Critical Thinking 101: Spectrum of Authority



okay class quiet down today in critical thinking we're going to consider the spectrum of authority the spectrum of authority is a tool that we can use to understand the complex origins of opinion we can chart out various ways of studying a problem along the spectrum including the geometry physics biology culture beliefs and feelings arguments that appeal to feelings belief and culture provide vision while arguments that draw upon scientific fields like biology physics and geometry supply practicality is important to be balanced in our approach to a subject and not slide too much to the hot or cold sides of the spectrum we slide too much to the hot side of the spectrum our argument may seem intense subjective unreliable and even urgent if you rely too much on the cold side argument may be timeless reliable universal but also dull plus a careful balance between vision and practicality needs to be maintained in order for an argument to be truly compelling let's consider the debate around wind power now I want you to consider your own opinion there are lots of possible arguments for and against wind farms but let's use the spectrum of authority to analyze the basis behind them if we focus on geometry wind turbines use up quantifiable and constant space and in physics we can focus on the fact that wind power generates renewable if in constant energy in that constant space of course biology has to be another big concern wind turbines clearly affect a local environment and they're responsible for killing birds in the area and can affect air quality these are universal factors but they only affect some things and not constantly considering culture wind turbines are known to negatively affect the value of neighboring properties why because culture demands that when something ugly or obstructive is placed near a property the value must go down there's no real universal reason for this but it is quantifiable from the perspective of beliefs many people believe that winter runs have a negative impact on people's health that's a belief but it's not a proven one as you can see we're giving the hot part of the spectrum it is interesting the beliefs can drive scientific research because if we just weld on the universal concepts who would never have investigated the health consequences of these things it certainly is worth investigating finally we arrived at feelings some people may feel that wind turbines are ugly and they don't want to see one in their backyard that's a gut reaction and a personal belief and one to which any one is entitled as you can see there's a broad spectrum of authorities that are involved in any simple debate it's useful to use the tool of the spectrum of authority to try and dry out where arguments are coming from and what they're drawing upon it's not to invalidate feelings or culture but to make you aware of the avenues of thought that are driving parties in a debate for more information on critical thinking or research skills visit the Learning Commons study toolkits or ten one of her online workshops

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