MODR 1760 Study Guide - Argument Clinic, Special Creation, Complete Protein

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30 Jan 2013

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Lecture Notes, J.C. Robinson
Week TwoIdentifying Arguments
By the end of this class you should have a general idea of what constitutes an argument, i.e.,
premises and conclusions.
You should have an idea of how the parts relate, what they do, and how we can more easily
identify them.
Finally, you should recognize the basis for critical thinking and rationale for knowing how to
identify and construct arguments.
Part I Introduction; Why Critical Thinking?; How to do Critical Thinking
Part II The Guts of Arguments; Statements and Claims;
Part III Determining if it is an Argument; Arguments, Descriptions, and Explanations
Part IV Indicator Words ... Those Tricky Little Things
Part I
Why Critical Thinking?
How to do Critical Thinking
Two quick points about what this course is “not”:
(1) When we talk about “critical” we mean “discerning” not antagonistic, negatively critical for
the sake of being a jerk, making people look bad, etc.
(2) Critical reasoning is not a war to demean and belittle the position of others.
The Universality of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is made possible because there are universal parts of thinking, parts that we
may identify and work with “critically” whether you are talking with someone here in class or
orbiting the planet in the space-station.
Human thought has widely shared elements.
Knowing these parts is desirable, for without them we would undermine the very purpose of
thought itself.
***Thinking about human thinking makes our thinking better thinking.
If there were no “universal” sense to critical reasoning we would be forced to think only
relatively, i.e., in accordance with the current climate and context, without any “standard” or
“foundation” with which to judge and critique ideas and actions (for the standard would be
only temporary, limited to “now”).
We need a standard (even vague a standard) of what constitutes “good” or “bad” thinking,
(a) if we are going to be rational and
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Lecture Notes, J.C. Robinson
(b) if we want to justify our own beliefs and opinionsthereby giving our ideas credibility and
A practical reason to think about critical thinking:
Why should people listen to you?
Why should people care about your ideas?
Your reason for “why” is your justification.
To answer the questions you need critical thinking.
To substantiate your “why” you need reasonable justification.
The goal of critical thinking is to discern the substance of a position.
Does it stand up to scrutiny?
Does it have depth? Merit? Precision? Relevance? Etc.
How often have you heard “Everyone has a right to his or her opinion”?
Legally, perhaps, this is true, for we do not have our thoughts forced to conform by law.
However, as far as we are concerned, different opinions have different degrees of substance,
and therefore rational worth.
E.g., arguments/conclusions without supporting evidence or reasons are not generally wise
choices to invest your time and energy into, especially if another contradictory conclusion has
strong evidence.
Why Critical Thinking?
(1) We want clarity.
Clarity of thought is an important part of thought. Clarity refers to what is understandable.
Can you elaborate further; offer an illustration, an analogy?
If so, you are achieving greater clarity.
Giving an example is perhaps the most obvious way of making thought concrete and real.
(2) We want precision.
Precision, closely related to clarity, makes what is understood more specific, definite, refined.
Are you able to add more detail?
What exactly are the specifics?
Context will determine what degree of precision is relevant, but generally speaking, the more
precision the better.
(3) We want to be accurate.
It is possible to clear (understandable), precision (detailed), and yet inaccuratefalse.
If information is presented clearly and precisely and yet is manipulated (e.g., statistics), the truth
is absent.
E.g., 91% of all males over 6 feet tall are at three times the risk for heart disease than males
under 6 feet tall.
This is clear and precise but ask yourself, “Is this true?”
How might I find out if the above is true?
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Lecture Notes, J.C. Robinson
(4) Relevance
We want to know if something pertains or relates to the issue, idea, action at hand.
Relevance considers only those factors that are bearing on the question/issue.
If you are able to ignore facts, details, questions that merely detract, confuse, or mislead then
you are excelling at critical thinking.
Relevance is about focussing on the important and relevant matters.
(5) We want depth.
Superficial questions require superficial answers.
However, complex questions require deep answers.
The more complex the matter, the more depth we must be prepared to find.
Complex issues cannot be address by superficial treatments.
Ask yourself how well, how thoroughly your response to a problem is being delivered.
“Every complex question has a simple answer.” (Unknown author)
That statement is dangerous!
(6) Humility
Critical thinking leads to intellectual humilitythe recognition of our own limitations (we don’t
know it all, and often our own sincere beliefs are wrong).
(7) Self-Ownership
An important component in determining how you live your life is the set of beliefs that you hold.
In order to be in control of your own life you should determine what beliefs you accept and
what you don’t thereby making them your beliefs.
It is better to be in control of your own life than to have it determined by other people;
or to live your life in a blind fashion, hoping for the best result.
How To Do Critical Thinking?
In order to be a good critical thinker you need to be able to judge if someone is making a good
To do this you must decide:
If the premises of the argument are acceptable?
How well do the premises support the conclusion?
In order to be a good critical thinker you need to be able to make a good argument, and you do this by:
Providing premises that support the conclusion
Providing premises that are acceptable
Two final points:
(1) As critical thinkers we are not focussed on what causes a belief so much as whether it is worth
(2) A critical thinker is one who uses specific criteria to form positions, make decisions, and
evaluate reasoning.
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