Scientific thinking relates to tradition

in Education8 months ago

Science is a process of inquiry. Inquiry is the process whereby we gain knowledge by observing how things are and using our minds to think logically about what we observed (using our reason, in other words). We all use inquiry in everyday life. When we switch on the television and don't get a picture, we check to see if it is plugged in. When we are not feeling well, we use a thermometer to take our temperature to see if we have a fever. When we see black clouds building up in the sky, we know that we can expect rain. These are physical things for which we need physical evidence to answer our questions. Since we human beings are social beings, we are more likely to refer to what happens in the social world than physical things; in fact, it is the "social world" that we constantly question and try to understand.

What do I mean with "social world"?

  • A crowd of people who are shouting and running in panic - this tells us that something bad has happened.
  • When someone smiles while they talk to us, we assume that the message is a happy one.
  • When we watch television and see a political leader being warmly welcomed by other world leaders, this tells us that the person is liked and respected.

These examples all deal with the interaction of people and the implications of this interactions. We can therefore conclude that the social world refers to that part of our existence dealing with how people interact with one another.


We bring an attitude of inquiry to many of our doings. Based on what we observe, we come to certain conclusions. Inquiry is natural; we inquire about things all the time. We discover through personal experience - this personal experience is dominated by our curiosity. However, we often make errors when we start trying to find out the "why" of something.

We all inherit a culture which contains accepted knowledge of the ways of the world. This means that we accept what other people know and tell us, and by doing this, we are spared the enormous task of starting from scratch in the search for understanding. Knowledge builds on itself and an inherited body of information therefore helps us obtain further information. We can learn from previous generations. If we know, for example, that encouragement and affirmation lead to cooperation between people, why should we disregard this and begin our own experiments for finding out what leads to cooperation?

But tradition may also be harmful to human inquiry. If you accept something as true simply because others have always believed it, you may be led into falsehood. To think traditionally means that we do not find out how the knowledge was obtained in the first place, thus, the source of learning is questioned. If something appears to be understood and obvious it usually does not occur to us to seek a different understanding.

Scientific thinking therefore has an ambiguous relationship to tradition. On the one hand it is one of the norms of science that we must always be willing to re-examine our traditions, and science is therefore critical of unthinking adherence to tradition. It is also the case however, that we can only get to know the world from the perspective of a tradition. In every scientific discipline students are taught the ideas of earlier thinkers (the "founding fathers" and, less often, "mothers") and their thought form the basis upon which new knowledge is discovered. Every scientific discipline can therefore be understood as being based upon a tradition of thought.

Try keeping this in mind the next time you (as a teacher) prepare your lessons. Think about the children in your classroom and identify the ways in which tradition and culture has influenced their own way of thinking and understanding.


One thing that is often missing when I look up history is the thoughts and feelings of women. I'd love to get to know what they were thinking and feeling at the time. Were they happy?

Also, knowing history is a good advantage for any sort of social change. But then again we all know that can be distorted too, or "poisoned" by modern day thinking.

Your content has been voted as a part of Encouragement program. Keep up the good work!

Use Ecency daily to boost your growth on platform!

Support Ecency
Vote for new Proposal
Delegate HP and earn more