Laura, thanks for re-opening the thread. There is truly meaningful discussion within this thread, where the difficulties in discussing this are more related to fair-mindedness, a necessary foundation in the proper application of critical thought, ensuring that any topic can be discussed with maturity by all parties involved.
I originally posted this over at Buddha Forum as a means to encourage fair-mindedness, so maybe your members here can benefit from it as well.
Critical thinking involves basic intellectual skills, but these skills can be used to serve two incompatible ends: self-centeredness or fair-mindedness. As we develop the basic intellectual skills that critical thinking entails, we can begin to use those skills in a selfish or in a fair-minded way. In other words, we can develop in such a way that we learn to see mistakes in our own thinking, as well as the thinking of others. Or we can merely develop some proficiency in making our opponent's thinking look bad.
Typically, people see mistakes in other's thinking without being able to credit the strengths in those opposing views, where liberals see mistakes in the arguments of conservatives, conservatives see mistakes in the arguments of liberals, believers see mistakes in the thinking of nonbelievers, nonbelievers see mistakes in the thinking of believers, ect.
What does fair-mindedness require?
Intellectual Humility: Having Knowledge of Ignorance
Intellectual humility may be defined as having a consciousness of the limits of one's knowledge, including a sensitivity to circumstances in which one's native egocentrism is likely to function self-deceptively. This entails being aware of one's biases, one's prejudices, the limitations of one's viewpoint, and the extent of one's ignorance. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows. It does not imply spinelessness or submissiveness. It implies the lack of intellectual pretentiousness, boastfulness, or conceit, combined with insight into the logical foundations, or lack of such foundations, of one's beliefs.
Intellectual Courage: Being Willing to Challenge Beliefs
Intellectual courage may be defined as having a consciousness of the need to face and fairly address ideas, beliefs, or viewpoints toward which one has strong negative emotions and to which one has not given a serious hearing. Intellectual courage is connected to the recognition that ideas that society considers dangerous or absurd are sometimes rationally justified (in whole or in part). Conclusions and beliefs inculcated in people are sometimes false or misleading. To determine for oneself what makes sense, one must not passively and uncritically accept what one has learned. Intellectual courage comes into play here because there is some truth in some ideas considered dangerous and absurd, and distortion or falsity in some ideas strongly held by social groups to which we belong. People need courage to be fair-minded thinkers in these circumstances. The penalties for nonconformity can be severe.
Intellectual Empathy: Entertaining Opposing Views
Intellectual empathy is an awareness of the need to imaginatively put oneself in the place of others so as to genuinely understand them. To have intellectual empathy is to be able to accurately reconstruct the viewpoints and reasoning of others and to reason from premises, assumptions, and ideas other than one's own. This trait also correlates with the willingness to remember occasions when one was wrong in the past despite an intense conviction of being right, and with the ability to imagine being similarly deceived in a case at hand.
Intellectual Integrity: Holding Ourselves to the Same Standards
Intellectual integrity is defined as recognition of the need to be true to one's own thinking and to hold oneself to the same standards one expects others to meet. It means to hold oneself to the same rigorous standards of evidence and proof to which one holds one's antagonists --- to practice what one advocates for others. It also means to honestly admit discrepancies and inconsistencies in one's own thought and action, and to be able to identify inconsistencies in one's own thinking.
Intellectual Perseverance: Working Through Complexity and Frustration
Intellectual perseverance can be defined as the disposition to work one's way through intellectual complexities despite the frustration inherent in the task. Some intellectual problems are complex and cannot be easily solved. One has intellectual perseverance when one does not give up in the face of intellectual complexity or frustration. The intellectually perseverant person displays firm adherence to rational principles despite the irrational opposition of others, and has a realistic sense of the need to struggle with confusion and unsettled questions over an extended time to achieve understanding or insight.
Confidence in Reason: Recognizing that Good Reasoning Has Proven Its Worth
Confidence in reason is based on the belief that one's own higher interests and those of humankind will be best served by giving the freest play to reason. Reason encourages people to come to their own conclusions by developing their own rational faculties. It is the faith that, with proper encouragement and cultivation, people can learn to think for themselves. As such, they can form insightful viewpoints, draw reasonable conclusions, and develop clear, accurate, relevant, and logical thought processes.
In turn, they can persuade each other by appealing to good reason and sound evidence, and become reasonable persons, despite the deep-seated obstacles in human nature and social life. When one has confidence in reason, one is "moved" by reason in appropriate ways. The very idea of reasonability becomes one of the most important values and a focal point in one's life. In short, to have confidence in reason is to use good reasoning as the fundamental criterion by which to judge whether to accept or reject any belief or position.
Intellectual Autonomy: Being an Independent Thinker
Intellectual autonomy may be defined as internal motivation based on the ideal of thinking for oneself; having rational self-authorship of one's beliefs, values, and way of thinking; not being dependent on others for the direction and control of one's thinking.