Blog Post: Critical Writing. Part 2.

Gerald Nosich
Jan 13, 2020 • 135d ago
Critical Writing. Part 2.

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"color":"#010101"},"insert":"[To repeat the background of this blog: I am finishing a book on "},{"attributes":{"color":"#010101","italic":true},"insert":"Critical Writing: Using the Concepts and Processes of Critical Thinking to Write a Paper"},{"attributes":{"color":"#010101"},"insert":". It will be published by Rowman and Littlefield, probably in Fall, 2020.  The following is adapted from an earlier draft of the book.]"},{"insert":"\n \nOne major challenge for students in writing courses is to take a very general, unfocused, all-over-the-place topic, where most start, and from it to create something specific, focused and crisp.\n            The recommendation in my book is for the student to begin by taking the topic and to analyze it using the elements of reasoning, the Wheel of Reason.\n            A reminder: Alyssa is a first-year student in a writing course. The only course she has taken in the sciences was an introductory-level course in science for non-majors.  But she decides to write a paper on "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"scientific thinking"},{"insert":".  Notice how such a topic is indeed very general, unfocused, and all-over-the-place.  You could go in a thousand different directions, and with just that amorphous topic in front of you, there is nothing to guide you in narrowing it down.\n            The invitation last time was to "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"be "},{"insert":"Alyssa: to analyze "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"scientific thinking"},{"insert":"–not as an accomplished professional would, not as someone would who may know far more science than Alyssa does, but as she might.\n            Here is the analysis Alyssa gives.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Alyssa’s Analysis-around the Circle"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Topic: Scientific Thinking"},{"insert":"\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"concept: "},{"insert":"The concept of scientific thinking is the kind of thinking that tries to establish what is true by means of precise observation (including exact measurement) and by careful testing of hypotheses.\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"question at issue"},{"insert":":  the main questions at issue in scientific thinking are: “Can a belief or hypothesis actually be tested?” and “If it is tested, does the test confirm or disconfirm it?”\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"purpose"},{"insert":": the goal in scientific thinking is to find out what actually happens, and why. The goal is not to make my beliefs win out over yours, but to find out what actually happens.\n·      "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"assumption"},{"insert":":  An assumption in science is that the best way to find out what happens, and why, is through observing things closely, by measuring them as precisely as possible, and then by carrying out tests of the hypotheses I come up with. (R: I could research howyou measure really small things, such as atoms?)\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Another assumption is that the tests have to be repeatable again and again, always giving the same results. (R: search for some good examples; plus some examples where the repeated tests don’t come out the same (an example I remember from class: cold fusion))"},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"·      "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"implications and consequences"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":":  an implication of this is that we shouldn’t believe things on the basis of prejudice or preconceptions (R: find a preconception that has been disproved in the past), or even on a single highly unusual experience.  We shouldn’t simply believe everything we hear or are taught. We should test it out for ourselves. If that isn’t possible for us to do personally, we should read about the scientific tests that have been done by others (example: Scientific American)."},{"insert":"\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"information"},{"insert":":  the information used in scientific thinking is the kind that can be measured or at least carefully observed.  It is not the kind of information that is based on uncorroborated testimony (example: ghosts).\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"·      "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"point of view"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":": There are many valid points of view from which to look at the world: cultural, political, legal, and so forth.  The scientific point of view is different from the others because it puts careful observation and testing at the center of everything."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"·      "},{"attributes":{"color":"black","bold":true},"insert":"conclusion"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":":  A main conclusion I draw from this is that there is nothing wrong in believing things on the basis of culture or politics, or the way you were brought up, but when those beliefs are contradicted by scientific findings, it is more reasonable to believe the scientific findings (example: Galileo). "},{"insert":"\n·     "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"context"},{"insert":":  Historically, scientific thinking has developed into a whole way of looking at the world.  It is very different from Galileo’s time.  (Honestly, I don’t know enough about the history of science to talk about the historical context very much.)  Today, scientific thinking takes place in a context where many people have an agenda they are trying to push.  They want society to go in a certain direction, and they put pressure on people to agree with them, even if the scientific evidence goes against them.\n \n"},{"attributes":{"color":"black"},"insert":"Note that “context” is not literally one of the elements of reasoning.  Rather it supplies background to the topic.  It is often helpful to describe contextin a paper."},{"insert":"\n\nRead Alyssa’s analysis of scientific thinking. Try to read it slowly, and maybe re-read it, practicing the critical thinking virtue of intellectual empathy, so that you can immerse yourself in it, as if you were the one who had done the analysis.\n            Notice how the elements of reasoning work for her.\n \nThe next step is for Alyssa to come up with a focused outline. Writing teachers often speak of coming up with a thesis statement, and also with other main points that support or explain that thesis statement.  The invitation now is for you to do that, again by "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"being "},{"insert":"Alyssa. \n \nIn a later blog I will report to you what Alyssa comes up with.\n"}]}


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