Critical Thinking for Homeland Security Indeed, it is entirely possible for eyewitness accounts of an event by 100 people to be completely truthful, sincere and faithful yet still differ on all important points. These constraints to developing a single "pure truth" concerning events and situations make it important for researchers of all types to recognize the limitations that are involved when evaluating evidence and sources as well as using the right questions to ferret out the facts.
Everyone navigates their way through the world using a set of preconceived ideas, stereotypes, notions and beliefs concerning how things work and how others will behave in any given situation. Not surprisingly, many people are surprised and even shocked to learn that some of the things they have firmly believed to be true all of their lives are inaccurate or even false. These frailties of the human condition mean that the search for the truth is ongoing and learning how to find it represents a critical part of the skill set needed in the 21st century. This paper provides a discussion and comparison of "elements of truth" and the "right questions" that should be asked in any given situation to discern the facts, followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning these issues in the conclusion.
In their book, Asking the Right Questions, Browne and Keeley (2012) maintain that the right questions to ask in a given situation to determine the facts include the following:
What are the issues and the conclusions?
What are the reasons?
Which words or phrases are ambiguous?
What are the value and descriptive assumptions?
Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?
How good is the evidence?
Are there rival causes?
Are the statistics deceptive?
What significant information is omitted?
What reasonable conclusions are possible?" (p. 9)
By contrast, the "elements of truth" that are related to a given situation include the following:
Purpose: goal, objective
Question at issue: problem, issue
Information: data, facts, observations, experiences
Interpretation and inference: Conclusions, solutions
Concepts: theories, definitions, axioms, laws, principles, models
Assumptions: presupposition, taking for granted
Implications and consequences
Point-of-view, frame of reference, perspective, orientation
The foregoing right questions are compared to the elements of truth in…
Indeed, it is entirely possible for eyewitness accounts of an event by 100 people to be completely truthful, sincere and faithful yet still differ on all important points. These constraints to developing a single "pure truth" concerning events and situations make it important for researchers of all types to recognize the limitations that are involved when evaluating evidence and sources as well as using the right questions to ferret out the facts.
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