Mon 17 May 2021 2:26PM

Add to basic principles: Scientific temper and rational thinking

A Akshay Public Seen by 41

A lot of social problems (like stereotyping, fake news, superstitions) arise from cognitive biases, irrational thinking, and lack of scientific temper. We should make it a basic principle to work on improving scientific temper and rational thinking in the society.


Pirate Praveen Tue 25 May 2021 1:26PM

Agree with scientific temper. Not really sure about rational thinking, as rational thinking with a wrong axiom can lead to absurd conclusions. Analysing many complex social issues inevitabily lead to assumptions to make analysis easier.


Pirate Bady Mon 7 Jun 2021 8:05PM

@Pirate Praveen first of all, scientific temper and rational thinking cannot be mutually exclusive. i.e. one cannot have scientific temper without being rational.

an important difference between science and religion is that science promotes healthy skepticism and falsifiability. in fact science keeps improving every time an existing theory or law is found to be wrong or incapable of explaining an observation. science is described as "pursuit of truth" instead of saying it is about the ultimate truth! that's why scientific method doesn't just start with one point and end with another. instead it is an ongoing process.

so the point is if some axioms/premises are leading to conclusions which are found to be inconsistent with observed reality, then it doesn't necessarily mean it is a problem with the scientific method. instead we can follow the same method again and again with different axioms/premises and reach at better conclusions. that's the beauty as well as the power of scientific method!

it should also be noted that changing premises alone may not be useful, there are also other factors like accuracy of the data collected, sample size, etc. there are also cases where hypotheses can't be tested in controlled experiments for ethical or practical reasons (for eg. limitations in testing big bang theory by trying to reproduce it!). these point out the limitations in applying scientific method (not a limitation of scientific method per se) based on experiments. @Akshay has beautifully mentioned this limitation of performing scientific experiments in social sciences.

To claim that theoretically it is possible to isolate all the variables and test a hypothesis about human beings - that's useless at best, and politically inappropriate at the worst.


thankfully controlled experiments are not the only way to test reproducibility. this is where we have to depend on observational studies which are also scientific. for eg. observational evidences for big bang theory.

science doesn't claim that it knows everything or it can be used to know everything some day. uncertainty principle, probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, etc. hints that the universe need not be 100% deterministic in nature. even though it would be wrong to generalize it by applying the rules of quantum mechanics to macroscopic universe without any supporting evidence. the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is not considered as a problem with the limitations of our tools and technologies used for measurement such that we cannot overcome it by building better tools. this doesn't seem to be the case with social sciences, which can fail to meet predictions because they are insufficiently nuanced. with better data collection and a better understanding of the factors involved and the relations between them we can still make better predictions in social sciences.

complex systems, despite being hard to study, can still be deterministic. even if we can only probabilistically determine the functioning of a society due to various practical issues, it can be still useful to us. insurance industries, lottery industries, ad industries, etc. run successfully based on probabilistic analysis. in case of government policies, even if it is not possible to determine the exact outcome of its implementation beforehand, it is very crucial to perform proper studies and acquire a probabilistic knowledge of the possible outcomes and their impacts in order to avoid unintended negative consequences which lead to tragic incidents (history has already shown us many examples like the great famine caused by the great leap forward, migrant crisis caused by the overnight lockdown in our country, etc).


Pirate Bady Mon 7 Jun 2021 8:40PM

it is great that our national constitution has already explicitly adopted scientific temper along with humanism. since it is already there, do we need to adopt the same or shall we add anything more to it? @Akshay as the one who proposed this idea, what do you think?

it is also very important to note that we seem to live in a very critical time in the history of our country since independence where illogical ideas are purposefully propagated one after another like never before to fool citizens and to escape from answering real life problems. i think we can add the following points in our manifesto to counter this:

  • In order to promote scientific temper we will add the following to the curriculum of school students:

    • How to think critically

    • Logical fallacies

    • Scientific method

    • Difference between science and pseudoscience