2011 : WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY'S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?

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Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Professor of the History of Science, Emeritus, Harvard University; Author, Einstein for the 21st Century: His Legacy in Science, Art, and Modern Culture
Skeptical Empiricism

In politics and society at large, important decision are all too often based on deeply held presuppositions,ideology or dogma — or, on the other hand, on headlong pragmatism without study of long-range consequences.

Therefore I suggest the adoption of Skeptical Empiricism, the kind that is exemplified by the carefully thought-out and tested research in science at its best. It differs from plain empiricism on the sort that characterized the writings of the scientist/philosopher Ernst Mach, who refused to believe in the existence of atoms because one could not "see" them.

To be sure, in politics and daily life, on some topics decisions have to be made very rapidly, on few or conflicting data. Yet, precisely for that reason it will be wise also to launch a more considerate program of skeptical empiricism on the same topic, if only to be better prepared for the consequences, intended or not, that followed from the quick decision.