Critical Thinking: A Guide Through the Storm of Lies, Misinformation, and Opinions

Humans have the most advanced brains on the planet—we should learn to use our capacity for logical, rational thought.

Jeff Bennett
4 min readJul 22, 2021

Society has become incredibly contentious and polarized. Opposing pundits and experts bombard us with opinions. Every day we face a deluge of misinformation and lies, masquerading as facts and truth. Who can you believe?

Too many people choose to blindly follow their pundit, news source, or influencer of choice like rats following the Pied Piper, without really thinking and questioning. How can you make sense of it all? Critical Thinking!

What is Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is skilled, active, interpretation and evaluation of observations, communications, information, and argumentation.” Simply put, critical thinking is a valuable skill to help us identify, analyze, evaluate, and reason about arguments in order to come to logical, rational conclusions about issues. It helps us formulate and present convincing premises to support conclusions, thereby making reasonable, intelligent decisions about what to believe and do.

Critical Thinking Checklist

When confronted with conflicting information, using critical thinking can help determine the logic of an argument or statement and help guide our decision-making. Use the following simple critical thinking checklist as a guide through the pandemic of alternate facts and misinformation that pervades our society today.


If a statement is vague or fuzzy we can’t tell if it’s accurate or even relevant. When we hear vague, fuzzy statements we should ask for clarification.

Politicians all along the spectrum are guilty of this. Speeches are rife with fuzzy, feel-good statements that don’t really say anything. How many times have you heard something like, “We need to come together and work out these solutions together.”? Yeah, sure, it sounds fine, but it’s just vague buzzwords and fluff.


A statement can be clear but not accurate. Sadly, the last few years of political theater seem to have normalized an era of untruths, alternative facts, and lies. Oxford Dictionary even dubbed ‘post-truth’ as the 2016 Word of the Year.

We can’t assume that anything we hear or read is actually true, especially on social media sites. We need to fact-check and verify what we read and hear. Is the information supported by evidence? Does it cite other sources? Is it from a credible, unbiased source?

Fortunately, there are several online resources that can help. Fact-checking websites such as Snopes,, AFPFactCheck, and PolitiFact make the burden of checking credibility and accuracy much easier. Even a quick and simple Google search can help. Check the accuracy checkbox before liking, retweeting, or sharing.


A statement can be clear and accurate but not precise. When this happens, we need to dig for details and specifics. For example, stating that gun violence is skyrocketing or that Covid vaccination rates are plummeting may be clear and accurate, but they’re not precise. By what percentage has gun violence grown, where, and over what period of time? What are the specific numbers of Covid vaccination rates dropping? Precision helps to set a context in which we can better evaluate the data. The extent to which we one can specify details is a good indicator of one’s understanding of an issue.


A statement can be clear, accurate, and precise but not relevant to the issue. Often, those who don’t have a good understanding of an issue conceal their ignorance by deflecting. When an argument deflects to issues that don’t appear to be relevant to the issue at hand, ask how that’s relevant. How does one idea or issue relate to the other?


Statements lack depth when they fail to deal with the complexities of the issue. The world is full of “wicked problems” — “a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems.

All too often people today spout off superficial ideas in addressing these complex issues. Virtually every societal problem we experience today is complex and nuanced. Beware of arguments and ideas that are overly simplistic.


An argument that only considers one point of view and shuns other perspectives lacks breadth. To be truly fair and unbiased, other points of view must be considered. Arguments, whether they come from a conservative or liberal perspective, if they don’t look at relevant viewpoints from the other perspective, lack breadth.

Breadth can be especially difficult to incorporate into your critical thinking skill set. Ask yourself: What relevant opposing viewpoints have I ignored or failed to consider? Have I considered opposing viewpoints in good faith, or only with the intent to discredit them?


When the combination of thoughts are mutually supporting and make sense in combination, the thinking is logical. When the parts are individually valid and make sense together, without contradictions, this is a good sign that the thinking is logical and rational. Ask yourself, are the individual arguments valid and correct? Together, do they support the overall conclusion? Does everything fit together logically or are there holes and gaps in the reasoning?

If an argument or statement can pass the checklist above, it’s probably good thinking. But if it fails and we still go along with it, then we aren’t being rational, logical human beings. And if that’s the case, are we really any better than rats following the Pied Piper?

Of all life on Earth, humans have the most advanced brains — capable of rational, critical thought. Learn to use your advanced brain. Learn to think critically!



Jeff Bennett

Exploring ideas, innovations, and technologies to adapt faster and better in a world of accelerating change.