You have to make sense of it all - or your life (or the particular matter at hand) is based on nonsense.

Learn to use your advanced brain:  learn to think critically

If we fail to do this, are we just not operating as rational, progressive human beings and instead operating as rats following the Pied Piper?

Of all life on Earth, humans have the most advanced brains   capable of rational, logical, critical thought


If you are talking or engaged in a problem solving process, to come to a reasonable conclusion (decision) you would need to follow all these rules and standards:


          verified to the extent needed!  Fairly selected, not to prove a bias.)
         __ Clear (not vague or fuzzy) - To solve a problem it must be stated clearly and
         __ Accurate (true)
             __ Source is ___ Unbiased; ___ Expert;  ___ In his area of expertise;
                                ___ Providing sufficient supporting evidence
             __ Facts have been verified
         __ Precise (enough specificity and details0
         __ Relevant (pertinent to the issue, having an impact or not)
         __ Depth (deals sufficiently with the complexities of the issue)
         __ Breadth (all perspectives and points of view considered)
   ___ #2. Use complete logic
         __ Completely objective (no emotional reasoning or bias)
         __ Valid, the argument and/or reasoning is "sound";
         __ Thoughts in combination are mutually supporting and make sense in
              combination, with sufficient information to link it all together)

That's all you need to know at the basic level, IF you were to follow it.  However, having a more in-depth understanding in this vital area is a core component of living a better life.  More effective thinking leads to better decisions which in turn leads to a better life!

Use a format (procedure equivalent) to guide you through the process, as in The Scientific Method (And A Worksheet!) - The Only Way To Go In Life! - Use that worksheet.

Some of the factors involved, to learn about:

Data Source:  Know the difference between facts and opinions. Who can you believe?
Observations - Correct? Consider that perception has many opportunities for error.
Communications - Accurate?  Heard correctly?  Interpreted correctly?

THE PROCESS (See if you do this were it is important to make the right decisions and in general.)

Identify arguments, including premises upon which they are based
Analyze arguments
Evaluate (and weigh) arguments
Reason about arguments
To come to a logical, rational conclusion about an issue (and to not embrace an argument as true if one hasn't completed all of these!)
And formulate and present convincing premises to support conclusions
Thereby making reasonable, intelligent decisions about what to believe and do


Note that Byron Katie, although the significance of this might not be seen at first, cured her depression by arriving at the point of simply asking "Is this true?" and then backing it up, as she refined her process, with "Is this absolutely true and provable?".  And when the answer was "no", she stopped relying on it. 

Some 5th grade students were asked to look at the newspapers and to come back with examples of opinions presented as if they were fact and actual facts.  90% were just opinions. 

A mature older person said she believes in everything that Michael Moore puts out there.  And, because these guys are so smart, she believes that the statements by Paul Krugman and Robert Reich must be right.  Any objective observer however might notice extreme bias and justifications of opinions, presented as fact. Of course, they are mixed with actual facts and reasonable conclusions, but the ultimate conclusions can be very misleading.  When it was suggested that she look deeper, she replied that she didn't have the time and was just going to stick with what she believes - and that there were more important things.  There is some logical sense to that statement, though it could indicate the possibility of being stubbornly committed to prior conclusions - which would be indicated in her life by a lack of progress and continually doing what doesn't work very well.


An Introduction To Critical Thinking  

Beliefs, Truth

Knowledge, Belief, And Evidence

How do we "know" something is true and valid?  When is something "beyond reasonable doubt"?  Is there a conflict with something else we believe?  Is it backed up with evidence?  Does it conflict with an expert opinion?  [We often seek to explain the unexplainable and/or the unknowable - and then we become certain about it as we go into a phase called 'knowing', which is not really knowing.   Faith is fine if it is helpful, but it is not fact.] 

Looking For Truth In Personal Experience

Perception, feeling, personal experience - Fraught with error!
__ Are these accurate and true? 
__ Uncorroborated? 
__ Affected by what we believe or expect? 

Perception can be slanted perceptually or by bias.  Don't our brains just manufacture this?  We try to make patterns from the patternless. 

Cognitive bias:  False memory, creations, denying the evidence that disconfirms our belief, subjective validation (consider something to be correct if it has significance to oneself), Availability error: (vivid and memorable instead of valid),
Underestimating the improbable (such as incredible coincidences being thought of as "caused")

Summary points

- Just because something seems real, doesn't mean that it is.
- When evaluating a claim look for disconfirming as well as confirming evidence.
- When evaluating a claim look at all the relevant evidence, not just the psychologically available evidence.
- It is reasonable to accept personal experience as reliable evidence only if there's no reason to doubt the reliability.

Learn critical thinking: See end of this piece.

Free videos:

Brief "course" on my channel (KahunaKeith): Critical Thinking Playlist