Strange answers aren’t inherently wrong, and satisfying answers aren’t inherently right, says Lawrence Krauss in this critical thinking crash course. The astrophysicist explains how principles of scientific skepticism can be applied beyond the laboratory; it can be a filter for the nonsense and misinformation we encounter each and every day. Here, he establishes a handful of core questions that critical thinkers ask themselves, which can be used to challenge your misconceptions and sense of comfort, question inconsistency, and think past your brain’s evolved biases. Piece by piece, you can systematically remove nonsense from your life. Lawrence Krauss’ most recent book is The Greatest Story Ever Told–So Far: Why Are We Here?
Lawrence Krauss On How To Develop Your Critical Thinking Skills
One of my favorite quotes, which I've used in my writing, comes from the former publisher of The New York Times who said, "I'd like to keep an open mind, but not so open that my brains fall out." And that's the key point. We have to skeptically assess the information we receive, we can't be gullible because when we get a lot of information it's absolutely certain that some of that information is wrong and so we have to always filter what we get and we have to ask ourselves the following question: how open does my brain have to be to accept that information? Does it have to fall out? And by that I mean, when someone tells you something you have to ask: is this consistent with my experience? Is it consistent with the experience of other people around me? And if it isn't then probably there's a good reason to be skeptical about it—it's probably wrong. If it makes predictions that also appear to be in disagreement with things that you observe around you, you should question it. And so we should never take anything on faith. That's really the mantra of science, if you want, that faith is the enemy of science. We often talk about a loss of faith in the world today; you don't lose anything by losing faith. What you gain is reality.
And so skepticism plays a key role in science simply because we also are hardwired to want to believe, we're hardwired to want to find reasons for things. In the savanna in Africa, the trees could be rustling and you could choose to say, 'Well there's no reason for that,' or, 'Maybe it's due to a lion.' And those individuals who thought there might be no reason never lived long enough to survive to procreate, and so it's not too surprising we want to find explanations for everything and we create them if we need to, to satisfy ourselves, because we need to make sense of the world around us. And what we have to understand is, what makes sense to the universe is not the same as what makes sense to us and we can't impose our beliefs on the universe. And the way we get around that inherent bias is by constantly questioning both ourselves and all the information we receive from others. That's what we do in science and it works beautifully in the real world as well.
When you're presented with questions or answers about any problem there are a few questions you can ask yourself, that you should ask yourself right away. First of all, you can ask yourself, 'Do I like this answer?' And if you do you should be suspicious because you're much more likely to accept something that appeals to you whether it's right or not. So if you inherently like something in some sense that's a reason to be almost more suspicious of it, if you're a scientist. But then you can ask the question, when you're presented with information, is that information consistent with what I know already based on data I've taken about the world around me? And by data, it's not just scientists. If you're a child—all children do this—you put your hand in a flame, okay, the second time you know not to because you have the data that it hurt the first time. And if someone that tells you, 'That flame isn't going to hurt,' you have the data to assess that that's probably wrong. So you want to ask yourself: is that information consistent with what I know to be true already?
And the other thing to do, especially if you get information from a source you don't know, is to look at many different sources and compare them and see if they all agree. If they all agree it doesn't guarantee it's right but if there's vast disagreement between the different sources then it's highly likely that you can't at least rely on that information to be true. It's the same way science works: science doesn't prove what's absolutely true, what it does is prove what's absolutely false.
Lawrence Krauss - The Greatest Story Ever Told--So Far: Why Are We Here? - Book Review
The Greatest Story Ever Told--So Far: Why Are We Here? by Lawrence M. Krauss
Internationally renowned, award-winning theoretical physicist, New York Times bestselling author of A Universe from Nothing, and passionate advocate for reason, Lawrence Krauss tells the dramatic story of the discovery of the hidden world of reality—a grand poetic vision of nature—and how we find our place within it.
In the beginning there was light.
But more than this, there was gravity.
After that, all hell broke loose…
In A Universe from Nothing, Krauss revealed how our entire universe could arise from nothing. Now, he reveals what that something—reality—is. And, reality is not what we think or sense—it’s weird, wild, and counterintuitive; it’s hidden beneath everyday experience; and its inner workings seem even stranger than the idea that something can come from nothing.
In a landmark, unprecedented work of scientific history, Krauss leads us to the furthest reaches of space and time, to scales so small they are invisible to microscopes, to the birth and rebirth of light, and into the natural forces that govern our existence. His unique blend of rigorous research and engaging storytelling invites us into the lives and minds of the remarkable, creative scientists who have helped to unravel the unexpected fabric of reality—with reason rather than superstition and dogma. Krauss has himself been an active participant in this effort, and he knows many of them well. The Greatest Story challenges us to re-envision ourselves and our place within the universe, as it appears that “God” does play dice with the universe. In the incisive style of his scintillating essays for The New Yorker, Krauss celebrates the greatest intellectual adventure ever undertaken—to understand why we are here in a universe where fact is stranger than fiction.
“Krauss beautifully explains how our refusal to believe that there are unknowable cosmic truths has rewarded humanity with brilliantly precise answers to puzzles previously obscured by the fog of dogmatic assurance… The scope of this book is truly impressive." (Science Magazine)
"The Greatest Story Ever Told--So Far: Why Are We Here? ranges from Galileo to the LHC and beyond. It's accessible, illuminating, and surprising—an ideal guide for anyone interested in understanding our accidental universe." (Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction)
"As Bard of the Universe, physicist Lawrence Krauss may be uniquely qualified to give us The Greatest Story Ever Told--So Far: Why Are We Here? — a masterful blend of history, modern physics, and cosmic perspective that empowers the reader to not only embrace our understanding of the universe, but also revel in what remains to be discovered." (Neil deGrasse Tyson, American Museum of Natural History)
“College students, hippies, squares, christians, muslims, democrats, republicans, libertarians, theists, even atheists—all of us—sit around BS-ing like: 'So, how did all this, I mean everything, all of us, the whole universe, you know, man, everything, how did this all get here?' While we were doing that, Lawrence Krauss and people like him were doing the work to figure it out. Then Krauss wrote this great book about it. 'Wow, man, you mean, like we’re getting closer to really knowing? I guess we’ll have to back to talking about politics and sex.'” (Penn Jillette, author of Presto!)
"In the span of a century, physics progressed from skepticism that atoms were real to equations so precise we can predict properties of subatomic particles to the tenth decimal place. Lawrence Krauss rightly places this achievement among the greatest of all stories, and his book—at once engaging, poetic and scholarly—tells the story with a scientist’s penetrating insight and a writer’s masterly craft." (Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe, and Director, Center for Theoretical Physics, Columbia University)
"Unlike some very clever scientists, Lawrence Krauss is not content to bask on the Mount Olympus of modern physics. A great educator as well as a great physicist, he wants to pull others up the rarefied heights to join him. But unlike some science educators, he doesn’t dumb down. In Einstein’s words, he makes it 'as simple as possible but no simpler.'" (Richard Dawkins, author of The Magic of Reality)
"A rich, definitely not-dumbed-down history of physics... An admirable complement to the author's previous book and equally satisfying for those willing to read carefully.” (Kirkus)