August 10, 2022

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Behind the intersection of common scientific sense

There have always been moments in human history when the compelling power of science has suffered some backlash. Just as there have been large parts of history during which humanity has worked unknowingly, as it progressed, even if perhaps with greater effort and with longer times. What we are witnessing today is seemingly a child of paradox: it is a moment in which scientific research is greatly evolving, offering comprehensive and detailed explanations, and yet …

However, he suffers from a loss of confidence. Reason is a complex reality that therefore requires a systematic, multidimensional approach: there are in fact biological and cultural causes, mediated by cultural, economic, social and political aspects that must be meticulously analyzed in a vision consisting of intrigue and confusion. No immediate representation. In any case, approximate inference is possible, and therefore we shall attempt to address the problem of scientific knowledge in its inevitable intertwining with that characteristic which has always accompanied Homo sapiens, and which directed it in moments of absence of sufficient scientific knowledge (and which it had was too much and too long, in fact) and this allowed it though That’s by not going extinct and mobilizing the planet: let’s talk about common sense.

Let us say at once that common sense does not enjoy – and did not in the past – enjoy much interest in science, and the reasons are easily understandable: it must be added that even the initially more traditional humanities, philosophy and sociology, for example. They have devoted a great deal of attention to it. Common sense is, in some ways, antithetical to scientific thinking, and that’s enough to understand how much attention scientists take. Let me be clear, common sense is not wrong in itself, on the contrary: it has often turned out to be correct, so much so that it has allowed our species to survive even in the absence of clear scientific indications. It includes only the great flaw of being scientifically unprovable, and incapable of being interpreted in any way as law, with its principles, statements, and direct consequences: but not for the very sake of this it must be considered an absolute evil.

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The main difference between logical instinct and scientific reasoning, however, lies in the approach to the problem, which turns out to be completely reflexive in one case in relation to the other. Let’s start with scientific reasoning: Usually, scientific questions are presented in a nontrivial form because, in the scientific field, the terms “true” and “false” are on two very different levels.

When a scientific hypothesis is proposed to a community of scientists, in fact, the following is not a series of attempts to verify it: as Karl Popper so effectively explains in “Conjectures and Refutations”, what follows is actually a series of experiments aimed at determining whether a hypothesis is The formula stands up to establishing the facts. In other words, an attempt was made to falsify it, i.e. to prove it incorrect: when falsification is not possible, science accepts the hypothesis as true, even if only in provisional terms (i.e. later, perhaps, the new laws will override the law under discussion at the time ).

Common sense has an overtly different approach, it needs simple, linear, friendly thinking right away: an entirely different perspective and reasoning logic, in short. The situation becomes clearer if we think about the tools. Lots of scientific research uses statistics to make decisions, but how does a scientist think when he has to choose between different options?

Let’s take the status of drugs, for example, and their effectiveness in comparing a particular pathology. Even if the pharmacodynamics are fully known, and therefore the results that a particular active ingredient can produce are known, what the statistics allow us to do is not actually prove that the drug works but more simply that the potential benefit is not. The fruit of chance. This is because, in fact, the experience is to administer the active principle to a certain number of patients and at this point the researcher’s enemy is chance, which means the drug is ineffective.

In fact, the efficacy evaluation process will take into account any significant increase in the cure rate in patients who took the drug compared to those who took the placebo: the statistics will not tell us, in short, whether the drug was effective but only what. The possibility that any difference is due to chance. If this probability is very small, the researcher will have good reason to believe (in a probabilistic way, it is worth noting) in the effectiveness of the product. Otherwise he would have lost his battle against the case, at which point we would have to think of something else.

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Instead, common sense moves, as might be expected, along very different logical paths, because it appears in reality as the result of countless individual finer assessments which are reinforced around a central element and thus become unified facts: it happens, for example, when It is also widely believed that the seasons change drastically, that the misuse of technology in the world of work can in the long run lead to unemployment or that inflation is a symptom of the poor health of the economic system.

Specifically around these cliches, common sense operates, the kind of naturalistic tendency that allows each human to immediately assess the context in which they find themselves, create hypotheses about what is happening, and then act through imagination to improve outcomes. a job. It is clear that all of this has to do with our biological roots: our common sense is, in fact, always at work and plays a crucial role because it directly indicates, in a broad sense, survival. Thus, the functional role of common sense is out of the question because before the advent of scientific culture, it was the only reliable cognitive resource for survival in the natural environment and also for regulating individual behavior in social interactions, favoring these social relationships and building society itself.

Having said that about the important role that common sense plays, it must be remembered that in any case our species is distinguished by rather strong and clear physiological limits: the so-called facts that common sense can discover and, accordingly, transmit to common sense, are often burdened with errors and loopholes strong and clear. For this we need to have faith in science: because otherwise we will still be convinced that we live in a geocentric system (for it is not instantaneous to understand that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around) and we will know nothing of viruses and bacteria, dimensions inconceivable to our natural human visual abilities.

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So science and common sense must find a balance that restores dignity to both, in a kind of tolerant and balanced system of thinking. Unfortunately, in the darkest moments, the most difficult to manage because things happen outside of the linear logic we always like to feed on and that alert our survival sensor system, science happens to be questioned and opposed. Instead of trying to think in a more complex way, let’s play with our heads in the sand, blocking the flag. The past reminds us that this was never a wise and beneficial decision for society. On the other hand, the future requires a different culture and approach to training, with greater integration of knowledge.


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