Scientific Inquiry Essay

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The important point is this: critical thinking is perhaps the most important skill a student can learn in school and college, since if you master its skills, you know how to think successfully and reach reliable conclusions, and such ability will prove valuable in any human endeavor, including the humanities, social sciences, commerce, law, journalism, and government, as well as in scholarly and scientific pursuits.

Since critical thinking and scientific thinking are, as I claim, the same thing, only applied for different purposes, it is therefore reasonable to believe that if one learns scientific thinking in a science class, one learns, at the same time, the most important skill a student can possess--critical thinking.

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I will explain the formal procedures of the scientific method later in this essay, but first let's describe the more general practice of scientific or critical thinking.

When one uses the scientific method to study or investigate nature or the universe, one is practicing scientific thinking.Most textbooks do an inadequate job of this task, so this essay provides that information.This information in its present form is not in your textbook, so please read it carefully here, and pay close attention to the words in boldface and the definitions in italics.All scientists practice scientific thinking, of course, since they are actively studying nature and investigating the universe by using the scientific method.But scientific thinking is not reserved solely for scientists.Scientific and critical thinking was not discovered and developed by scientists (that honor must go to ancient Hellenistic philosophers, such as Aristotle, who also are sometimes considered the first scientists), but scientists were the ones to bring the practice of critical thinking to the attention and use of modern society (in the 17th and 18th centuries), and they are the most explicit, rigorous, and successful practitioners of critical thinking today.Some professionals in the humanities, social sciences, jurisprudence, business, and journalism practice critical thinking as well as any scientist, but many, alas, do not.Reliable knowledge is knowledge that has a high probablility of being true because its veracity has been justified by a reliable method.Reliable knowledge is sometimes called justified true belief, to distinguish reliable knowledge from belief that is false and unjustified or even true but unjustified.Anyone can "think like a scientist" who learns the scientific method and, most importantly, applies its precepts, whether he or she is investigating nature or not.When one uses the methods and principles of scientific thinking in everyday life--such as when studying history or literature, investigating societies or governments, seeking solutions to problems of economics or philosophy, or just trying to answer personal questions about oneself or the meaning of existence--one is said to be practicing critical thinking.


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