Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories About the World Are So Often Wrong by Andrew Shtulman

Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories About the World Are So Often Wrong

"A fascinating, empathetic book"-Wall Street Journal Humans are born to create theories about the world--unfortunately, they're usually wrong, and keep us from understanding the world as it really is.Why do we catch colds? What causes seasons to change? And if you fire a bullet from a gun and drop one from your hand, which bullet hits the ground first? In a pinch we almost...

Title:Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories About the World Are So Often Wrong
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0465053947
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:320 pages

Scienceblind: Why Our Intuitive Theories About the World Are So Often Wrong Reviews

  • Dan Graser

    To be honest, I probably would have given this book 5 stars regardless since this is a topic I've wanted explored in great depth for a long time. Frequently, in the works of great writers on science such as Pinker, Dawkins, Dennett, Tyson, and Krauss, you are briefly told that many of their concepts will seem non-intuitive due to certain features of our brains and development that make grasping such in-depth scientific notions quite difficult. However, there really hasn't been a full exploration

    To be honest, I probably would have given this book 5 stars regardless since this is a topic I've wanted explored in great depth for a long time. Frequently, in the works of great writers on science such as Pinker, Dawkins, Dennett, Tyson, and Krauss, you are briefly told that many of their concepts will seem non-intuitive due to certain features of our brains and development that make grasping such in-depth scientific notions quite difficult. However, there really hasn't been a full exploration as to just what those features and developmental processes are until this wonderful work from Andrew Shtulman.

    Covering topics from matter, energy and gravity through climate change, evolution and illness, Shtulman gives very detailed explanations as to why our in-born and more juvenile intuitions as to how things work are woefully inadequate when it comes to proper study of much of the natural world. His chapters on illness and evolution are the most compelling but the entire work is worthy of very wide recognition. I would love the implementation of this material into general science courses ASAP, this would save so much time convincing "mature" adults to dump their pseudo-scientific notions and foster a generation of much more self-aware, critical thinkers. Perhaps this would help prevent non-scientific "objections" to vaccinations or senators bringing snowballs into the Senate to "disprove" climate change.

    I would have loved for even greater coverage of physics and in particular particle-physics but perhaps this is such an obscure realm of study that it didn't merit mentioning in the author's eyes. Understandable, but given that this is the domain with the greatest explanatory power that deals with natural forces that are the most difficult to understand, some bridging of this gap would have served Shtulman's work well, at least in my eyes.

    However, there is so much material here that is needed in modern education today and Shtulman himself sums this up beautifully towards the end of the work: "Our modern way of life is thoroughly dependent on science, so we must take obstacles to understanding science seriously. We must take intuitive theories seriously. We must create environments that help us become aware of those theories and craft instruction that helps us overcome them, in the classroom and beyond. Intuitive theories will be with us forever, as they are reinvented by every child in every generation. Let's not let the theories we construct as children constrain the opportunities we pursue as adults."

  • Stephen Douglas Rowland

    Boring, incredibly dry, with its thesis proven in the first two chapters then mercilessly repeated for 200 more pages.

  • Jill

    Anyone who relies on intuitive deduction (and there’s a lot about intuitive theories in this book), will instantly surmise that I am related to the author, Andrew Shtulman. That much is true: Andrew and I are cousins (although Andrew might argue that all humankind is composed of cousins, even if it’s thirty times removed). What is also true is that even if we weren’t, I would still 5-star this book because it’s thought-provoking, intelligently written, fascinating in parts, and also carries an i

    Anyone who relies on intuitive deduction (and there’s a lot about intuitive theories in this book), will instantly surmise that I am related to the author, Andrew Shtulman. That much is true: Andrew and I are cousins (although Andrew might argue that all humankind is composed of cousins, even if it’s thirty times removed). What is also true is that even if we weren’t, I would still 5-star this book because it’s thought-provoking, intelligently written, fascinating in parts, and also carries an important message: we are squandering our future by turning our collective backs on the knowledge of science.

    Andrew’s premise is this: intuitive theories impede not just how much we think but how we live—the choices we make, the advice we take, the goals we pursue. The problem with relying on intuition, instead of research-based evidence, is two-fold: first, intuitive theories are usually wrong. And second, they can actually cause harm, as is evidenced by a distrust of pasteurization or vaccination because they’re not “pure” or not taking action on climate change because “it doesn’t feel warmer.”

    The book is divided into two parts: intuitive theories of the physical world and intuitive theories of the biological world. Here is where I need to interject that I have an atrophied left brain, and have never had a firm understanding of “all things logical”, including the sciences and math. Fortunately, the exposition is very accessible without feeling dumbed down. Take matter, for example. The subhead is: What is the world made of? How do those component interact? Or take gravity: What makes something heavy? What makes something move?

    While the first half of the book was more of an expository nature, the second half really ignited my imagination because it touches on questions like: what makes us alive? Why do we grow older? Why are there so many life forms and how do they change over time? I had to question my assumptions of why one thing (say, a plant) is alive and another (say, the sun) is not and how we evolve and grow. Most importantly, in this era of religion-led anti-evolution fervor, I recognized what’s really at stake: nothing less than understanding and accepting the trajectory of life/death and recognizing why living things are so exquisitely adapted to their environments.

    By recognizing the nuances, we can accept that aging, for example, is one continuous change rather than a series of discrete changes rather than one continuous change and that inheritance is the reproductive transmission of genetic information, not just a consequence of nurture.

    Yes, scientific knowledge complicates our understanding of the world rather than dumb it down or force us to believe a magical force will keep us safe in times of trouble. But with so much at stake – from stem cell research to life-saving antibiotics, form nuclear energy to climate change—how can we afford to continue to live blindly? Reevaluating our intuitive theories is a major step in helping guide us not only to how we live, but why we live.

  • Ed

    Interesting, informative, eloquent. A must-read for anyone who values science.

  • Evan

    This book skillfully accomplishes two goals: it shows us how we misunderstand several scientific topics and it shows us the right way to think about those topics. Highly recommended for anyone interested in psychology in particular or science in general.

  • Katie

    On Chapter 5, Motion

  • Άννα Ζερβού

    Very nice book!

  • Danny Strickland

    I loved this book. It was clear and cogent, entertaining and enlightening. The content is deep, and the writing is lucid. It's a guiding light in our troubled times of science denial.

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