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A Case Study in Critical Thinking

Article ~ Bradford L. Glass ~ June 2019

A Case Study in Critical Thinking Bradford L
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We marvel at those, past or present, who helped change history. To name a few: Jesus, the Buddha, Galileo, Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, Thoreau, Einstein, M. L. King, Mother Teresa, Steve Jobs. What made them stand out (and their contribution matter) wasn’t their money, intellect, luck or charisma. It was how they stayed deeply connected with their ability to think for themselves, honor their own truth and not be sidelined by the small-mindedness that most assuredly surrounded each of them, every day. Imagine living that way.

An example: Just over 400 years ago, Galileo discovered four moons circling Jupiter, proving beyond [intellectual] doubt that not everything revolved around the earth. He knew his findings would bring to its knees the prevailing worldview of his time, biblical cosmology seen as truth for centuries – earth as center. That worldview didn’t fall with grace or ease. (It’s actually still alive, some 400 years later.)

How can we be modern-day Galileos? To start, we’d need curiosity, courage, awareness curiosity ... about life’s mystery and the uncertain journey it invites; courage ... to stand strong in the midst of the obstinacy of scientific defamation and denial politics that often result; awareness ... of unconscious, fear- based responses that often threaten conscious thought. These traits create the foundations for critical thinking. They allow you to be changed by new learning and not run away. They allow you to overcome the stranglehold of old, programmed beliefs. They allow you the freedom that [only] self-trust can offer. They allow you to stand strong in that self-trust, in a world that would rather you didn’t.

Whether it’s a big new idea, a phenomenon from nature, or a claim of the end of the world, critical thinking evokes discernment, which will steer you to your truth. You may stand out in a crowd thinking this way; at the same time, you’ll never be “lost” again. For starters, however, you have to be willing to ask new questions ... and listen.

You might give that process a try now ... as an experiment. In the spirit of critical thinking, the capacity for discernment, and a search for truth, pretend you are a modern-day Galileo, and that you saw this image for the first time. Before (and as) you read, notice how you interpret the image itself and what else your thoughts or intuition may tell you.

Some time back (perhaps persisting today), the attached image was common on social media, entitled “Sunset, North Pole.” It’s a striking scene ... but in no way is it real. The “photographer” who manufactured the image knew it to be fake, but those who “liked” or reposted it likely didn’t know. OK, I have a science background, but even without that, there’s a lot about this image that [should] evoke serious questioning – critical thinking – before adopting it blindly it as truth (or even oooh-ing over it). Does this feel right to me? Does it make sense to me? How do I know what I know? Am I willing to ask another question before I move forward?

Here’s where my thinking led me when I first saw the image. Any one of these observations is enough to label it a fake. Collectively, case closed. And again, you don’t need to “get” all this in order to know. (The first three, however, should be discernible by a novice.)

• Viewed from earth, sun and moon appear to be the same size. (It’s why eclipses ‘work.’) The huge size disparity between the two is a giveaway this is a composite of two images. • Near the horizon, thicker atmosphere distorts images, making both sun and moon appear larger.

When this happens, however, the one closer to the horizon looks larger than the other. • The North Pole is in the Arctic Ocean. The closest land is 400 miles away. The sea is frozen year-round (at least for now), so the ‘land and sea’ portion of the image is from somewhere else. • In the Arctic, the moon is never seen directly above the sun. The path of the sun (and therefore the moon) across the Arctic sky is oblique (angled to the horizon) year round. A new moon would appear beside the sun, not above it. (A moon sets directly above the sun only near the equator – between the tropics.) • A new moon occurs as the moon passes by the sun. The sun’s brightness obscures our visibility of a new moon, however, until the moon is about 10 degrees past the sun, which takes about 19 hours after “new.” This image shows them far closer than 10 degrees apart yet without sun’s interference. Not happening.


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