Life 101: How we think about the world (philosophy of science)

 

There are some essential Life 101 topics. Things that are fundamental to being human and can serve us for a lifetime.

One of these is learning how to think about the world, also known – when more formalized – as philosophy of science.

It’s something we all can explore for ourselves. And, as I see it, it’s a bit shocking it’s not included in a more systematic way at all levels of formal education – adapted to each age level and made fun, relevant, and with the ordinariness of it emphasized.

It’s what we already know, this is just a way to bring more awareness into it and investigate it more consciously.

Here are some ideas of what could be included in formal education.

When it comes to exploring the world, there is the basic approach of observation, hypothesis, testing, revising, testing by others, etc. And how each step is influenced by our underlying assumptions and worldviews. What are some examples of how we use these steps, often without thinking about it, in our own life? What are some examples in our history? What do we find if we apply this approach to an area of our own life?

Equally or more important is how we more broadly think about the world and our understanding of it.

We don’t know anything for certain. This goes for us as humanity, as a culture, and in our own life. Our statements or assumptions are practical guidelines for orienting and functioning in the world. They are questions. They are not the final word. What is an example of an assumption we made – about the world, ourselves, others, a situation – that we were convinced was true, and then it turned out it was not? What are some examples from history and science?

Our understanding of specific things in life changes over time. Our collective understanding changes, and our personal understanding changes. Over time, all of it may change. What are some examples of you seeing something a certain way, and then change your view? What are some examples from history?

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about the world change over time. What are some examples of worldviews changing over time? What are some examples of different worldviews from different cultures? What are the most basic assumptions about the world in our culture? Could these change in the future?

There are other understandings and other worldviews that may fit our experience (data) equally well as the ones we are familiar with, and some may even fit them better.

Our worldview and most basic assumptions about ourselves and the world is the water we swim in. It’s hard for us to notice these. And if we do, it’s often hard for us to question them. What are some basic assumptions we – in our society and culture – have about the world? What are some examples of assumptions that we usually wouldn’t even think of questioning? Are there taboos around questioning some of them?

Our background colors our understandings, values, and worldview. Our background – – as a species, culture, and individual – color what we see as important, what we see as right and wrong, and our assumptions about the world and ourselves. What are some examples of how our background influences how we see something? What are some examples of cultural differences? Imagine an intelligent species very different from us (bird, reptilian, fish, etc.). How would their perceptions, inclinations, and perhaps values differ from ours?

What is cognitive bias? What are the most typical cognitive biases? Take one and see how it plays a role in your own life. Is there a time you realized you made a wrong assumption because of bias? Which cognitive biases do we most see in our society? How can I be more aware of these? How can I counteract them? What may happen if I don’t notice or question my biases? And what are the benefits of noticing and questioning them?

How do we discuss well? Do we go into a conversation with the intention to learn from the other? Or do we just want to keep our initial ideas unchanged? (If so, what’s behind it?) What is the outcome of one and the other? Roleplay both and see how each one feels.

What are some common logical fallacies? What are some examples of logical fallacies in public discourse? And in our own life? How can we notice and counteract them in ourselves? How can we – with kindness and effectively – point it out when someone else uses a logical fallacy? When is it appropriate to do so?

This ties into trauma education since traumas often influence our perception, ideas about the world, and how we hold onto them (often for dear life when traumas are involved).

It would be a fun challenge to adapt this to each age level, and also develop (potentially) engaging, fun, and illuminating exercises and activities for each of the areas listed above. (And other areas I inevitably have left out.) Of course, it’s even better when the kids/teens develop this on their own.

And it is important to show that this is a fundamental part of being human. It’s something we already know and apply, at least to some extent. This is just a more organized exploration and application of it.

I personally learned some of these in school. Some on my own in my teens through reading books about science (especially the Fritjof Capra books). And some at university. (Philosophy of science courses are mandatory at universities in Norway, although why not at earlier levels?)

I am a bit surprised that this is not a more integral part of education at all levels. It’s useful in all areas of life and throughout life. Essential for nurturing a more well-functioning society. And today, with the internet echo-chambers, it’s more important than ever.

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No dogma? And the gifts of bias

 
A supported daily spiritual practice that allows intuition to flourish, with no form or dogma.
I read this in an interview online, and – predictably – it set off a couple of alarm bells for me. We all have biases. As soon as we deny it, at least if we deny it to ourselves, they go into the shadow and operate without our conscious awareness. So it makes more sense to just admit the obvious: We all have biases, it’s unavoidable, and it’s actually a good thing. We couldn’t function without it, and it adds to the richness of society and our human experience. Where does bias come from? It’s the same as conditioning and comes from the the history and evolution of the universe (and us), the functions and structures of this universe, the history and evolution of this solar system and Earth, the history and evolution of this living Earth and our ancestors, the history of human culture and our own specific culture, social norms and perspectives, family history and views, and our own personal experience. All of this makes up our biases and conditioning. It makes us experience ourselves and life a certain way and have certain perspectives and preferences. As mentioned above, it’s what allows us to function. And it’s what creates the richness of how the universe experiences itself through life, humans, and this one particular human. Finally, I am aware that I may have used a straw man argument here. The interviewee may very well be aware of what I wrote about. He may just have used an informal way of saying “I intend to follow intuition and be influenced less by any conscious or intentional dogma. Even if I know I – obviously – have preferences and habits that inform where attention goes, how I perceive, and how I operate in the world”.

Obvious bias

 

There is an obvious bias in this blog.

It is mainly individual and view/cognition oriented, leaving out or de-emphasizing larger wholes and energy, heart, relationships, policies, culture and so on.

There is of course no reason that an individual and view orientation should be taken as more primary than any other approach. We can understand or tweak the system from anywhere.

It is interesting to notice that I started our much more whole-systems oriented. And then over time got into this individual + view orientation, mainly through traditions that emphasize that approach, such as (current western interpretations) of Buddhism.

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