Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace
September 1, 2021

Critical Thinking With Data

Critical Thinking With Data

Critical Thinking With Data


Critically Thinking Through Data

Critical thinking is hard. No, really. It takes patience, dedication, and a degree of humility that is hard to maintain. Some people think that if you think critically, you will automatically agree with them. Others think that critical thinking means uncritically rejecting whatever your parents and grandparents taught you. Neither will ever put it quite that way but if you pay close attention to what is said by some, those conclusions are hard to avoid. Not that you should take my word for it. If you were paying attention, you might have caught that I did a little bit of the first – assuming that people thinking critically will agree with me. See? It’s hard to avoid the traps even when you’re writing about them. 

So, what really is critical thinking and how does one do it? Thinking critically means being willing to take the time to understand something as thoroughly as possible before reaching a strong conclusion about it. To be willing to take a look at different points of view and weigh them against each other. It’s more complicated than hearing the two main sides of an issue and then assuming the truth is somewhere in the middle. It’s more complicated because the truth may be in between, but how far is one side or the other? Or one side might be completely wrong. Or the truth might be something neither side has even considered. I told you this is hard. 

How does one begin? As with a lot of things, mindset is everything. You need to realize that you will likely never know every single thing about any one thing. Aquinas once said humanity has yet to discern the essence of a single gnat. Nothing has changed in the eight centuries since he wrote that. We know more, but not everything. If that sounds depressing, it shouldn’t. It means there is always more to learn. 

Start small, with a subject that already interests you and pick up a book that catches your eye. And yes, a real book if you can, something you can highlight and make notes in the margins. Don’t try to power through and crush out the page count. Save that kind of reading for fiction. Yes, there are different kinds of reading. That fact and much of the method I’m about to lay out are in How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler.

In any case, take your time and read through it, making notes as you go. Pay attention to others the author cites and get their books, and do the same with them. With each book, take the time to learn the author’s voice, how he thinks, what his own presuppositions seem to be. Then be willing to correct your conclusions when you realize you got something wrong. Don’t forget to pick up one or more works that contradict the author, whether he cites them or not. Every now and then the lone voice crying in the wilderness is saying something you should be paying attention to. Remember, it was once the consensus in certain circles that no planets existed outside the solar system, or that eugenics makes total sense and you should totally cure people by cutting them so the evil humors could escape. It’s usually worth listening to the person challenging the consensus. Even if he proves to be off his rocker, just kicking the apple cart can get some new and productive thoughts going. 

Doing all of that will actually just get you started thinking truly critically. After taking in all that data, you need to sift and weigh it, looking up additional information to fill in holes you’ll find as you go along. 

All data analysis needs to be approached with a similar level of patience and humility. How many companies when they collect marketing data run it through different analytical models to see if they line up? Or have multiple people look at the data? How many organizations have people whose whole job is to check different analyses against each other to see if it all adds up? The answer is sadly few.

What’s your data worth? Sign up for the TARTLE Marketplace through this link here.

Feature Image Credit: Envato Elements

For those who are hard of hearing – the episode transcript can be read below:


Alexander McCaig (00:07):

Did you hear the didgeridoo call? We are here. You are awake with us this early morning, Earth Day.

Jason Rigby (00:16):

Yes, it's exciting. I was going online and looking at all the companies that are doing Earth Day-

Alexander McCaig (00:23):

I love how they do one out of 365 days a year.

Jason Rigby (00:27):


Alexander McCaig (00:27):

Today's a good day to do it.

Jason Rigby (00:29):

Yeah. Reebok had one, this was really cool, where it was the shoe, and then it had trees planting around it and then leaves swirling all around the shoe.

Alexander McCaig (00:41):

Is the shoe biodegradable?

Jason Rigby (00:43):

But is the shoe... Yeah. What material is the shoe made of?

Alexander McCaig (00:46):

What's the shoe made out of? Yeah, exactly. How much energy went into fusing the sole of that shoe?

Jason Rigby (00:51):

Yes. Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (00:52):

Vulcanized rubber.

Jason Rigby (00:55):

Where was it made at? What factory? The human rights-

Alexander McCaig (00:58):

How many shipping containers had to go across the ocean to pick it up?

Jason Rigby (01:01):

How many people were in those shipping containers?

Alexander McCaig (01:04):

Yeah, that's exactly right.

Jason Rigby (01:06):

I was reading about human trafficking the other day, and on how much of a rise it is.

Alexander McCaig (01:10):

You read the most pleasant stuff.

Jason Rigby (01:11):

I know, yeah. I'm constantly reading. I get these Google alerts all the time on the big seven.

Alexander McCaig (01:18):


Jason Rigby (01:18):

So there's just constant... The globe is just moving.

Alexander McCaig (01:23):

Well, reading. So you're inundated with all this information. Tell me about reading. What does that mean to you?

Jason Rigby (01:31):

I don't know. When I was little, I started to read, but the first thing that got me excited for books was Hardy Boys.

Alexander McCaig (01:39):

Yeah, absolutely.

Jason Rigby (01:39):

And so I went to a flea market. They used to have these back in the day. Have you ever heard of flea markets?

Alexander McCaig (01:44):

Yeah, I've heard of flea markets.

Jason Rigby (01:45):

Some people aren't going to even know what that is. "Fleas? Aren't they..."

Alexander McCaig (01:49):

I've never seen a flea market on TikTok. I don't know what that is.

Jason Rigby (01:53):

Yeah, but basically people would just all meet together. A community would come together, like a garage sale, and they would sell things. But there was this whole box of 25 Hardy Boy books. And I bought the box for, I don't know, two or three bucks or something, and I went home and then there was these mystery books.

Alexander McCaig (02:08):

Robbed them.

Jason Rigby (02:09):

And there was these kids, teenage boys, and they could go and solve mysteries, and there was all kinds of craziness that went on. And I was just like, "I can open a book, lay in my bed, and then a whole nother world comes to me?"

Alexander McCaig (02:23):


Jason Rigby (02:24):

And so, it began to... I was like, "Well, what else can I read?" So then I became like this, and I've been that way ever since. I just always liked to read, I don't know why it is. You read a ton too.

Alexander McCaig (02:36):

Yeah, we're surrounded by books. So I read a lot when I was younger, and then when I went to school, I was off-put by reading because of what they told me to read. It usually kills people's interest.

Jason Rigby (02:51):

So on our Western... The mass amount of forced reading, and then forced memorization for our educational system, do you can you think that was a part of that?

Alexander McCaig (03:02):

Oh, it's a hundred percent of a big part of it. I have a pretty excellent memory, and I retain a lot more when it's something I'm actually interested in. And I define my interest, depending on how much focus I have on something. And when I can have focus, that means I can have critical thinking. Does that make sense? So if I can attentively focus on a subject that I care about, I can look at it critically also. It's easier for me to challenge the perspective of mine. So much like when you were reading the Hardy books, "Oh, it'd bring me into this other world." Well, when I'm reading something, I'm brought into the mind of that other individual. Actually, I don't prefer fiction. I read a lot of nonfiction.

Jason Rigby (03:42):

Yeah, same.

Alexander McCaig (03:42):

Textbooks, all stuff like that.

Jason Rigby (03:44):


Alexander McCaig (03:46):

So when I'm looking at that, it allows me to be critical. I look through it, I notate on everything, I take my time. You have to be patient with yourself, and you have to be patient with the author. Every time I open up a new book, I've studied the previous author so much in the way they write that opening up a new one is like a whole new flavor of conversation. I have to actually get accustomed, in my mind, to the way that that person carries their speech. Does that make sense? So for my ability to retain their information, I'm going to actually have to go back. And it's only about halfway through the book do I actually become fluent in listening to the way they're actually delivering information to me.

Alexander McCaig (04:23):

So the first half is actually longer for me to read than the second half of the book, because I'm adjusting to that person's perspective. And once I've adjusted to it, then I can test it. And as I note-take from one book, I comparatively analyze it against another. "How does this person say against this, here to here?" And most of the time, I follow my books through authors. One author sites and other one. So I go from author, to author, to author, and I'm like, "Oh, okay. This is really interesting." And then you can start to see the differences and you can be extremely critical of the perspectives, and you can work through, "Oh, this works-"

Jason Rigby (04:54):

Well, a lot of authors will give you the opposite perspective, if they're a good author. And this is the beautiful part about what I really realized, in my twenties, about books, is when you have an author and they've studied something for 10, 15, 20 years, they're condensing it down to 2, 3, 4 or 500 pages.

Alexander McCaig (05:13):


Jason Rigby (05:13):

There's literally hundreds of hours of research and study that they've done. They rewrote the manuscripts... Jordan Peterson talks about this in Maps of Meaning, in his book. Whether you agree or disagree with him doesn't matter, but he said this; it took him 17 years to write the book. And each sentence, he rewrote 70 times.

Alexander McCaig (05:28):

I don't doubt that.

Jason Rigby (05:29):

So each sentence is super dense.

Alexander McCaig (05:31):

Yeah, because every time you go to write a sentence, you're like, "My gosh, my perspective has changed." And then you go back, and you're like, "I've got to rewrite this whole thing because don't actually think like that anymore."

Jason Rigby (05:39):

Right, yeah. But when you look at that book, every sentence you read, you're like, "Holy smokes, it's too in depth." It's almost like it's too intense.

Alexander McCaig (05:53):

That has value for me.

Jason Rigby (05:54):

Yes, for you. Yeah. But now that know that, when I read the book... Once you know the author, do a little bit of research on who the author is and where they're coming from, what country they came from.

Alexander McCaig (06:05):


Jason Rigby (06:06):

We have Google, search about the book and the author. Now that I know that, when I read it, now I have a whole different perspective on the author and what they tried to accomplish. If a book took 17 years [crosstalk 00:06:17], and was rewritten over to change words to makes sure it's absolutely... In his mind, he probably wouldn't say it was perfect, but-

Alexander McCaig (06:24):

It was perfect for him.

Jason Rigby (06:25):

... As close to that as he could. But what you were saying, and I think is really important and maybe you can explain this, why books create critical thinking.

Alexander McCaig (06:35):

Yeah, so let's look at the definition of critical thinking. Critical thinking is an intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from/generated by observed experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication as a guide for action. I'm going to take all the experiences of my life, all of my learnings, all of the perspectives, I'm going to fuse them together and I'm going to apply that through constant daily testing, or through a series of thought, critical thought. Taking that attention to say, "Does this work?" I'm actually testing ideas off of experience, and that helps you refine. And so what it does is it actually... They say it's a discipline process because it requires patience. I'm going to have to take the time to focus on this, not jump to the next Instagram post, not jump to the next Facebook newsfeed after I've read one sentence and say, "This is the whole article."

Jason Rigby (07:42):

Well, read the last part of that, the very last part. That explains this.

Alexander McCaig (07:46):

"Generated by observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication as a guide to action."

Jason Rigby (07:55):

So how are people acting now, with what they're reading online?

Alexander McCaig (07:59):

How they're acting? They're acting like they've taken one sentence, and they apply that to all of reality. There's no testing.

Jason Rigby (08:05):

And then the algorithm is feeding that bias over, and over, and over again.

Alexander McCaig (08:09):


Jason Rigby (08:10):

And then you're reading a meme real quick, which takes you five seconds, then you see another picture of the same thing [crosstalk 00:08:14] with another little sentence. So you're just getting inundated by this bias.

Alexander McCaig (08:21):

Correct. If you even go on Google scholar, or whatever it is, and you're looking up scholarly articles. If you look up one that's been cited, it's going to serve you up another one. And it goes to reinforce the same research data, but the guy who's against the grain never gets read, never get cited.

Jason Rigby (08:36):

And that's sad that they don't do that, that they have a... I think there's a new news app that does that, that says, "Here's this perspective, and here's this perspective."

Alexander McCaig (08:45):

That's how it should be.

Jason Rigby (08:46):

And that's how it should be, and that's critical thinking. It's saying, "Okay. Yeah, I agree with this person. But then at the same time, I want to also read the book that goes against this..." Not the author. Because we always take positions in time, and to people, and then go against the person.

Alexander McCaig (09:05):


Jason Rigby (09:05):

And then we start attacking each other as humans.

Alexander McCaig (09:10):


Jason Rigby (09:11):

Just because I have a different perspective than you do on something, doesn't mean I'm a bad human.

Alexander McCaig (09:16):

It doesn't mean you're a bad human. The other person may just not have rationally thought it through to the end. A lot of people don't think things through to the end.

Jason Rigby (09:23):

But it's okay to have different opinions.

Alexander McCaig (09:25):

Go ahead, go ahead. You know what I do prefer? I do prefer people that have opinions with great logic and rationale.

Jason Rigby (09:32):

Yes, yes. Of course.

Alexander McCaig (09:32):

If I just have some emotional opinion with no basis, I'm like, "That's whacked."

Jason Rigby (09:36):

But I guarantee you, you can pull a hundred people into a room that are extremely intelligent, and they're going to have different opinions.

Alexander McCaig (09:43):


Jason Rigby (09:44):

And they're going to be able to logically defend their opinion, and it's going to sound halfway good to you. And that's what I love. I've gone on YouTube and I've done that so many times, where I say, "Okay, what is the far right perspective? What is the centrist perspective? What is the far left perspective? What is a progressive, a libertarian, an anarchist perspective?" [crosstalk 00:10:04] Yeah, exactly. I was going down the slide.

Alexander McCaig (10:07):

Michael Malice, Michael Malice, Michael Malice. Yeah.

Jason Rigby (10:10):

He's funny. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he's a super funny guy. He's a comedian too, but...

Alexander McCaig (10:17):

Do you know what critical thinking requires? Going down this list.

Jason Rigby (10:21):

Yeah, go ahead.

Alexander McCaig (10:21):

You're reading all these sides, you understand that people have opinions, you recognize they're human beings. Critical thinking requires responsibility. It requires response-

Jason Rigby (10:33):

No, Alex. We don't want to be responsible. We want somebody else to do that for us.

Alexander McCaig (10:37):

You want to know why? Because critical thinking removes belief. I'm thinking for myself, I'm finding the facts and testing them against my own experience. I am responsible for doing that. You should not let somebody else tell you how to think.

Jason Rigby (10:54):

No, I'll just retweet it.

Alexander McCaig (10:55):

If you have a bunch of data that's in front of you, don't have somebody else just come in and tell you what this data means. Go look at the raw data, and go test it for yourself. It's your responsibility.

Jason Rigby (11:06):

Well, this has been the problem, and we've talked about this on just about every episode.

Alexander McCaig (11:11):


Jason Rigby (11:11):

This has been the problem when we look at data transparency. And we see a bias that comes into data, same scenario that's happening now, and then it's fed to all the other teams that are on the corporation. And then they're making decisions based off of this false sense of security that they're getting from this biased data.

Alexander McCaig (11:31):

Think about it us at Tartle. We're like, "You have your data, we have..." We have multiple data checks, and we're always hammering each other like, "That data's not legit."

Jason Rigby (11:39):


Alexander McCaig (11:40):

We're all on the same team, we all respect one another, but we're all like, "Why are there discrepancies in this data?" Rather than someone saying, "Oh, here's the report," and we all act upon it. Or, "Here are multiple reports, and here's the raw data to go with it. Let's look at this. Why is this different?" You have to be responsible for that testing. That's your own self-monitoring. Don't let someone just hand something to you and you just believe it.

Jason Rigby (12:03):

Well, influence. You don't know the influence that came behind that report.

Alexander McCaig (12:10):

Correct. Yeah, yeah.

Jason Rigby (12:11):

So you don't know... We can go super crazy and throw Epstein out there, in the sense of him buying off people.

Alexander McCaig (12:18):


Jason Rigby (12:19):

And then scientists, and all different political leaders. This is all proven. And then, "Well, we gave you a million dollars last year. I don't think that should be..." There's a lot of influence like that, that happens behind closed doors.

Alexander McCaig (12:34):

You know what reminds me-

Jason Rigby (12:35):

The smoking of the cigar.

Alexander McCaig (12:36):

Oh, yeah.

Jason Rigby (12:37):

"And I think for the betterment of the economy... I read that paper that you wrote, and I think it should maybe kind of go in this direction a little bit."

Alexander McCaig (12:46):

Yeah, you really have... Even when we talked to [inaudible 00:12:49] about this.

Jason Rigby (12:51):


Alexander McCaig (12:52):

Your idea of prestige and title is what drives you, not your critical thinking, for most scientists.

Jason Rigby (12:59):


Alexander McCaig (13:00):

Job security.

Jason Rigby (13:00):


Alexander McCaig (13:01):

They don't want to test the grain. That's not a real scientist.

Jason Rigby (13:04):

Yeah, and he talked about that openly.

Alexander McCaig (13:05):

You need to be your own scientist.

Jason Rigby (13:06):


Alexander McCaig (13:07):

Be your own... BYOS.

Jason Rigby (13:09):


Alexander McCaig (13:09):

BYOS. What that one with the [crosstalk 00:13:15], back to big? BYOS, back to big.

Jason Rigby (13:21):

But when we look at critical thinking and taking personal responsibility, because I want to end it in this, I think this is really good what you were talking about, the word "responsibility". I encourage people to go... I've done this and it works really well, and I've heard lots of people talk about this. Go to your local bookstore, just grab some books that have cool covers on them.

Alexander McCaig (13:43):


Jason Rigby (13:44):

This seems shallow, but this works. Grab some books that has cool colors, go sit down somewhere, and go through them for two or three pages and see if any of them interest you.

Alexander McCaig (13:53):


Jason Rigby (13:53):

If you haven't read in a long time... Because there's a lot of people that don't read at all. Generation Z they were talking about, they just read online with posts and stuff like that. TikTok, which is even shorter, that's three words.

Alexander McCaig (14:06):

There's no attention span. You can't have critical thought in five seconds.

Jason Rigby (14:09):

Because I guarantee you, if you read... There're books that I've read when I was in my teens and twenties, that I can still remember pretty deeply. They've impacted me. A couple of fiction books that I've read too. I don't read a lot of fiction, but a couple of fiction books that I've read, I can remember the plot line, the story. That's an amazing writer, that can do something like that.

Alexander McCaig (14:29):

I still remember the book Dune.

Jason Rigby (14:31):

Yes. Yeah.

Alexander McCaig (14:33):

That scifi book came out, I don't know...

Jason Rigby (14:34):

There's a new Dune movie coming out.

Alexander McCaig (14:35):

... 40, 50 years ago.

Jason Rigby (14:37):

Did you see the preview of that?

Alexander McCaig (14:38):

I can't wait to see that.

Jason Rigby (14:40):

I think it's got the... Oh, who's the guy all the girls like? He's Aquaman.

Alexander McCaig (14:46):

Oh yeah, he's in there. Yeah, yeah.

Jason Rigby (14:47):

He's a cool dude. Yeah. But what about whenever you look at books, because I know you like hard, physical books.

Alexander McCaig (14:57):

I've talked about this before.

Jason Rigby (14:57):

Yeah, yeah.

Alexander McCaig (15:00):

And we've talked about when you type on a keyboard, it doesn't have the same electro stimulus connection that you find with the neurons in the brain that fire up, as opposed to when you write something by hand. So when you read digitally, it's different than actually having a book and holding it and taking ownership of it.

Jason Rigby (15:16):


Alexander McCaig (15:16):

There's a conceptual difference. If you're owning your thoughts, that's for you. Well, own the book, hold onto the book, claim right to that book for that moment. And it's going to change that connection and actually how you create a relationship with the information.

Jason Rigby (15:30):

Yeah, and I read a lot. I have books, we can see that. And then, number two, I use the Kindle a lot. But they have apps now, they have really cool apps, it's this technology. They have this one app that I have, and it will send you every day, a book that you've read, the highlights that you highlighted of that book that may have been a year ago. So now you can just kind of, "Oh, I remember that book," and then you just read where you highlighted it.

Alexander McCaig (15:55):

That's a neat app. I have to go back to my notebooks that I made. I do all mine [Crosstalk 00:15:59] by hand.

Jason Rigby (16:00):

Yeah, you do them by hand, but this is just taking data. And it would be interesting to get this guy that invented the app or whoever invented it, his team, and it would be cool to kind of get them on our podcast, because this is something that can help humanity.

Alexander McCaig (16:14):

Yeah. I think in the digital sense of looking at information, it allows us for quick reference.

Jason Rigby (16:20):


Alexander McCaig (16:21):

But when you need to take a step beyond quick reference, it's going to take critical thinking. It takes patience and time.

Jason Rigby (16:26):

And I like what you said about... I take a yellow legal pad, but the writing does do something. Even if you're watching a Ted Talk, or a video, or you're watching a YouTube video online, I'll do that. If I'm watching a YouTube video, if I want to learn from it, I sit there and I take notes.

Alexander McCaig (16:44):


Jason Rigby (16:44):

And everybody's done that. We all did that at school. And I don't know why, but having that pen and paper and taking notes-

Alexander McCaig (16:51):

I don't think... No matter how advanced we get, no matter how advanced, I don't think it will ever go away.

Jason Rigby (16:58):


Alexander McCaig (16:59):

I do not think a writing instrument and a pad, or whatever it might be, will ever go away. It will always be there.

Jason Rigby (17:07):

Well, like they said, Pixar; those greatest movies, those cartoons.

Alexander McCaig (17:12):


Jason Rigby (17:12):

They were sitting in a cafe for lunch and they sketched out, on a napkin, Lion King... The top five. Toy Story, Lion King. They came up with the five-

Alexander McCaig (17:27):

I don't even know. Is Lion King only Pixar? I don't even know.

Jason Rigby (17:29):

Yeah, but they came up with the five biggest-

Alexander McCaig (17:31):

Monsters, Inc?

Jason Rigby (17:32):

Yeah, all of those that. The biggest five movies, they just came up with them sitting there at lunch and said, "Let's make this one, let's make this one." And then they talked about it, and they used a pen and a napkin. Pen and paper.

Alexander McCaig (17:44):

Oh, gosh. It's really cool to take a thought and put it onto reality.

Jason Rigby (17:47):


Alexander McCaig (17:48):

Turn it onto something physical. And whether you're reading a book, or you see a news article online, or you're dealing with data, make sure that you have critical thinking. Don't come into it with a state of belief. Don't let someone tell you what the facts are. Go look at the facts for yourself.

Jason Rigby (18:07):

And responsibility. Whenever we look at... I want to close this out with Tartle. How can you, as an individual, be responsible by signing up for Tartle?

Alexander McCaig (18:16):

Well, being responsible by signing up for Tartle says, "I'm going to critically think about my data, I'm going to put it in something where I can share it truthfully with others so they can critically think on it, and I can earn from it." If you critically think about that process, it's very beneficial to both parties. It's probably something you should jump in on. The logic makes sense, it's rational, and guess what? It's self-monitored, it's self-disciplined, and it's self corrective thinking every time I interact with my data.

Jason Rigby (18:48):


Speaker 3 (18:48):

Thank you for listening to Tartle cast with your hosts, Alexander McCaig and Jason Rigby, where humanity steps into the future and source data defines the path. What's your data worth?