Critical thinking is a discipline dedicated to peeling back the layers, looking at history, psychology, language, and economic motives. It asks us to find out why things are the way they are, and how they got that way. It also asks us to be mindful of our own biases, unresolved traumas, and vested interests. It is about being clear, open minded, and fair.
Critical thinking has evolved partly in response to the unhealthy influence of the advertising and public relations industry on our society. Spinning the truth, manipulating perception, bold upfront lying -- these have become common experiences for us all, and by being on the receiving end of these things our entire lives, we have been conditioned to accept them as normal, and inevitable. It takes conscious effort and well-developed skills to understand and overcome this toxic trend.
To see an example of a critical-thinking analysis of an issue, in this case the controversy over the campaign on the part of some animal advocacy organizations to promote "cage-free" eggs, see "Connecting the Dots: A Critical Thinking Exercise."