Critical Thinking in Critical Times

Don’t drink detergent – please.

I never thought that I would ever have to form this sentence but here it is.

Not drinking detergent appears to be on the list of “common sense things to do”, along with not eating Tidepods – but as we are all painfully aware – common sense might not be all that common.

The recent reports of spikes in calls to poison control centres in America follow closely behind Trump’s suggestion that disinfectants could be “injected” to treat COVID-19. Health experts were horrified at his suggestion and rightfully so. If ingested, detergents can do really nasty things to your body – vomiting, burns, severe pain and even convulsions are known effects.

However, Trump’s “treatment” for COVID-19 is far from being the only ludicrous suggestion that has surfaced the past few months. Whatsapp has notoriously been a hotbed of misinformation regarding COVID-19 miracles and cures. On this free chatting app that has been downloaded by over 1.5 billion active users, messages touting “cures to COVID-19” have been forwarded ferociously. Some supposed treatments include gargling hot water, eating lemons, or even blowdrying oneself. Needless to say, none of this will work.

Evidently, more than ever, critical thinking is needed in these critical times. In a time rife with misinformation, we need to discern for ourselves fact from fiction.

 1. Always assess the source

Never take information at face value. Question the source of the information. How reliable is the source? News from a well-respected news site would probably be more reliable than one from a poorly-written Whatsapp message.

2. When in doubt, corroborate your information

Check, check, and check again! Broaden your sources of news. Check what one source says with what another source says. Do the sources conflict with each other or do they paint a similar picture? Conflicting information is one way to gauge if misinformation is present. That is, of course, not to say that agreement between two sources immediately means that the information is 100% accurate. It is important to always be critical of information presented and make judgment after thorough consideration of the source reliability and content validity.

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