Critical Thinking And The Scientific Method
In setting forth a vision for the CNPS, David De Hilster called for changing the term “dissidents” to “critical thinkers” and the phrase “dissident views” to “critical thinking”. The new terms are more positive and more accurate and help to define a more positive image for a social media campaign. The CNPS slogan is now “Campaign To Restore Critical Thinking.”
In addition, “critical thinking” is a real mode of thinking and is part of the scientific method or at least it should be. In the area of “spacetime” physics, which is the area that I know best, there is the attitude that those who espouse ideas that conflict with currently accepted “spacetime” physics (e.g., relativity) are, by definition, nut cases. This means that the de facto methodology used by “spacetime” physicists rules out critical thinking except for minor or modest extensions to currently accepted theory.
The scientific method, regardless of how it was actually applied, was never thought to restrict thinking to just supporting currently accepted theory as that would ensure stagnation.
Relativists were taught relativity. There has been little fundamental change for the past 100 years since General Relativity was formulated and, hence, relativists have never engaged in critical thinking. Any alternatives to relativity have been viewed dismissively or just ignored. Further, relativists have the greatest confidence in currently accepted theory as it’s claimed the empirical data has confirmed it to the nth degree, it’s the foundation of modern physics and its mathematics are highly pleasing aesthetically.
Similarly, in the closely related field of cosmology, there has been little fundamental change since the advent of Big Bang theory although lots of additional detail, based primarily on mathematical speculations, has been added. Yet, equal confidence is placed on the current Big Bang cosmology model.
This absence of any sense of critical thinking can have two side effects. First, if one designs an experiment with that mindset to prove relativity, then one is assured of proving relativity no matter what. For example, the great turning point in the acceptance of General Relativity, and by association Special Relativity, was Arthur Stanley Eddington’s claim that his observations of the May 29, 1919 solar eclipse confirmed General Relativity. Decades later the data was analyzed and seen to have shown no such confirmation. Long before Eddington made the eclipse observations it was well known that Eddington was an ardent advocate for General Relativity, at least partly because of its mathematical aesthetics.
Second, if one sets out to find something, especially if lots of money has been spent specifically for that purpose, one will tend to “find” that something. For example, George Smoot and colleagues set out to find “Wrinkles In Time”. They couldn’t find them at the level they started searching, 1 part in 10, so they searched at 1 part in 100, and then 1 part in 1000. But at that level the “noise” tended to obscure any pattern. Thus, there had been TWENTY YEARS of frustrating work in relative obscurity and there was a great sense of failure. So they put the data through some sophisticated analysis software in hopes of removing the “noise” and they found the “wrinkles’. Being good scientists, they reviewed the data and brought in an expert on such analysis and they could find no problem with their results. They were preparing to announce their great discovery when one of the team discovered that the “wrinkles” were a product of the sophisticated analysis software. So they re-did the software analysis and found “wrinkles” and announced their discovery to worldwide fanfare – champagne flowed, there were great celebrations and giddy talk of Noble Prizes. Stephen Hawking claimed it was “the scientific discovery of the century, if not all time”. Do you see the difference in not finding that something and not finding that something?
If that false alarm had not been discovered just before announcing it, there would have been exactly the same reaction as for the “real” announcement even though it was, at that point, baseless. There’s also been little if any critical thinking in mainstream cosmology about was the real announcement valid and even if the data was correct was the interpretation valid and was it the only possible interpretation. Yet, given the reaction to the announcement, who dares doubt the Big Bang’s Inflation epoch?
For a more detailed look at the abandoning of critical thinking regarding Special Relativity’s Twin Paradox, see the blog entry entitled “The Twin Paradox: Mainstream Rejection of Critical Thinking” .
Note well that even critical thinkers are not immune to losing that faculty. A critical thinker might question currently accepted theory and with great effort and many years of study develop his own pet theory alternative. However, once that’s done, it’s human to lose objectivity about criticism of one’s pet theory. One tends to think that anyone who attacks one’s pet theory must be a nut case at least regarding the pet theory. That’s not bad as we don’t want the pet theory to be discarded prematurely. Maybe it’s flawed, but the pet theory can still evolve. However, eventually if the theory has a fundamental flaw and yet is not abandoned, then it becomes like a Flat Earth theory and ceases to be science. What’s needed is a community of critical thinkers who interact and employ a true scientific method.
A prefect example of ‘pet’ theory’ is well and alive in the Natural Philosophy Org. “As bad as we don’t want the pet theory to be discarded prematurely. Maybe it’s flawed, but the pet theory can still evolve. However, eventually if the theory has a fundamental flaw and yet is not abandoned, then it becomes like a Flat Earth theory and ceases to be science. What’s needed is a community of critical thinkers who interact and employ a true scientific method.” David De Hilster and Werdau/ Saxony have been promoting Expansion Tectonics fro year but refuse to listen to the fatal evidence that I offered to David 7/8 years ago. Once you have a ‘pet’ theory, you are blind to ‘critical theory’. Even me.
Norman: I, David de Hilster, am not emperor of the CNPS. I help out the CNPS best I can. So I don’t “approve” or “disapprove”. You have the right to opt into the CNPS, pay your annual membership, and put on your blog all your arguments. That is the way you do it and you are invited to do so. It is up to you. The CNPS is a self-serve group so it won’t happen until you move forward.
Critical thinking comes naturally in childhood, if kids are provided opportunity for self-directed learning, which is “play”. Compulsory schooling is authoritarian and enslaving and no fun. Unschooling is self-directed learning, which is fun. Compulsory schooling was intended to promote patriotism and willingness to fight for the ruling class. It’s unscientific and leads to uncritical thinking. Science is experiment, which is “play”. Kids need adult assistance, but not adult domination.
Institutionalizing Ignorance….Government Skools serve to both mentally & economically restrict students ,and history makes it clear that is what they were designed for, and Mandatory Public Skooling is a State tool for manipulating class structure…This is both a historical and economic fact….
All scientific experiment should be done by a committee comprising of three groups.
1. Supporters of theory
2. Criticisers of theory
3. Critical thinkers
All data should be analyzed by all.
Views of all groups must be published openly to all.
This is not done in currently anywhere in world .
I second this excellent observation – hopefully, the CNPS can, over time, provide this type of multiple views environment for theory development.
David & Nick,
What happened to the “Campaign To Restore Critical Thinking” I have not been able to find any recent posts on the subject. I think it is a campaign that can be fruitful in the long-run if we can get a majority agreement on a few or at least one major “Problem” in 20th century mainstream relativity theory. However, establishing a “Problem” without a “Solution” will not be fruitful. Thus, we will also need to get a majority agreement on a solution to any or all “Problems” that are determined by the majority o voting “Critical Thinkers”.
Ken, David’s changing our group’s “designation” from “dissidents” the “critical thinkers” was indeed a great “branding” move. I’ll let David expand on the following note, but David has been focusing on a new, marketing initiative to bring a new audience and new support to the CNPS from those in the general public who have a strong interest in science but aren’t actively developing their own thesis, etc. However, clearly, “critical thinking” can and should continue to be a compatible and important part of the CNPS including this new initiative which will have its own branding. Personally, I have been continuing to support the awareness of “critical thinking”. As part of the CNPS, there is my YouTube channel, named “Nick of Time”, where I focus on the treatment of “time” in physics and the shortcommings of relativity in that area. While my major theme is “time in physics”, right from my Intro video, I make Critical Thinking the secondary theme with most every video making strong points on that theme. In addition, I have created Rules of Conduct for the CNPS Saturday Morning video conferences, and beyond, where I lay out some key aspects of critical thinking rules of conduct and end with this summary:
“The above rules are aimed at keeping the meetings from being driven by bullying, intimidation, personal conflicts, personal biases and personal opinions no matter now strongly held and, in turn, having the flow of the meeting being driven by logic and unemotional, scientific analysis – in short by critical thinking.”
Thanks for your note and observation, Ken
Is there any activity relevant to “Critical Analysis” of Relativity Theory going on currently such as “CNPS Saturday Morning video conferences” etc.? If such activities will be postponed until after the Holidays (say from now through January 1, 2019); then do you know if there is any interest in restarting such activities as early as January 2019? If so, I would be interested in such “Critical Thinking” activity where: “rules are aimed at keeping the meetings from being driven by bullying, intimidation, personal conflicts, personal biases and personal opinions no matter now strongly held and, in turn, having the flow of the meeting being driven by logic and unemotional, scientific analysis”. I would also like to add that the “rules should be driven by logic based upon a premise that includes a set of agreed upon Laws of Physics (e.g. the Principle of Relativity?, Lorentz Time dilation?, Lorentz Length Contraction of a moving body?, – ?, – ?).
Critical thinking is a very essential and important skill that schools should be developing in the students even as early as the preschool level. To do so, Critical Thinking should be a course in Junior High School to prepare them for Senior High School because the students have already research courses in this level.
We, in higher education find it very hard to cultivate critical thinking skills among our students because these were not developed in their lower years. Tendency is, there is always that passing of the buck. College teachers would blame the high school teachers for not teaching the students well. In turn, the high school teachers would blame the elementary teachers.
But all of us teachers need to shoulder the blame. Sometimes, we remain complacent with our teaching. Some of us are hesitant to go out of the box. We are stocked with the easier part of the instructional task, that is, dealing only with the lower order thinking skills. We shun from the higher order thinking skills because we need to also think critically to come up with class activities, questions, tests that require critical thinking from our students.
Extremely well said! I and the CNPS agree with the above 100%