Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
Interactive science series
CRITICAL THINKING - an important aspect of becoming a true scientist
Q: You emphasize on critical thinking. How can that be done? Will science help us in doing this?
Q: I am particularly concerned about the process of developing critical thinking. How can that be developed to think like you do?
Krishna: Glad you people asked me this question.
Everyone thinks; it is human nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself,
is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed, or down-right prejudiced. Yet the
quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely
on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is detrimental to science. It also effects the standard of our living. But still several people, I observed, think, just because they did graduation, PG and Ph.D. in science, they can think scientifically. This itself is lopsided thinking. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated.
Therefore, Critical thinking is a part of science training. If you don't get this training properly, your science education is incomplete and useless.
You just need to commit yourself to remaining rigorous, clear-headed and honest in your analysis while conducting science.
You have to free yourself from cognitive biases that try to influence your thought processes. You have to try to be completely neutral and highly rational. Only real scientific facts, data and evidence should help you in this process and nothing else.
Keen observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making are the vital stages of critical thinking.
The steps that should be followed are ...
First you should develop the ability to understand the information you are being presented with correctly. It is also the ability to connect pieces of gathered/observed information/data together in order to determine what the intended meaning of the information was meant to represent. Try to understand the logical connections between ideas/data presented.
Then try to analyse it with a neutral mind - remove all the influences that might screw up your thought process and understanding. These are cultural, religious, political, emotional and ideological ones. Just because you love or respect somebody - that somebody need not be always right. Or just because you hate somebody that person need not always be wrong. Just because you believe in something doesn't make it a fact. THIS REALIZATION IS VITAL FOR CRITICAL ANALYSIS.
Identify, construct and evaluate arguments. We live in interesting times…times when misinformation, alternative facts, and opinion carry equal or more weight than empirical data. Therefore, search for evidence, facts, or knowledge by identifying relevant and highly reliable sources and gathering objective, subjective, historical, and current data from only those sources. Take into consideration only the data and facts of information exactly as they are presented to you or come to your notice - forget rest of the things. In order to do this you should develop the ability to understand and recognize what elements you will need in order to determine an accurate conclusion or hypothesis from the information you have at your disposal. You should be able to discard the useless things without any hesitation. This selection process is extremely important to have an accurate judgement.
Refine the ability to evaluate the credibility of statements or descriptions of a person’s conclusion or observations presented/noted in order to measure the validity of the information.
Seek clarification if the information presented is posing problems in understanding. Never hesitate to question the information if found faulty. Try alternative or information presented by others too while analyzing.
Reason thoroughly using all the knowledge available to you on the matter. Detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning and rectify them.
Draw inferences or conclusions that are supported or justified by evidence and evidence only. Judge according to established professional or scientific rules or criteria using only scientific methodology.
You should have complete clarity and perspective about the information after analyzing it thoroughly. Fuzzy or hesitative conclusions denote erroneous process. You should be able to transfer this to others with precision too.
But one should also realize that this fact finding process should be open to correction if new data arrives and demands it. And that the facts that helped you to arrive at a conclusion this moment are only provisional and falsifiable.
You should be able to solve the problems you face or help others using this information creatively. Identify the relevance and importance of ideas/information and how they could be correctly used.
Once trained or learned, this process should be with you 24X365X100 influencing your every thought, action and move in your whole life. There shouldn't be any exceptions.
It should sink into your body, enter each cell, mind and become a part of you. If this state of mind is reached, you become a true scientist.
Being a scientist is a state of mind, not a profession!