There is a common view of science that it consists of collecting experimentally verifiable facts arranged in some orderly manner… a telephone book or an airline schdule is an orderely collection of facts…[neither] is a science. Science is the formulation of general statements of explanatory power from which a multitude of veriable facts can be deduced…Science does not begin with facts, it begins with a perception of a problem and the belief in the possibility of an answer.
M. and I. Goldstein, “How We Know”
There are three types or levels of thinking.
The first one is common, or everyday reasoning. Most people use it to evaluate different issues and events. This is the so-called “kitchen expertise”. For example, if you ask an average person his or her opinion on a political topic, in most cases you will get some sort of an answer.
The second level is expert thinking. This type is mostly found in the media – TV, newspapers, and Internet. Various experts give their “expert opinions” on various subjects. While expert reasoning positions itself as “rational and professional”, quite often it rolls back to everyday thinking.
The third type is scientific thinking. Its main differences compared to the common one can be summarized as follows (Note: expert thinking is somewhere in between).
- Common (C): faith in the obvious. Scientific (S): obvious is the first stage of knowledge.
- C: “I personally know / feel”, “My friend said…”, “I like … S: testing information against all achievements in the field irregardless of emotional reactions.
- C: Everyone’s opinion matters. S: It is knowledge that matters, not opinion.
- C: If something’s unclear, it needs to be explained immediately. S. Some scientific problems needs agree to sort out. This is normal.
With the overwhelming amount of information that needs to be analyzed today, it’s good to be aware of these different types of thinking. It’s even better to be able to switch between them depending on the circumstances and target audience.
And a final quote regarding self-knowledge.
Science is not to blame for men’s lack of self-knowledge. Giordano Bruno went to the stake because he told his fellow men that they and their planet were only a speck of dust in a cloud of countless other specks. When Charles Darwin discovered that men are descended from animals they would have been glad to kill him, and there was certainly no lack of attempts to silence him. When Sigmund Freud attempted to analyse the motives of human social behaviour and to explain its causes from the subjective-psychological side, but with the method of approach of true natural science, he was accused of irreverence, blind materialism and even pornographic tendencies. Humanity defends its own self-esteem with all its might, and it is certainly time to preach humility and try seriously to break down all obstructions to self-knowledge.
Konrad Lorenz (1963), “On Aggression”