A quick search on the definition of science yields this: “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.”
Likewise, the scientific method can be defined as: “a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.”
My point here is this: we all look at the world and interpret it based on our perceptions and understanding. Often these perceptions are wrong – but how can we know? The easy way to deal with this uncertainty is to wait for someone else to tell you what’s true. That way, you won’t be bothered by pesky thinking – “someone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about said it was true, and it fits with my belief system, so I’m going with that.” The problem with this is twofold. First, you aren’t thinking, which you should kind of be ashamed of, or at least embarrassed by. And the second is this: by just blindly accepting something as true because it feels right, you are depriving yourself of using a tool by which you can come to your own conclusions about how the world works – which is the fun part! So what tool might help us with this problem? Pull up a chair and meet The Scientific Method!
You will find many variations on this process, but the basic idea is this: suppose you come across a problem, perhaps a conspiracy theory like, oh, say, the flat earth theory. How might you come to your own informed conclusion? You would use the Scientific Method:
- Ask a question (Is the earth really flat?)
- Form a hypothesis (I think it is flat!)
- Research the data (What do the facts tell us?)
- Test your conclusion (Can I prove my hypothesis wrong? Oy, What was I thinking?)
- Adjust your concept of reality accordingly…
For the purposes of this brief post, I want to focus on what I think might be the most important step – asking the question “Can I prove my hypothesis wrong?” Because this requires that you examine opposing viewpoints to see how your idea holds up. This implies looking at the world at bit differently – instead of looking for things to confirm what you want to believe, you are now actively looking for ways to prove yourself wrong. Welcome to the Scientific Method!
Thinking this way can actually make you smarter, and it most certainly will make you a more interesting person. It also has the added benefit of making your world a more interesting place, because now your reality is constantly shifting and growing. Even the most mundane things can begin to seem interesting and worthy of study.
Thinking can be fun – you can’t do it too much, and no one’s getting hurt in the process!