Learn to think Scientifically!

It’s never too late to learn how to think like a scientist. The scientific mindset is one of the most important mental habits or way of thinking you can develop. As Albert Einstein put it: “Scientific research [thinking] can reduce superstition [and ignorance] by encouraging people to think and view things in terms of cause and effect.” Simply put, you learn to think logically.

Following cause and effect, like following the money in politics, leads you to the root cause, or as Aristotle said the Final Cause, of any phenomenon or problem you’re trying to resolve. Unlike politics and all the pathology that goes with it, when you think scientifically you eschew dogmatism. You realize, and more importantly you accept, that knowledge is contingent and that much of what we think we know probably just isn’t so. The scientific mind yearns for the sacrament of confirmation, empirical evidence, and validity. So when we think logically or scientifically we tend to be careful about what we say. Language and logic are closely linked. When we think scientifically we respect the empirical method and the rules of logic. We move, inferentially, from one set of facts or reasoned arguments to the next, building a bridge from the unknown to the known. This is not what people typically do, however. If you listen critically to some of the arguments and beliefs people espouse (especially about politics), you can easily detect the logical fallacies and utter irrationality of ideas they’ve uncritically accepted.

Albert Ellis was a cognitive psychologist and the architect of Rational Emotive Behavioral Theory. His psychology is about cognitive restructuring. The idea is that there’s a lot of unproductive and irrational self-talk going on inside your head and the best way to deal with it is to actively reconstruct the meaning of those thoughts. It’s the philosophy of the ancient Stoics recast and organized into a modern therapeutic psychology. This “perspective” shifting changes your behavior. Attitudes and beliefs naturally flow from perspective. So if you want to deal with your psychological problems you can start with how you’re interpreting the world or your experience. One of my favorite books along these lines is Victor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Anyway, I highly recommend you peruse this essay by Ellis. It’s a nice primer for those interested in How to think Scientifically.

3 thoughts on “Learn to think Scientifically!

  1. That’s awesome! I actually just read Albert Ellis’ essay a few weeks ago. I agree that language and logic are very closely linked. It’s why celebrity gossip is so appealing to the consumeristic crowd because most of them don’t care about logical reasoning, but are instead only focused on popular theories, judgements, and hypothetical situations. Neat post. Cheers.

    • Thanks Jan. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend Dr. Daniel Kahneman’s new book Thinking, Fast and Slow. “The book’s central thesis is a dichotomy between two modes of thought: System 1 is fast, instinctive and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.” (Wiki page). Like electricity, our mental focus or energy tends to take the path of least resistance. That’s System 1 thinking. It’s easy, quick and emotional and doesn’t require the focus and energy of System 2 thinking. There are times where System 1 thinking is necessary and imperative. But this mode of thinking is prone to predictable errors. But because it’s instinctive and quick and requires less energy many of us rely heavily on it in our daily life. And because of this people can be very illogical. But thinking more logically or deliberately requires more energy and patience than some of us want to invest. So I don’t suspect that most people don’t care about logical reasoning as much as they just don’t have the time or energy to invest in it. That’s not a good reason in my book but that’s the way many of us are.

      Thanks for commenting.

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