Science & Technology

How to Think Scientifically

Authored by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Pop Science Personality

Science is based on asking questions and progressing from ignorance to an understanding of established, objective truth. These steps will empower you to think for yourself and figure out what is true—and not because of what you know but because of how you think.

Part 1 of 9

State your assumptions

Although assumptions are a type of bias, if you have assumptions about something, just say them out loud or record them in some way. You’ll soon discover whether or not they’re objectively true.

Did you know?

There’s value in experiments that have a false assumption, as once they’re proven false, you’ll know not to make that assumption again.

Part 2 of 9

Be a skeptic and ask questions

True skepticism means asking questions when you’re unsure what to believe and making up your mind once valid evidence is presented. Asking questions takes you down a path of inquiry toward the truth.

Part 3 of 9

Demand evidence, not testimonials

The degree to which you believe in something should be in proportion to the evidence that supports it. The court of science considers eyewitness testimony to be the lowest form of testimony. Anyone can say they looked through a telescope and saw an alien waving at them, but can they provide physical, tangible, recorded proof?

Did you know?

This even applies to noted experts! If someone’s words have authority over what you think, they can get you to believe anything. Objective truth can’t just flow from the statements of authority figures—even astrophysicists like Neil deGrasse Tyson—without evidence.

Part 4 of 9

Repeat experiments multiple times with different investigators

One experiment is never enough, but if it’s repeated, and the experiment consistently repeats with slight variation, then you can conclude that the results are objectively true.

Part 5 of 9

Question whether patterns are really there

People can make patterns out of anything. This is called pareidolia, and it especially results in patterns we’re familiar with. For example, if you programmed a computer to randomly lay down dots on a page, people would mentally connect those dots to form a picture. However, it would be a made-up pattern. To the computer—and a scientific observer—that picture wouldn’t be real.

Part 6 of 9

Beware of confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is the most insidious of the cognitive biases, and it’s a flaw in everyone’s reasoning. People naturally assume that they are correct and look for information that supports their belief in what’s true.

Did you know?

Internet search engines are the epitome of confirmation bias, and a way to fight it is to learn perspectives different than yours. If you only watch TV or read books that agree with what you already think, you’re putting yourself in a bubble and feeding your confirmation bias.

Part 7 of 9

Let go of cultural, religious, and political biases

Everybody is influenced by their society; these biases more commonly appear in sciences that have humans as their subject, like anthropology. However, your beliefs on how the world works cannot interfere with how you accept or view evidence based on scientific research.

Part 8 of 9

Look at things from a cosmic perspective

One of humanity’s greatest biases is that people want to feel special, but from the perspective of the cosmos, people aren’t different. We’re all the same. By understanding and accepting this cosmic perspective, you can recognize that your ego is unjustified in the grandest scheme of things, and it can help you reset what you think is important in life.

Part 9 of 9

Admit when the evidence proves you wrong

If you want to get closer to objective truth, you have to admit when your assumptions are wrong. If you can’t say that, you’ll never be a person who actually discovers things in this world. After all, science is true whether you believe in it or not, and that’s why it’s so powerful and why every country does it exactly the same way—because it’s an objective truth that is as free from bias as possible.

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