Thursday, September 18, 2014

To change your mind, think! Sciency isn't the same as science

This is a rant. I am beyond tired by people who believe with all the force of true-believers that they are thinking when what they are doing is selecting "sciency" stuff that reinforces their prejudices and makes them feel superior to everyone else. It discourages me somewhat that so many people are willing to believe that bad reasoning is the same as good science.

I'm not a science-hater. I am a lover of good thinking wherever it is found. Some science is wonderfully good thinking. Even some social science is ingenious and reflective and useful. This is not a rant against science.

This is a rant about people who quote researchers the way other people quote holy books: as a trump card to prove beyond all doubt that they are smarter than everyone else. These people are rarely the scientists who actually design the research. These are people who have replaced inquiry with hearsay. They begin with the need for "proof that X is effective" and they say it with such serious authority that you are tempted to buy in.  What follows starts with researchers (never with the research) and goes on to quote numbers that have never existed in science but somehow are meant to convey the same general impression that research would convey (if it were possible to research the topic at hand).

Integrate! (this blog) is about thinking. It's about sometimes trusting your gut and sometimes trusting your logic, and often it's about not trusting anything. When you want to change your attitude, your beliefs or your behaviour, start with inquiry. Become very curious about what you know and how you know and what criteria allow you to build your life or satisfaction on an idea. If you've read many of my posts, you'll know that I don't encourage you to swallow what I say whole. I would much rather you chew on it slowly and find out what's digestible and what just doesn't work for you.

Good thinking (whether it comes from the arts or the sciences) begins with real curiosity and it's sister, real humility. If you already know, then you are not really doing research - or science. You're simply searching for ways to convince other people that you are more right than they are. There's nothing wrong with that until you pretend that your misquoting is better than their real thinking.

Here ends this rant. It's not really a sermon, and I'm not going to quote an authority (God or Science or Common Sense) to justify it. Take it or leave it or chew on it until it's digested. It's up to you.

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