Do you think clearly about the universe?

Posted by David Eicher
on Friday, July 25, 2014

The Whirlpool Galaxy // Credit: Tony Hallas
The bad news: We’re constantly awash in nonsense about the cosmos served up mostly by TV.

The good news: By thinking about the universe in the right way, you can avoid most of the nonsense.

Here are the ways you can determine how you see the truth, from worst to best:

1. Intuition. This line of reasoning includes supposition, imagination, speculation, inference, induction, inspiration, and revelation. These methods of thought are highly subjective. They include dreams and “mystical enlightenments.”

2. Authoritarian methods. Parents, peers, friends, teachers, high priests, kings, politicians, and professionals all tell you what to believe. This method is high on tradition, precedent, and expertise, often dispensing knowledge in prescription fashion.

3. Rational methods. Mathematical and logical procedures using analogy and deductive reasoning are better than intuition or having authorities tell you what to believe. These consider causality, definitions, and semantics. They look toward statistical probabilities and analyses based on large samples.

4. Empirical methods. This is the basis of science. Empiricism relies on observation, coincidence, experimentation, and standardized verification. Coincidental observations from multiple, uncoerced sources cement the validity of a phenomenon in the cosmos. These methods are relative rather than absolute. Conclusions are checked by experimentation and repetition, converting hypotheses (suggestions) into laws (specific conclusions) and in turn into scientific theories (generalizations widely known to be true).

Do you think like a scientist?

If you use your intuition, believe what others tell you on first blush, or simply try to calculate your way to conclusions, probably not. If you view the world empirically, watching as numerous observations and experiments put together conclusions, then yes, you see the world as a scientist — and think clearly about the universe.

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