"Science is about reading the world from a gradually widening point of view.”
A scientist's mindset is open to questioning what it has learned, what it has been told. It is willing to ponder things that have not yet been approved of, or that not yet even observable to many.
And it's a rebellious mindset. It's about moving away from shutting down ideas before examining them for oneself. And letting all types of ideas exist so that we can use all of that data to keep refining our own observations, choices and predictions. It's about becoming an independent thinker.
An important phase of life where people are naturally scientific is when they are very young. Their neural circuits are not yet fully established into tracks based on long histories. We can see this as we watch kids explore their world. Eyes are wide open, curious, taking it all in*. As time goes by, their brains become more automated by the reactions and influences of who surround them. They become more ingrained in group think.
*this is why many traditional and formal schools are not the best learning environment, more to come soon on that topic (including a podcast interview)
The brain likes to conserve energy. It prioritizes automations when it can because it's an efficient way to fight entropy. But this automation also includes our opinions and ideas. It's more energy-efficient to agree with the people around us. It's difficult and energy-exerting to question our group, or to agree with ideas outside of what our social group agrees with. One of the main reasons is because social disharmony has risks of dysregulating us, and even worse escalating into the need for using more resources for protecting and defending ourselves. So we keep approving the same ideas and disapproving others without realizing how much our nervous system is pushing us to do that to conserve energy. We're also more guaranteed to get hits of social reward hormones when we express ideas we already know the people around us agree with (social media algorithms and gossip both cash in on that energy-conserving mechanism).
If more of us can become better skilled at engaging in a scientist way of thinking, the more we have a chance of allowing good IDEAS to rise into our awareness and for more people to hear these ideas. The more of us who behave like social bullies, the more likely we will keep hearing the same ideas over and over again, even when they are not actually good ones. They're just familiar. They don't lead to change or effective action. Just more of the same.
This topic is important - in particular when it comes to what we are modeling for younger generations. They can only work with what they are surrounded by. That's the beauty (and the potential downfall) of the experience-dependent human brain. We are universal constructors- the human brain has the capacity to solve any problem and adapt to any situation. But it needs the right conditions and models to help it unleash that power.
We hear in many ancient teachings the idea of empty mind, and to 'be like children'. We can model ourselves after children in terms of the openness of their mind, their hunger to truly, truly know and understand the world (hence the thousands of 'why' questions per day), their curiosity, their bravery of showing they don't know and that they want to hear ideas about how the world works and why it is the way it is from others around them... we can use that as a reminder of the scientist mindset that we are all capable of accessing within ourselves now.*
(*I went to an amazing talk last weekend where I felt surrounded by many scientist mindsets).
This week.. notice where you might fall on the graph shown above (on the second image)... do you stay open to the possibility that you may hear a good idea, a helpful perspective... even if it's from someone you have pre-determined that you disapprove or dislike? It takes a a lot of vulnerability to drop our guard to do that. Remember, these are ideas... not concrete objects. They can be taken in, processed, transformed, digested... you can break them apart and take out what you like, discard the rest, and stay open for more.
The post from Adam Grant and Wait But Why really resonated with me... I want to bring this topic up more - I think it holds a lot of truth as to why we face so many of the challenges we face - whether we are talking about politics, world affairs, education dulling kids' intelligence, or even family dynamics.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day."
With Love from Me to You*
*with special gratitude for those of you willing to put your thoughts out there even with the risk of criticism...
On a side note...
My top priority for 2023 was to cut cost of living, and moving out of the incredibly high cost of the pacific northwest has already helped a lot. I'm looking forward to continuing that trend in Montana. The other priority for me was to ensure I have a strong social matrix and sense of community. Making some new connections there recently has already set me on a a new track that I feel good about!
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