Archive for August, 2022

WHAT IS A SCIENTIST?

August 7, 2022

People are always urging us to “Talk or think more scientifically.” But what do the mean. Do they even know? I doubt if most of them have any idea. So here I have composed a little quiz. If you can answer most of the questions you must be a pretty knowledgeable scientist. But if you, or they, cannot ….

WHO IS A SCIENTIST?

1 Einstein said: “Scientific thinking is a mere refinement of the everyday variety.” What is that main refinement?

2 Who among the following gave the first correct prescription for Hypothesis-testing: Bacon, Galileo, Huyghens, Newton, Pearson, Fisher, Neymann, Jefferies, de Finetti, Popper, Jaynes ,or none of the above?

3 Evolution is notoriously slow, so how, a mere few thousand years ago, did humans suddenly become far smarter than their chimpanzee cousins with whom they share 98% of their genes?

4 Probability theory was developed to deal with the games of chance which are CLOSED – i.e. have a finite number of configurations within them. But the real world is OPEN. How then can statisticians apply Probability theory to open systems?

5 Why does the Normal distribution turn up so often in Statistics?

6 Huge scientific controversies [E.g. Continental Drift] have hinged on conflicting evidence. How does the Scientific Method resolve such conflicts?

7 Science, indeed thinking in general, is bedevilled by Systematic Errors [e.g. the Earth is flat]. How can we ensure that they do not betray us into taking disastrous, indeed existential decisions?

8 How should one estimate Measurement errors?

9 Precisely why should we be influenced by Occam’s Razor in choosing between hypotheses?

10 If we don’t know all the hypotheses alternative to H that could explain some evidence E, how could we ever calculate the Probability P(H|E)…. “The Probability of hypothesis H given E” ?

11 Why has Breadth so often proved vital to scientific success?

12 Why don’t we get lessons in common-sense thinking at school or university? Surely they would be very valuable?

13 Since Induction is the basis of scientific thinking how do scientists overcome Hume’s ‘Classical Problem of Induction?’

15 In what circumstances do some thinkers find Bayes’ theorem helpful, and why do others disagree?

16 How do thinkers arrive at their value for the Prior probability in Bayes’ theorem?

17 If a new observation is in serious conflict with a scientific theory, in what circumstances would it be sensible to modify that theory by adding a new Free Parameter to it [E.g. Dark Energy]?

18 Who has given a clear, uncontroversial and complete account of the Scientific Method, and where can one find it?

MY BOOK ‘COMMON SENSE THINKING’

August 3, 2022

This is a very short book (only 60 odd pages) about a very big subject – Thinking. It is based on the belief that we can all learn to Think far more effectively by sticking to a few simple rules. Why those rules work is a complicated business, but we leave the ‘Whys’ out here (indicating where you can read about them elsewhere). We hope everyone over 13 could read this little book and become a whole lot smarter after doing so.

But how could that be true? Because 2,500 years ago the ‘experts’ on thinking imagined that they had found new ways of doing so that would lead to Certainty. But it turned out that they were hopelessly wrong. Unfortunately they confused everyone about the matter, especially the highly educated, so all we have to do now is abandon their wild goose chase for Certainty, and revert to the tried and tested ways of Common Sense. What we will be looking for instead are convincing betting odds on our ideas and our decisions being right.

The key to understanding was Darwin’s realisation (in 1859) that we humans too are animals, and therefore that Thinking must be a survival mechanism that has evolved over a million generations of struggle out in the wild. As such it must be highly effective otherwise humans would have become extinct. The thinking method advocated here is the way I believe that all smart animals, unconfused by education, use. You simply can’t beat it!

Who am I to claim any expertise in the matter of thinking? I have been an astronomer and Space scientists all my working life (50 years), using what I believed to be ‘The Scientific Method’. But then events led me to question exactly what that Scientific Method was. A dozen years of fascinating research eventually brought me to realise that it was all about Common Sense Thinking (CST for short), and to the actual mechanisms by which CST must work. This book is a brief account of what I found out, written in the hope that it will revolutionise other peoples’ thinking as much as it has definitely revolutionised mine. And if you won’t take my word here is what Albert Einstein had to say:

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant, and has forgotten the gift.”

Let’s unearth that sacred gift of Nature and share it amongst ourselves once again. Let’s re-learn how to think.

‘COMMON SENSE THINKING’ is actually a very condensed and simplified version of my big book ‘THINKING FOR OURSELVES’ described elsewhere on this site under the ‘My Books’ category

TABLE OF CONTENTS BY CHAPTER

1 THINKING LIKE EINSTEIN

2 THINKING LIKE A GAMBLER

3 THE CASE OF THE MISSING WIFE

4 MURDER IN THE LIBRARY & PAW

5 KEEPING IT SIMPLE; GET OUT THAT RAZOR

6 NUMBERS; PAWN THEM.

7 WHEN TO DECIDE AND ACT: 64

8 WHAT ABOUT YOUR PRIOR?

9 DOES IT WORK?

10 THE LIMITATIONS OF COMMON SENSE

11 ENEMIES: EDUCATION VERSUS COMMON SENSE

12 BUT IS IT RIGHT?

13 A SERIOUS HEALTH WARNING FOR THINKERS.

SUMMARY OF THE BOOK

EXTRA STUFF ( OPTIONAL)