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The risks when scientists avoid critical thinking

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At The Best Schools, Heather Zeiger offers a thought-provoking piece about genetics education at the university level:

Overall, training scientists to be critical thinkers—to analyze and assess ideas—is good. It promotes a greater understanding of context, and how a particular scientific topic relates to other fields of study. Furthermore, it is all too easy to compartmentalize specific areas of study, such as studying the steps of meiosis, without ever taking a critical view of a topic in the context of genetics (or any field) as a whole.

More. Like, what should we do when someone says, “I want to know whether this kid is a boy or a girl because, I don’t want any girls in my family.”

No guff. Medical scientists are facing this now. So far as we know, some are standing their ground, where legal: They will not knowingly give out information about an unborn child that is not a medical condition. Yet there is strong opposition from some quarters.

And in some such countries, perhaps, criminal charges may follow from following the physician’s Hippocratic oath (First, do no harm.) But we hope not.

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2 Responses to The risks when scientists avoid critical thinking

  1. What a terrible piece. The entire discussion is a long-winded conflation of two notions. That ‘critical thinking’ is ‘ethics’ and that ‘critical thinking’ is current dogma rather than the successes and failures of historical dogma. In both cases it is to state that ‘critical thinking’ is synonymous with Argumentum ad Populum.

    But if that is the case then Islam is the largest populum under discussion. And we should then follow whatever Allah (pbuh) wills and not what Academics (pbut) will. But that’s precisely the conclusion they do not want.

    Is there a need for critical thinking? Absolutely, Zeiger’s piece stands as witness for the lack of it.

  2. I completely agree with Maus. Write for the benefit of your reader. Don’t just dash off any old combination of words.

    And as a father, and new grandfather, there has always been reasonable interest in the sex of the long awaited baby so we can figure out what color to paint the nursery and whether we should buy silly little headbands with bows or silly little basebal hats. Refusing to tell American parents whether the baby is a boy or girl also puts off the choice of a name, leading to discussions of “It” when we mean “Her”. The idea that a doctor, or sonogram technician, should refuse to help the family bond with the baby before birth is silly. We had pictures of my youngest daughter on the refrigerator several months before her birthday. But the idea of killing girl babies because they’re “only a girl” is horrible.

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