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Thinking critically on critical thinking: why scientists' skills need to spread

MATHS AND SCIENCE EDUCATION: We’ve asked our authors about the state of maths and science education in Australia and its future direction. Today, Rachel Grieve discusses why we need to spread science-specific…

The skills that underpin science should be better incorporated into the rest of the curriculum. Thinking image from www.shutterstock.com

MATHS AND SCIENCE EDUCATION: We’ve asked our authors about the state of maths and science education in Australia and its future direction. Today, Rachel Grieve discusses why we need to spread science-specific skills into the wider curriculum.

When we think of science and maths, stereotypical visions of lab coats, test-tubes, and formulae often spring to mind.

But more important than these stereotypes are the methods that underpin the work scientists do – namely generating and systematically testing hypotheses. A key part of this is critical thinking.

It’s a skill that often feels in short supply these days, but you don’t necessarily need to study science or maths in order gain it. It’s time to take critical thinking out of the realm of maths and science and broaden it into students' general education.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is a reflective and analytical style of thinking, with its basis in logic, rationality, and synthesis. It means delving deeper and asking questions like: why is that so? Where is the evidence? How good is that evidence? Is this a good argument? Is it biased? Is it verifiable? What are the alternative explanations?

Critical thinking moves us beyond mere description and into the realms of scientific inference and reasoning. This is what enables discoveries to be made and innovations to be fostered.

For many scientists, critical thinking becomes (seemingly) intuitive, but like any skill set, critical thinking needs to be taught and cultivated. Unfortunately, educators are unable to deposit this information directly into their students’ heads. While the theory of critical thinking can be taught, critical thinking itself needs to be experienced first-hand.

So what does this mean for educators trying to incorporate critical thinking within their curricula? We can teach students the theoretical elements of critical thinking. Take for example working through statistical problems like this one:

In a 1,000-person study, four people said their favourite series was Star Trek and 996 said Days of Our Lives. Jeremy is a randomly chosen participant in this study, is 26, and is doing graduate studies in physics. He stays at home most of the time and likes to play videogames. What is most likely?

  1. Jeremy’s favourite series is Star Trek

  2. Jeremy’s favourite series is Days of Our Lives

Some critical thought applied to this problem allows us to know that Jeremy is most likely to prefer Days of Our Lives.

Can you teach it?

It’s well established that statistical training is associated with improved decision-making. But the idea of “teaching” critical thinking is itself an oxymoron: critical thinking can really only be learned through practice. Thus, it is not surprising that student engagement with the critical thinking process itself is what pays the dividends for students.

As such, educators try to connect students with the subject matter outside the lecture theatre or classroom. For example, problem based learning is now widely used in the health sciences, whereby students must figure out the key issues related to a case and direct their own learning to solve that problem. Problem based learning has clear parallels with real life practice for health professionals.

Critical thinking goes beyond what might be on the final exam and life-long learning becomes the key. This is a good thing, as practice helps to improve our ability to think critically over time.

Just for scientists?

For those engaging with science, learning the skills needed to be a critical consumer of information is invaluable. But should these skills remain in the domain of scientists? Clearly not: for those engaging with life, being a critical consumer of information is also invaluable, allowing informed judgement.

Being able to actively consider and evaluate information, identify biases, examine the logic of arguments, and tolerate ambiguity until the evidence is in would allow many people from all backgrounds to make better decisions. While these decisions can be trivial (does that miracle anti-wrinkle cream really do what it claims?), in many cases, reasoning and decision-making can have a substantial impact, with some decisions have life-altering effects. A timely case-in-point is immunisation.

Pushing critical thinking from the realms of science and maths into the broader curriculum may lead to far-reaching outcomes. With increasing access to information on the internet, giving individuals the skills to critically think about that information may have widespread benefit, both personally and socially.

The value of science education might not always be in the facts, but in the thinking.


This is the sixth part of our series Maths and Science Education.

Join the conversation

53 Comments sorted by

  1. Adrian Bertolini

    logged in via Facebook

    There is some great work being done out of UWA on Thinking Science (http://www.education.uwa.edu.au/tsa/research) which is now spreading through to schools in QLD (http://www.mta.qld.edu.au/news-and-events/thinking-science-at-mta/) on this topic. What needs to actually done is schools is for them to first have roadmaps for cross-curricular skills throughout the year levels so that there is a coherency for skill development across the current silos of domains

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    1. Craig Cormick

      Communication Adviser, Corporate Communication at CSIRO

      In reply to Adrian Bertolini

      Another great and fun resource on critical thinking, developed by the Department of Innovation, in the form of short youtube animations, with supporting classroom materials is at:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSZ3BUru59A

      What? Education and fun?? And yes, Adrian, curriculum relevance is vital for teachers to be able to use such resources.

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  2. Jack Bowers

    Learning Adviser

    What a curious article! Of course, I would agree that "critical thinking" skills are valuable - not just for university study, but for a thoughtful life lived.

    In education and teaching journals, there are hundreds of articles discussing research into the development of skills via content, and the recognition of the value of skills, from early childhood to doctoral education. This article is written as if this study doesn't exist, and that Bloom's Taxonomy is a secret!

    Defining critical thinking…

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Jack Bowers

      Jack, indeed. I was taught critical thinking skills in primary school/ And the author errs in including "analytical" thinking as part of "critical" thinking. They are separate. "Analytical thinking is more rule based, while "critical" thinking is more judgmental and evaluative.

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    2. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to David Thompson

      Nice way of putting it Jack, it is indeed a curious article which seems confused on a number of fronts.

      One minor thing David, although I am sympathetic with the direction of your comment, the whole analytic/synthetic divide has become by my understanding a little obsolete. Quine's contribution regarding the foundations of science I think is relevant to both you and the author of this article. It points in the direction of a kind of thinking not clearly articulated in the article. Sorry if the…

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff, I agree with you. But I think at the school level, it is useful to distinguish analytical thinking as the more rule following (particularly syllogistic deductive logic) from critical thinking, which questions premises, looks for silences, biases, etc. One thing is for sure both styles of thinking have deteriorated in both schools and universities (especially in social studies) over the past 20 years or so.

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  3. Angela Ballard

    Consultant/Facilitator at Atmosphere Consulting

    A bit more understanding about how a privileging of maths and science also limits critical thinking may be in order, along with an acknowledgement that linguistics, philosophy and radical 'problem posing' Freirean education (not 'teaching") offer more holistic means to developing and cultivating critical thinking. An article which implies crtical thinking originates with science is a bit rich, don't you think, and not particularly critical either!
    Perhaps it is better to cultivate understanding of the interdependent nature of all things/ knowledges, rather than atomised science and maths as specific subject areas

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    1. Lisa Merry

      Research Development Officer

      In reply to Angela Ballard

      Of course you can develop critical thinking from other disciplines - law being another one.

      However, I think perhaps when you look at the current situation we have - with maths and science enrollments falling in schools and universities, and when our future technological advances depend on getting the best people possible studying maths and sciences - demonstrating the value of studying sciences, and the application of the learned thought processes beyond just doing science is a useful thing. Scientists need to do this more.

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    2. Rotha Jago

      concerned citizen

      In reply to Angela Ballard

      I agree, Angela. I once did some study of Philosophy of Science on an ABC open study program. This interesting course concerned itself with all the peripheral elements which influence or impinge upon scientific decision making.
      This is an essential but completely ignored area of Science whether applied or theoretical.
      There is no public discussion of The Philosophy of Science or the obstacles faced by scientists in, for example getting a job in the first place or disagreeing with advertised 'scientific'opinion or any of the other pressures which confront scientists.
      'Critical Thinking' does not exist in a vacuum. In a country where foreign manufacturers are financed, but basic science is not, how does a scientist survive?

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Angela Ballard

      Angela, what does "a privileging of maths and science" mean?

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  4. Dave Kinkead

    PhD candidate in Political Philosophy

    Hi Rachel - could you please clarify what critical thinking skills your example is supposed to demonstrate because questioning assumptions doesn't seem to be one of them.

    The 'days of our lives' conclusions relies on many assumptions that are no more justifiable than alternative ones. For a physicist to prefer DoL over Star Trek given that sample, then yes the base rate of being a trekkie given that one is a physicist would need to be 250 times greater than the base rate for DoL | Phys…

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    1. Rachel Grieve

      Lecturer in Psychology at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Dave Kinkead

      Dear Dave,

      Thanks for your comments. As you have identified, the example is about base rates. If a person is randomly selected from a sample where 996 of the thousand prefer Days of Our Lives, then it is more likely that that person prefers Days of Our Lives. It doesn't matter how many physicists I know who prefer Star Trek.

      best wishes,

      Rachel

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    2. Robert Koshinskie

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Dave Kinkead

      Dave, As someone who has a degree in BioPhysics, is a Star Trek fan and a manager in the healthcare sector, I completely agree with your assessment and love the bookie analogy. While statistics have been shown to work remarkably well for dice, failure rate and such, they can simply falter once human behavior enters the equation. I like the overall sentiment of Rachel's article, and just feel that the "base rate" point she was trying to make would have benefited from an example that was less "Vulcan" in form ;-)

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    3. Dave Kinkead

      PhD candidate in Political Philosophy

      In reply to Rachel Grieve

      Thanks for your reply Rachel - I'll see if I can make my point clearer.

      "In a 1,000-person study of single people, four participants were bachelors and 996 were spinsters. Jeremy is a randomly chosen participant in this study. Is it more likely he is a bachelor or spinster?"

      Inferring conditional likelihoods requires a lot more information than just unconditional frequencies. It really does matter how many physicists who prefer star trek you know (of) because with out this information, you…

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    4. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Rachel Grieve

      "If a person is randomly selected from a sample where 996 of the thousand prefer Days of Our Lives, then it is more likely that that person prefers Days of Our Lives. It doesn't matter how many physicists I know who prefer Star Trek. "

      A Bayesian would disagree.

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    5. Craig Watkins

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rachel Grieve

      Rachel,

      I'm sorry, but Dave has the right idea here. It is perhaps a poor example you have chosen. The assumption of the 1000 people study being representative must be considered critically. 4 out of 1000 preferring Star Trek to Days of Our Lives would clearly seem unreal except perhaps if the study was undertaken in a nursing home. We can use a range of external input to support such thinking such as the number of movies and TV episodes made and the popularity of these shown by box office takings…

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    6. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Dave Kinkead

      Yes - I picked up on this immediately too.

      It was a bad example because too much additional information was given. This additional information can inform the statistician with a "prior".

      For instance - a minimum common sense prior could be that physicists are more likely than not to prefer star trek. With that prior in hand the approriate conclusion is that the likelihood that Jeremy prefers days of our lives is less than 0.996.

      I could come up with a much stronger prior estimate, say from "my" personal experience that "all" male physicists whose viewing preferences I can guess at would prefer star trek. I can also guess that physicists make up less than 1% of the population. On the basis of these priors the estimate of the likelihood of a days of our lives preference for Jeremy would be much less than 0.996 and probably approaching zero.

      I've probably got the details wrong - any bayesianists out there wanna tackle this one on behalf of us indignant physicists?

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    7. Dave Kinkead

      PhD candidate in Political Philosophy

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      Fred, Craig, Rachel - thanks for your comments.

      In order for Jeremy to prefer ST to DoL, the prior likelihood of conditional preference (preferring ST given he is a physics student) would need to be 250 times (eg 1000:4) greater than the conditional of preferring DoL given he is a physics student.

      Now this may or may not be the case - you'd only need to know a single physicist who prefers DoL to swing the odds in favour of DoL being the most likely answer.

      The point is however, that this…

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    8. Antony Eagle

      Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at University of Adelaide

      In reply to Dave Kinkead

      I agree the example is misleading. Since for most of us, the prior probability that Jeremy likes Days of our Lives, conditional on them being a physics grad student, is zero, the other information on offer is rendered irrelevant. I know we're supposed to think that the probability that Jeremy likes DooL, conditional on being a member of the study, is 0.996, but since we take ourselves to have additional prior information that swamps this statistic, it's a problematic example.

      Would perhaps have been better to use another case: maybe a medical testing case (in which the low base rate of a given disease, combined with the error rate of a test, means that most positive tests are accompanied by not having the disease), or maybe (though it illustrates a different, though related, fallacy of probabilistic reasoning, the conjunction fallacy) Tversky and Kahneman's bank teller example.

      the Tversky and Kahneman

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    9. Tim Benham

      Student of Statistics

      In reply to Dave Kinkead

      > The statistician thought that chance of an 11th head would be 50:50 whilst the bookie thought it to be 0 - there is no way a fair coin would produce 10 heads in a row so the coin must be rigged.

      Oh yeah, those statisticians don't know anything. <eyeroll>

      I don't think you would find either a bookie silly enough to think 1/1024 is zero or a statistician who hadn't heard of coin bias.

      I agree the example is a poor one. Apparently you're supposed to ignore the evidence and go with the base rate. Yet the base rate itself is so unrealistic as to undermine the credibility of the data. Morever without any information as to the magnitude of the likelihood ratio the desired answer is only an educated guess.

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    10. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Dave Kinkead

      Dave, tis is why there is so much argument over what is and is not 'critical thinking'. Your counter-example is not isomorphic: 'bachelor' and 'spinster' are words that carry semantic presuppositions in and of themselves and do not express the preference of the respondent - which is the available information and does not actually embody or encode any assumptions - for all you know every one of the 1,000 respondents was a physicicit who was young, stayed at home and played computer games (this is…

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    11. Dave Kinkead

      PhD candidate in Political Philosophy

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      Dennis, you are correct about the semantics of bachelor/spinster but I'm not sure how or why you think this alters the claim that one must have knowledge of more than unconditional frequencies in order to take a position either way.

      I also happily concede that the bookie example should read almost zero rather than zero but again don't see how this changes the claim. Given a long run of heads, the belief of likelihood in a subsequent head is predicated on one's relative belief of the conditional probabilities of p(fair coin | 10 heads ) vs p(unfair coin | fair heads)

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    12. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Dave Kinkead

      Perhaps if she had an additional piece of information like 10 of the sample are physics students.
      Then it would be more that Jeremy preferred Days of Our Lives.

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    13. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Dave Kinkead

      Dave, I don't question your assertion that it is unlikely that the randomly chosen physics graduate is unlikely to be a DoOL fan. I do challenge your reasoning within the given framework which is an encapsulated sample with one known demographic factor distribution and a randomly chosen individual sample member about which some additional information is given - my guess is that you would not have balked if that additional information fitted your stereotype of a DoOL watcher. Conditional probabilities…

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    14. Dave Kinkead

      PhD candidate in Political Philosophy

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      Hi Dennis, Thanks for responding but I don't think you are understanding (or I'm not properly clarifying) my argument.

      Firstly, I'm not arguing that ST is the correct answer, I'm arguing that there is insufficient information to support any claim - DoL or ST.

      Secondly, the author makes the mistake of asserting DoL as an exemplar of critical thinking when I argue it is not. To assert DoL requires us to discount our experiential heuristic (that more physicists prefer ST) and endorse an empiric…

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  5. Rachel Grieve

    Lecturer in Psychology at University of Tasmania

    Dear Jack, David, and Angela

    Thank you all for your comments, I appreciate your input and agree with your comments.
    I too believe that critical thinking extends beyond science and maths and is important to other disciplines. However, this piece was written as part of a series on science and maths education, hence the scope of the article.

    best wishes,

    Rachel

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  6. George Michaelson

    Person

    the counter-intuitive here is that if a test for cancer has a 1 in 100 chance of saying you have cancer, then if you get a positive result the first response should be "its a false positive" -which is not emotionally where we go.

    ie, critical thinking is not neccessarily innate, and about the direct event (the positive) but about the QUALITIES of the event (its statistical likelihood, against other factors like the risks of false positives or mistakes)

    something I find myself reminded of, is that humans can estimate SPEED well but are poor at ACCELLERATION. the classic example is a bushfire. Its linear rate of travel on the flat converts to accelleration on a hill. If you run up hill and it follows you...

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  7. Peter Horan

    Retired

    We were taught critical thinking in English at school. I still have Gibson & Phillips "Thinkers at Work" (10/6) and Ruby "The Art of Making Sense" (20/-). I struggled with essays and precis writing at that age but was much more capable in Maths, Physics and Chemistry. Subsequently, I really developed my critical thinking skills through practice because I had to communicate.

    I don't know about these days, but I suspect that this material has gone from today's curricula. Certainly, structural material such as grammar and syntax (years 5 and 6) seems to have gone.

    I think critical thinking skills are difficult to teach, but I also think that I was poorly armed with techniques, and, I think, technique is often overlooked in the teaching process. In the case of precis writing, a teacher sitting me down for 10 minutes with a passage to precis and physically showing me techniques to find the leading sentences would have helped.

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  8. Fred Moore

    Builder

    Look, Barry O'Farrell here.
    Hello folks.

    We don't REALLY want you thinking critically. We just want to do an audit on those that can think critically. Get them out of the woodwork so we can shut 'em down.
    As a government we merely pretend to be democratic. We keep immigrating hordes of foreigners for OUR exclusive benifit, making NSW citizens PAY for their infrastructure.We are also making NSW citizens endure horrific overcrowding and downgraded services while running campaigns in OUR media…

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  9. Antony Eagle

    Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at University of Adelaide

    I agree with the sentiment, though I (like others) am puzzled by the apparent suggestion that the sciences have a monopoly on critical thinking ('It’s time to take critical thinking out of the realm of maths and science'). The author calls for us to 'teach students the theoretical elements of critical thinking', but there are already, in every university, subjects which do this, in philosophy departments. (I don't know of a philosophy department in Australia that doesn't offer, as a keystone of its…

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    1. Con Zymaris

      Untethered Polymath

      In reply to Antony Eagle

      Antony,

      concur with your points that critical thinking isn't purely ensconced within the realm of Science.

      However, the critical thinking available through other fields is sometimes not enough - sometimes there's a need for the empirical as well as the critical thought, and this is indeed the basis of Science.

      Without the empirical, well may we be gifted philosophers, but we may still end up with Aristotelian Cosmology ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotelian_physics )

      I wonder if this additional layer beyond critical thinking is what underpins Rachel's suggested methodology.

      -- Con

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    2. Antony Eagle

      Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at University of Adelaide

      In reply to Con Zymaris

      I agree critical thinking alone is not enough for all that we want—but I never said it was. Moreover, I think the example of Aristotelian cosmology is poorly chosen to illustrate the point: Aristotle was a very patient and attentive observationalist (consider the wealth of empirical detail in the Historia Animalium). His cosmology is certainly incorrect, but what would you expect from a 2500 year old piece of science? He proposes some theoretical mechanisms to support the observations he makes. While we now know, on the basis of further observations, that his conjectured theoretical mechanisms don't work, that is hardly evidence of either lack of critical thinking or empirical failings—just as the similar problems in classical physics aren't evidence of failings on Newton's part. Being wrong isn't always about having the wrong method.

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  10. Tim Benham

    Student of Statistics

    > This is a good thing, as practice helps to improve our ability to think critically over time.

    The linked to article doesn't inspire confidence in the critical thinking movement. Part of the moon is always in shadow, whether it is full or not.

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  11. Jeff Payne

    PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

    Rachel, I hate to join the list of critics but I think it is important that people should not shape their conclusions to their audience. Reading the article it clearly reads as though you are suggesting that only science teaches critical thinking. You are generous enough to admit that other disciplines also teach critical thinking but your article fails to identify this reality. Although there is no malice in your work, it really does point to the kind of writing strategy found in the Murdock press…

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    1. Con Zymaris

      Untethered Polymath

      In reply to Jeff Payne

      Jeff,

      You state: "Science cannot prove that science is beneficial to society without bringing in normative elements outside of science."

      Science doesn't deal in proof, Mathematics does.

      One can state, however, that: "There is overwhelming evidence that science is beneficial to society".

      This statement is sufficient for our policies and aims, and shows no limit to the scientific method, beyond something which is falsely ascribed.

      We have to be careful here to not devolve into verbal sophistry.

      -- Con

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    2. Peter Horan

      Retired

      In reply to Con Zymaris

      But mathematics, itself, declares that propositions can be true which are unprovable. It's Gödel's theorem. To paraphrase, no matter how powerful your logical system is, unprovable propositions can be constructed in that system.

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    3. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Con Zymaris

      Thanks for your comment Con. I'm not sure if this is the forum for responses but you actual prove the point that I am making regarding confusing one type of thinking for another. Scientific research can, of course, be wielded rhetorically in a political debate about what is beneficial or not for a society but science itself cannot say what is beneficial. Although I am sympathetic with the Sophists this is not sophistry as you mean it. It is actually a very important point. We may be able to develop…

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    4. Rotha Jago

      concerned citizen

      In reply to Con Zymaris

      Con,
      One could equally state that "There is overwhelming evidence that Science is detrimental to society".
      Science is not separate from this society. Science is simply a system which is misused, distorted or manipulated to damage society as often as it is ethically used for social benefit.
      Add Commercialism and Science becomes simply an instrument to be used for the benefit of whoever has the money or/and the power to use the product of a scientist or a science team's reasoning or discovery.
      Science is not meant to exist alone. It is one way of understanding our world. There are many other ways.

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    5. Con Zymaris

      Untethered Polymath

      In reply to Rotha Jago

      Rotha,

      Science is the process of understanding the physical universe that we inhabit. What is done with that understanding isn't science, it's public policy or private enterprise.

      Also, I was making a statement to explain that Science does not deal with absolutes or proofs, rather, it deals in best-effort understanding and provisional knowledge, which can always be improved.

      However, since you raised the stakes...

      To back up my claim that:

      "There is overwhelming evidence that science…

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    6. Con Zymaris

      Untethered Polymath

      In reply to Peter Horan

      Peter,

      per: Gödel,

      that fact that mathematics itself is used to delineate the boundary of provability, is itself a demonstration of the power of mathematical 'proof-making' machinery.

      Also, any demonstration that there is a boundary of mathematical provability in no way undermines everything else that mathematics can indeed prove.

      -- Con

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    7. Peter Horan

      Retired

      In reply to Con Zymaris

      I agree with you. Nevertheless, it is a critical point to make in this discussion, that truth does not imply proof. In other words, science and mathematics do not have the final word, as Richard Dawkins would have us believe. He reads the absence of proof as proof of absence, which is the fallacy Gödel revealed, if I understand his theorem.

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  12. Annabelle Leve

    Researcher/Educator

    The article was a bit passe, but the comments are hilarious!

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  13. peter davson-galle

    academic philosopher

    hmm! as with some others, I find the article curiously detached from the very robust critical thinking research literature (some of which I have written), which is largely in the discipline of philosophy.

    as a comment on "silos", I recently retired as a philosopher of education within the the author's university and my speciality in recent years was critical thinking with one focus of that being critical thinking in science and science education - the author and I have never spoken to my knowledge

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  14. Peter Farrell

    teaching-principal at at a small rural school

    In Victoria thinking has been a part of the curriculum for a while:

    http://ausvels.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Thinking-Processes/Overview/Introduction

    In addition to thinking being a discrete part of the curriculum thinking is part of other learning areas:

    Literacy - think like an author/writer,
    Numeracy - think like a mathematician,
    Science - think like a scientist,
    History - think like a historian,
    Design and Technology - think like an engineer,

    and so on...

    Obviously some mastery of the bigger and smaller ideas in each learning area can help your thinking but a lot is about understanding a process.

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  15. Will J Grant

    Researcher / Lecturer, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University

    "Pushing critical thinking from the realms of science and maths into the broader curriculum may lead to far-reaching outcomes."

    I hate to break it to you - and I'm a serious advocate for science education - but there is strong evidence that the university graduates with the best skills in critical thinking are those with Arts degrees.

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    1. Jeff Payne

      PhD in Political Science and Masters in Public Policy

      In reply to Will J Grant

      Extremely intelligent and insightful comment. Australia, no the world, needs more thinkers like you.

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    2. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to alfred venison

      Yes, but how many Australian Arts students are studying rigorous humanities subjects like Symbolic Systems, Philosophy, Linguistics, Classics, and so on?

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  16. Robert Hogg

    Lecturer in Australian Studies at University of Queensland

    Unfortunately Rachel, I have found that the students with the weakest critical thinking skills come from the sciences, or at least the applied sciences. I teach a course in Australian Studies where most of the students come from outside the humanities. They are usually in their second year of university and their critical thinking skills are negligible. They have a very positivist orientation.They take anything they read or hear at face value,and rarely are able to consider its worth.or validity. Everything is just information and all information is of equal worth.

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  17. Neena Misra

    Clinical Psychologist

    Excellent example Rachel. Demonstrates the importance of critical thinking based on logical inference and reasonig as you outline early on in the article quite well. Intuitively we'd be inclined to say Star Trek but given the information, despite our real life experiences and personal testimonies the answer is DOUL given simply that this is an example of results of a statistical analysis (with all its limitations). The counterintuitive results need to be examined within the context of the methodology of the study. Perhaps the sample was a highly skewed one?! Perhaps the data was entered all wrong? But intuition and personal experience are not in themselves sufficient to examine information. And I for one did not think at all that the article was making a case (real or apparent) for critical thinking to be the domain of science and maths. Philosophy is where it all begins.

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    1. Neena Misra

      Clinical Psychologist

      In reply to Neena Misra

      Actually I should have said given the information and not given that it is a statistical analysis because we don't have enough information on the latter. So, given the information - 996 out of a sample of 1000 preferring DOUL it is more likely that Jeremy, despite his personal profile would be a DOULifer.

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  18. Phil Osophy

    logged in via Facebook

    Thanks for the great article… we’ve shared the link in the news archives of our website! If you’re interested in “Critical Thinking”, please learn more about the Foundation for Critical Thinking – one of the oldest critical thinking organizations in the world - at: WWW.CRITICALTHINKING.ORG.

    Or you can join the discussion and get some great “critical thinking” suggestions on the FCT Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Foundation-for-Critical-Thinking/56761578230

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