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Non-Scientific Versus Scientific Thinking

David Rosales looks for better and more efficient ways in which to think about reality for the benefit of the individual.

What do you Believe?

We carry around with us a set of presuppositions about the world we inhabit.

You see people throughout the day saying things and behaving in ways that lead you to form a picture of them and what kind of people they seem.

And, you handle the shape and form of these ideas to the point that they feel solid, but in truth what you have is a castle built on quicksand.

Presuppositions help us make quick sense of a world that throws more information at us than we can consciously handle in real time.

We hear sounds coming at us from all directions, light hits the retina of the eye constantly with millions of details, and you must not only make decisions at every moment but also plan ahead.

These presuppositions are also called beliefs. Some of these are religious, others secular. It does not take religion to support a belief without any evidence.

Beliefs are prominent in areas in which hard science has not had much of a say. These include popular opinions about almost anything, from politics to psychology, to what science actually comprehends, you have an opinion and a belief.

You may believe that the political party you support is right, but this has nothing to do with science. You may believe that what the charismatic science man says on television is true, but just because there is someone with the tag of "scientist" involved does not make it science.

The Power of Science

Non-Scientific Thinking

Intuition or belief is a common way for people to confuse themselves about facts. Feeling a certain way does not make anything more concrete. We see this in how people express their opinion on the certainty of the existence of God.

A consensus of any kind has no relation to science. Even "scientific consensus" cannot lay claim to certainty even more than any other kind of consensus. Consensus simply means "many people think so", but it can be wholly divorced from the process of scientific thinking, and even scientists think unscientifically most of the time.

Why? Because most of the time they are simply human.

Authority is directly related to the above problem. It is popular these days to say we must listen to the experts, when, in fact, what we should be doing is asking for the evidence, the numbers, sources, and inspecting the thought process that leads to the proposed conclusions.

Authorities, experts and scientists have vested interests, and hold their own beliefs on existential and political matters, which may make them bend a certain way. And while it is tempting to think that only certain kinds of inclinations make people prone to this, the truth is that all people do it, no matter what they believe.

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Casual observation can easily lead to errors in judgment regarding a situation. You may remember having seen something happen very often, you may have heard a phrase at a certain place at a certain time, and then retroactively start to assign meaning to these things.

Historians and sociologists are especially guilty of presenting fanciful reconstructions of the motives of historical figures as if these were facts when in truth they are mostly flights of imagination.

Informal logic leads us to confuse a feeling of "making sense" with hard evidence. Informal logic is what you usually picture in your head when you hear the word logic.

It is misguiding in that it convinces people that a well-structured argument lends enough weight to a statement so as to consider it as scientifically valid or even real. Informal logic arguments are what ideologies and religions are based on.

Scientific Thinking

Systematic observation is the first step toward the scientific way of discovering things in the world. It requires that we set strict guidelines to follow in how, when, and what we are going to be observing.

Formal logic deals with the form of statements, following precise rules that dictate a very limited range of interpretation, and thus increase the precision of meaning.

And logic must be applied consistently, that is, the rules and parameters cannot be changed as results are received. Methods cannot be changed that would disrupt the ongoing production of said results. This consistency is what enables us to make valid comparisons

The scientific method requires six things of a hypothesis for it to come within its purview:

  1. It must be empirically testable (observations can prove or disprove it)
  2. It must be replicable (original experiment can be identically repeated)
  3. It must be objective (clarity of assumptions, concepts, and procedures apparent to other people, not just yourself)
  4. It must be transparent (all relevant information should be made available)
  5. It must be falsifiable (the disproving condition must be imaginable)
  6. It must coherent (logically consistent, no internal contradiction)

In conclusion, scientific claims are based on observations that are used to support or oppose a hypothesis. Support for a hypothesis is also said to have a degree of intensity so that something can be described as having strong or weak support.

Scientific theories are never to be thought of as "true" or "certain". They are always the best explanations that are accepted by a certain body of experts. And this is the closest we can get to knowledge.

Anything less than this is fancy and should not be treated seriously, except as a symptom of an underlying problem in society and communication.

Anything, no matter how unpalatable or contrary to consensus, that checks all the boxes for scientific thinking, is and should be respected as scientific, even if the experts oppose it due to their own opinions and vested interests.

Let Reason be your Bedrock

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2021 David Rosales

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