the claims in Argument 1 and Argument 2, the Times Call is just a conduit for the Police and Schools, etc.

Merriam Webster says journalism is “the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media.”

The TC article headline does not present all the information in its own article.

In a relatively small city newspaper, it is not surprising to find sloppy journalism. Again, there is no proof that it was an intentionally misleading article.

IVg. Two of the claims that MichaelG used to support Argument 3 are either FALSE or only partially TRUE.
No other evidence has been offered in support of Argument 3

Conclusion: There is no evidence that the TC is corrupt. Argument 3 is FALSE.

Va. Scientific Method
A body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. Method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

Vb. Skill
The ability to think critically involves four skills:
o Focus to consider a claim or event in a thoughtful way,
o An understanding and awareness of your own biases and assumptions,
o Knowledge of the methods of logical inquiry and reasoning,
o Some skill in applying those methods (practice).

VI. Fluoridation: complex claims
Example 3: Fluoridation of city water is unnecessary and even harmful

VIa. Fluoridation: Background
o Longmont fluoridates its water. Water quality lab says Longmont's water is at
o .8 ppm.
o Recommended amount is .5 to 1.0 mg/L, which works out to be about .5 to 1.0 ppm.

VIb. Fluoridation: Supporting Claims
Three claims in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice that support this conclusion are:
o People are now receiving fluoride from many other sources besides the water supply;
o Studies indicate fluoride’s potential to cause a wide range of adverse, systemic
effects;
o Since fluoridation affects so many people, “one might accept a lower level of proof
before taking preventive actions.”

VIc,d. Fluoridation: Claim 1
People are now receiving fluoride from many other sources besides the water supply
o All people?
o Other sources of fluoride: toothpaste, dentist, dark green vegetables, dietary
fluoride supplements, processed foods & beverages, infant formula
o Readily available to those who can pay
o The population below poverty line (2004) was 22% (10)
o 22% potentially not getting ”other sources of fluoride”
o Dr. Murphy free clinic for children (7)
o Dentist on Native American reservations (7)

Statement that (All) people in the U.S. are now receiving fluoride from many other sources besides the water supply is NOT CREDIBLE and likely FALSE

VIe,f,g. Fluoridation: Claim 2
Claim 2: Studies indicate fluoride’s potential to cause a wide range of adverse, systemic effects
o Review of the scientific literature on effects of fluoride by National Health and Medical Research Council of the Australian Government (2007) concludes, “water fluoridation results in the development of dental fluorosis. However, the majority of dental fluorosis is mild and is not considered to be of ‘aesthetic concern.'” (4)
o 2009 report: "Esthetic changes in permanent dentition are the greatest concern in dental fluorosis, which is more prone to occur in children who are excessively exposed to fluoride between 20 and 30 months of age...”(5)
o Fluoridated water is directly or indirectly responsible for an estimated 40% of fluorosis risk. Other sources, notably toothpaste, are responsible for the remaining 60%.(5)
o Research shows little effect on bone fracture
o Research shows no clear associative effect on cancer

Claim 2: Studies indicate fluoride’s potential to cause a wide range of adverse, systemic effects is FALSE

VIh,i. Fluoridation: Claim 3
Claim: Since fluoridation affects so many people, “one might accept a lower level of proof before taking preventive actions.”
o Premise: fluoridation affects a lot of people.
o Well over half of the U.S. population have fluoridated water supplies (11)
o Premise is accurate

Conclusion: “accept a lower level of proof before taking preventive actions.”
i.e., we should lower our standards for scientific evidence that a harmful effect is occurring because so many people are potentially affected
o If there was a lot of evidence of harmful effect, better to err on the side of caution
o But have we proven any harmful effect?
o Further more, research has shown that fluoride reduces cavities in both children and adults
o And helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay becomes visible (3)

Claim 3: Since fluoridation affects so many people, “one might accept a lower level of proof before taking preventive actions.” IS NOT CREDIBLE

VIj. Fluoridation: Argument is FALSE
So the overall claim that “Fluoridation of city water is unnecessary and even harmful” is FALSE.

References
Wikipedia.org
Flouride by LouAnn Whitworth, Dental Hygienist http://www.armymedicine.army.mil/hc/healthtips/02/fluoride.cfm
Fluoride & Fluoridation, from ADA web site http://www.ada.org/public/topics/fluoride/fluoride_article01.asp
A systematic review of the efficacy and safety of fluoridation by the National Health and Medical Research Council of the Australian Government (http://nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/file/publications/synopses/Eh41_Flouridation_PART_A.pdf)
Alvarez JA, Rezende KMPC, Marocho SMS, Alves FBT, Celiberti P, Ciamponi AL (2009). "Dental fluorosis: exposure, prevention and management) (http://medicinaoral.com/medoralfree01/v14i2/medoralv14i2p103.pdf)
Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: Fluoridation of Drinking Water to Prevent Dental Caries, October 22, 1999 /48(41);933-940, CDC. (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4841a1.htm)
References (2)
Telephone conversation between author and Dr. Robert Murphy of North Boulder Dental on February 15, 2010.
Deikman, Wrong Way Home
Taylor, Brainwashing
NationMaster.com Population below poverty line http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_pop_bel_pov_lin-economy-population-below-poverty-line
British Dental Health Foundation 2005 What is fluoride? http://www.dentalhealth.org.uk/faqs/
“In 2009, Part I crimes dropped by 15.8%.” – Longmont Police Department Press Release, February 10, 2010 http://www.timescall.com/assets/pdf/021010community.pdf
Longmont Police Department web site http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/police/crimeupdate/stats.htm

__________________________
Ellen
Ever learning, Everlasting