Altern Ther Health Med. 1997 May; 3(3): 57-62.
A proposal for teaching critical thinking to students and practitioners of complementary medicine.
Research Council for Complementary Medicine in London, England. [email protected]
It can be argued that it is only possible to promote research in complementary and alternative medicine once the importance of critical thinking is understood. Critical thinking can be defined as (1) the adoption of a cautious approach to beliefs and claims, and (2) the process of analyzing beliefs to see whether they are valid and useful. The Research Council for Complementary Medicine has considerable experience teaching critical thinking to students and practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine. We use several tactics to ensure that such teaching has maximum impact: stressing that criticism does not pose a threat, using an interactive approach, avoiding abstract or esoteric discussions, giving examples from conventional medicine and from everyday life, and so on. The actual structure of a class involves a series of logical steps: stating the reasons for critical thinking, linking beliefs to belief-forming processes, linking beliefs about health to personal experience, explaining why personal experience can be unreliable, completing the "skeptical argument" that many health beliefs are unreliable, discussing the implications for practice, etc. Learning about critical thinking in such a manner can be an important prerequisite for undertaking or using the results of research.