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The Internet Has Given a Voice to the World, But the Noise of the Internet Tends to Crowd Out the Best Ideas / An Anti-Pseudoscience Movement which Emphasizes Experts and Facts Over Becoming a Better Thinker Has Become Popular / Meanwhile, a New Robot Economy Will Favor the Best Thinkers / How Are You Preparing for the Robot Economy?

This text is very famous in the physics education research community. It's high resale value keeps it rare.

Teaching Introductory Physics
Arnold B Arons

Chapter 13: Critical Thinking

"The simple but difficult arts of paying attention, copying accurately, following an argument, detecting an ambiguity or a false inference, testing guesses by summoning up contrary instances, organizing one's time and one's thought for study -- all of these arts ... cannot be taught in the air but only through the difficulties of a defined subject; they cannot be taught in one course in one year, but must be acquired gradually in dozens of connections." (Jacques Barzun)


"No curricular recommendation, reform, or proposed structure has ever been made without some obeisance [deferential respect] to the generic term 'critical thinking' or one of its synonyms. The flood of reports on education in our schools and colleges that has been unleashed in recent years is no exception; every report, at every level of education, calls for attention to the enhancement of thinking-reasoning capacities in the young. A currently prominent formula is 'higher order thinking skills.' Few of the documents that come to us, however, attempt to supply some degree of specificity -- some operational definition of the concept, with illustrations of what might be done in day-to-day teaching to move toward the enunciated goals.

It is the object of this chapter to try to 'unpack' the term 'critical thinking' -- to list a few simpler, underlying processes of abstract logical reasoning that are common to many disciplines and that can be cultivated and exercised separately in limited contexts accessible to the student. Subsequently, the individual's conscious weaving together of these various modes results in the larger synthesis we might characterize as 'critical thought.' As Barzun points out in the quotation cited above, this can be done only through practice in, preferably, more than one field of subject matter.

To glimpse some of the ways in which effective schooling might enhance students' reasoning capacities, it is instructive to examine a few of the thinking and reasoning processes that underlie analysis and inquiry. These are processes that teachers rarely articulate or point out to students; yet these processes are implicit in many different studies. The following listing is meant to be illustrative; it is neither exhaustive nor prescriptive. Readers are invited to add or elaborate items they have identified for themselves or sense to be more immediately relevant in their own disciplines.

1 Consciously raising questions 'What do we know ... ? How do we know ... ? Why do we accept or believe ... ? What is the evidence for ... ?' when studying some body of material or approaching a problem.

Consider the assertion, which virtually every student and adult will make, that the moon shines by reflected sunlight. How many people are able to describe the simple evidence, available to anyone who can see, that leads to this conclusion (which was, incidentally, perfectly clear to the ancients)? This does not require esoteric intellectual skills; young children can follow and understand; all one need do is lead them to watch the locations of both the sun and moon, not just the moon alone, as a few days go by. Yet for the majority of our population the 'fact' that the moon shines by reflected sunlight is received knowledge, not sustained by understanding.

Exactly the same must be said about the contention that the earth and planets revolve around the sun. The validation and acceptance of this view marked a major turning point in our intellectual history and in our collective view of man's place in the universe. Although the basis on which this view is held is more subtle and complex than that for the illumination of the moon, the 'How do we know ... ?' should be an intrinsic part of general education; it is, for most people, however, received knowledge -- as is also the view that matter is discrete in its structure rather than continuous.

Similar questions should be asked and addressed in other disciplines: How does the historian come to know how the Egyptians, or Babylonians, or Athenians lived? On what basis does the text make these assertions concerning consequences of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes? What is the evidence for the claim that such and such tax and monetary policies promote economic stability? What was the basis for acceptance of the doctrine of separation of church and state in our political system?

Cognitive development researchers [e.g., Anderson (1980); Lawson (1982)] describe two principal classes of knowledge: figurative or declarative on the one hand, and operative or procedural on the other. Declarative knowledge consists of knowing 'facts' (matter is composed of atoms and molecules; animals breathe oxygen and expel carbon dioxide; the United States entered the Second World War after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941). Operative knowledge involves understanding where the declarative knowledge comes from or what underlies it (What is the evidence that the structure of matter is discrete rather than continuous? What do we mean by the terms 'oxygen' and 'carbon dioxide' and how do we recognize these as different substances? What worldwide political and economic events underlay the American declaration of war?). And operative knowledge also involves the capacity to use, apply, transform, or recognize the relevance of declarative knowledge in new situations.

'Above all things,' says Alfred North Whitehead in a well-known passage on the first page of The Aims of Education, 'we must beware of what I will call 'inert ideas' -- that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations.' And John Gardner once deplored our tendency ... 'to hand our students the cut flowers while forbidding them to see the growing plants.'

Preschool children almost always ask 'How do we know ... ? Why do we believe ... ?' questions until formal education teaches them not to. Most high school and college students then have to be pushed, pulled, and cajoled into posing and examining such questions; they do not do so spontaneously. Rather, our usual pace of assignments and methods of testing all too frequently drive students into memorizing end results, rendering each development inert. Yet given time and encouragement, the habit of inquiry can be cultivated, the skill enhanced, and the satisfaction of understanding conveyed. The effect would be far more pronounced and development far more rapid if this demand were made deliberately and simultaneously in science, humanities, history, and social science courses rather than being left to occur sporadically, if at all, in one course or discipline.

2 Being clearly and explicitly aware of gaps in available information. Recognizing when a conclusion is reached or a decision made in absence of complete information and being able to tolerate the attendant ambiguity and uncertainty. Recognizing when one is taking something on faith without having examined the 'How do we know ...? Why do we believe ...?' questions.

Interesting investigations of cognitive skill and maturity are conducted by administering test questions or problems in which some necessary datum or bit of information has been deliberately omitted, and the question cannot be answered without securing the added information or making some plausible assumption that closes the gap. Most students and many mature adults perform very feebly on these tests. They have had little practice in such analytical thinking and fail to recognize, on their own, that information is missing. If they are told that this is the case, some will identify the gap on reexamining the problem, but many will stil fail to make the specific identification.

In our subject matter courses, regardless of how carefully we try to examine evidence and validate our models and concepts, it will occasionally be necessary to ask students to take something on faith. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but it should never be done without making students aware of what evidence is lacking and exactly what they are taking on faith [Realize that press releases in some disciplines do this as a matter of routine]. Without such care, they do not establish a frame of reference from which to judge their level of knowledge, and they fail to discriminate clearly those instances in which evidence has been provided from those in which it has not.

3 Discriminating between observation and inference, between established fact and subsequent conjecture.

Many students have great trouble making such discriminations even when the situation seems patently obvious to the teacher. They are unused to keeping track of the logical sequence, and they are frequently confused by technical jargon they have previously been exposed to but never clearly understood.

In the case of the source of illumination of the moon cited earlier, for example, students must be made explicitly conscious of the fact that they see the extent of illumination increasing steadily as the angular separation between moon and sun increases, up to full illumination at a separatin of 180 degrees. This direct observation leads, in turn, to the inference that what we are seeing is reflected sunlight.

In working up to the concept of 'oxygen' (without any prior mention of this term at all) with a group of elementary school teachers some years ago, I had them do an experiment in which they heated red, metallic copper in an open crucible and weighed the crucible periodically. What they saw happening, of course, was the copper turning black and the weight of crucible and contents steadily increasing. When I walked around the laboratory and asked what they had observed so far, many answered, 'We observed oxygen combining with the copper.' When I quizzically inquired whether that was what they had actually seen happening, their reaction was one of puzzlement. It took a sequence of Socratic questioning to lead them to state what they had actually seen and to discern the inference that something from the air must be joining the copper to make the increasing amount of black material in the crucible. It had to be brought out explicitly that this 'something from the air' was the substance to which we would eventually give the name 'oxygen.' What they wanted to do was to use the technical jargon they had acquired previously without having formed an awareness of what justified it.

This episode illustrates the importance of exposing students to repeated opportunity to discriminate between observation and inference. One remedial encounter in one subject matter context is not nearly enough, but opportunities are available at almost every turn. Mendel's observations of nearly integral ratios of population members having different color and size characteristics must be separated from inference of the existence of discrete elements controlling inheritance. In the study of literature, analysis of the structure of a novel or a poem must be distinguished from an interpretation of the work. In the study of history, primary historical data or information cited by the historian must be separated from the historian's interpretation of the data.

A powerful exercise once employed by some of my colleagues in history was to give the students a copy of the Code of Hammurabi accompanied by the assignment: 'Write a short paper addressing the following question: From this code of laws, what can you infer about how these people lived and what they held to be of value?' This exercise obviously combines exposure to both processes 1 and 3.

4 Recognizing that words are symbols for ideas and not the ideas themselves. Recognizing the necessity of using only words of prior definition, rooted in shared experience, in forming a new definition and in avoiding being misled by technical jargon.

From the didactic manner in which concepts (particularly scientific concepts) are forced on students in early schooling, it is little wonder that they acquire almost no sense of the process of operational definition and that they come to view concepts as rigid, unchanging entities with only one absolute significance that the initiated automatically 'know' and that the breathless student must acquire in one intuitive gulp. It comes as a revelation and a profound relief to many students when they are allowed to see that concepts evolve; that they go through a sequence of redefinition, sharpening, and refinement; that one starts at crude, initial, intuitive levels and, profiting from insights gained in successive applications, develops the concept to final sophistication.

In my own courses, I indicate from the first day that we will operate under the precept 'idea first and name afterwards' and that scientific terms acquire meaning only through the description of shared experience in words of prior definition. When students try to exhibit erudition (or take refuge from questioning) by name dropping technical terms that have not yet been defined, I and my staff go completely blank and uncomprehending. Students catch on to this game quite quickly. They cease name dropping and begin to recognize, on their own, when they do not understand the meaning of a term. Then they start drifting in to tell us of instances in which they got into trouble in psychology, or sociology, or economics, or political science course by asking for operational meaning of technical terms. It is interesting that this is an aspect of cognitive development to which many students break through relatively quickly and easily. Unfortunately, this is not true of most other modes of abstract logical reasoning.

5 Probing for assumptions (particularly the implicit, unarticulated assumptions) behind a line of reasoning.

In science courses, this is relatively easy to do. Idealizations, approximations, and simplifications lie close to the surface and are quite clearly articulated in most presentations. They are ignored or overlooked by the students, however, principally because explicit recognition and restatement are rarely, if ever, called for on tests or examinations. In history, humanities, and the social sciences, underlying assumptions are frequently more subtle and less clearly articulated; probing for them requires careful and self-conscious attention on the part of instructors and students.

6 Drawing inferences from data, observations, or other evidence and recognizing when firm inferences cannot be drawn. This subsumes a number of processes such as elementary syllogistic reasoning (e.g., dealing with basic propositional, 'if ... then' statements), correlational reasoning, recognizing when relevant variables have or have not been controlled.

Separate from the analysis of another's line of reasoning is the formulation of one's own. 'If ... then' reasoning from data or information must be undertaken without prompting from an external 'authority.' One must be able to discern possible cause-and-effect relations in the face of statistical scatter and uncertainty. One must be aware that failure to control a significant variable vitiates [spoils] the possibility of inferring a cause-and-effect relation. One must be able to discern when two alternative models, explanations, or interpretations are equally valid and cannot be discriminated on logical grounds alone.

As an illustration of the latter situation, I present a case I encounter very frequently in my own teaching. When students in a general education science course begin to respond to assignments leading them to watch events in the sky (diurnal changes in rising, setting and elevation of the sun, waxing and waning of the moon, behavior of the stars and readily visible planets), they immediately expect these naked eye observaitons to allow them to 'see' the 'truth' they have received from authority, namely that the earth and planets revolve around the sun. When they first confront the fact that both the geo- and heliocentric models rationalize the observations equally well and that it is impossible to eliminate one in favor of the other on logical grounds at this level of observation, they are quite incredulous. They are shocked by the realization that either model might be selected provisionally on the basis of convenience, or of aesthetic or religious predilection. In their past experience, there has always been a pat answer. They have never been led to stand back and recognize that one must sometimes defer, either [temporarily] or permanently, to unresolvable alternatives. They have never had to wait patiently until sufficient information and evidence were accumulated to develop an answer to an important question; the answer has always been asserted (for the sake of 'closure') whether the evidence was at hand or not, and the ability to discriminate decidability versus undecidability has never evolved.

An essentially parallel situation arises in the early stages of formation of the concepts of static electricity (see Sections 6.7 and 6.8). Students are very reluctant to accept the fact that, before we know anything about the microscopic constitution of matter and the role of electrical charge at that level, it is impossible to tell from observable (macroscopic) phenomena whether positive charge, negative charge, or both charges are mobile or being displaced. They wish to be told the 'right answer' and fail to comprehend that any one of the three models accounts equally well for what we have observed and predicts equally well in new situations. They want to use the term 'electron' even though they have no idea what it means or what evidence justifies it, and they apply it incorrectly to irrelevant and inappropriate situations.

If attention is explicitly given, experiences such as the ones just outlined can play a powerful role in opening student minds to spontaneous assessment of what they know and what they do not know, of what can be inferred at a given juncture and what cannot.

7 Performing hypothetico-deductive reasoning; that is, given a particular situation, applying relevant knowledge of principles and constraints and visualizing, in the abstract, the plausible outcomes that might result from various changes one can imagine to be imposed on the system.

Opportunities for such thinking abound in almost every course. Yet students are most frequently given very circumscribed [restricted] questions that do not open the door to more imaginative hypothetico-deductive reasoning. The restricted situations are important and provide necessary exercises as starting points, but they should be followed by questions that impel the student to invent possible changes and pursue the plausible consequences.

8 Discriminating between inductive and deductive reasoning; that is, being aware when an argument is being made from the particular to the general [inductive] or from the general to the particular [deductive].

The concepts of 'electric circuit,' 'electric current,' and 'resistance' can be induced from very simple observations made with electric batteries and arrangements of flashlight bulbs. This leads to the inductive construction of a 'model' of operation of an electric circuit. The model then forms the basis for deductive reasoning, that is, predictions of what will happen to brightness of bulbs in new configurations or when changes (such as short circuiting) are imposed on an existing configuation.

Exactly similar thinking can be developed in connection with economic models or processes. Hypothetico-deductive reasoning is intimately involved in virtually all such instances, but one should always be fully conscious of the distinction between the inductive and the deductive modes.

9 Testing one's own line of reasoning and conclusions for internal consistency and thus developing intellectual self-reliance.

The time is long past when we could teach our students all they need to know. The principal function of education -- higher education in particular -- must be to help individuals to their own intellectual feet: To give them conceptual starting points and an awareness of what it means to learn and understand something so that they can continue to read, study, and learn as need and opportuninty arise, without perpetual formal instruction.

To continue genuine learning on one's own (not just accumulating facts) requires the capacity to judge when understanding has been achieved and to draw conclusions and make inferences from acquired knowledge. Inferring, in turn, entails testing one's own thinking, and the results of such thinking, for correctness or at least for internal coherence and consistency. This is, of course, a very sophisticated level of intellectual activity, and students must first be made aware of the process and its importance. Then they need practice and help.

In science courses, they should be required to test and verify results and conclusions by checking that the results make sense in extreme or special cases that can be reasoned out simply and directly. They should be led to solve a problem in alternative ways when that is possible. Such thinking should be conducted in both quantitative and qualitative situations. In the humanities and social sciences, the checks for internal consistency are more subtle, but they are equally important and should be cultivated explicitly. Students should be helped to sense when they can be confident of the soundness, consistency, or plausibility of their own reasoning so that they can consciously dispense with the teacher and cease relying on someone else for the 'right answer.'

10 Developing self-consciousness concerning one's own thinking and reasoning processes.

This is perhaps the highest and most sophisticated reasoning skill, presupposing the others that have been listed. It involves standing back and recognizing the processes one is using, deliberately invoking those most appropriate to the given circumstances, and providing the basis for conscious transfer of reasoning methods from familiar to unfamiliar contexts.

Given such awareness, one can begin to penetrate new situations by asking oneself probing questions and constructing answers. Starting with artificial, idealized, oversimplified versions of the problem, one can gradually penetrate to more realistic and complex versions. In an important sense, this is the mechanism underlying independent research and investigation.


The preceding list of thinking and reasoning processes underlying the broad generic term 'critical thinking' is neither complete nor exhaustive. For illustrative purposes, I have tried to isolate and describe processes and levels of awareness that appear to be bound up with clear thinking and genuine understanding in a wide variety of disciplines and to show a deep commonality in this respect among very different kinds of subject matter. These processes underlie the capacity defined by Jacques Barzun in the quotation that heads this chapter.

Developing these intellectual skills requires extensive, sustained practice. Such practice is not possible in a space devoid of subject matter. It is only through contact with, and immersion in, rich areas of subject matter that interesting and significant experience can be generated. Although it may be possible, in principle, to generate limited aspects of such practice through artificial kinds of exercises and puzzle solving, or even through analysis of scores in sports contests, it seems a waste of time to resort to such sterile channels when all the vital disciplines of our culture lie at our disposal.

Why should we want to cultivate skills such as those I have listed? There are many obvious reasons having to do with quality of life, with professional competence, with the advance of culture and of society in general, but I particularly wish to suggest a socio-political reason: the education of an enlightened democractic citizenry. What capacities characterize such a citizenry?

Justice Learned Hand, the distinguished jurist of the precedeing generation, argued with telling irony that we would be able to preserve civil liberties only so long as we were willing to engage in the 'intolerable labor thought, that most distasteful of all our activities.' John Dewey in Democracy and Education contends that 'The opposite to thoughtful action are routine or capricious behavior. Both refuse to acknowledge responsibility for the future consequences which flow from present action.'

The requirements set by Barzun, Hand, and Dewey can be broken down to more fundamental components. The sophisticated distinction between enlightened and short range self-interest is based on hypothetico-deductive reasoning. Such reasoning is also inevitably involved in visualizing possible outcomes of decisions and policies in economic and political domains.

There is need to discriminate between facts and inferences in the contentions with which one is surrounded. There is the necessity of making tentative judgments or decisions, and it is better that this be done in full awareness of gaps in available information than in an illusion of certainty. There is the highly desirable capacity to ask critical, probing, fruitful questions concerning situations in which one has little or no expertise. There is the need to be explicitly conscious of the limits of one's own knowledge and understanding on a given issue.

Each of these capacities appears on the preceding list, and I believe that each can be cultivated and enhanced, at least to some degree, in the great majority of college students through properly designed experiences embracing a wide variety of subjects.

I hasten to emphasize that these skills alone are not sufficient to assure good citizenship or other desirable qualities of mind and person. Other ingredients are necessary, not the least of which are moral and ethical values, which impose their own constraints on the naked processes of thinking and reasoning. Although values are not disconnected from thinking and reasoning, the educational problems they pose transcend the limits of this short essay and require discussion in their own right.


In the United States some investigators have rather belatedly come to realize that much of our science curricular material, and the volume and pace with which we thrust it at our students, are badly mismatched to the existing levels of student intellectual development at virtually every age. I am convinced that the same is true in other disciplines, but the fact is less readily discerned because assignments and tests concentrate on end results and procedures rather than on reasoning and understanding.

I say that 'some' have become aware of this problem because, despite the unequivocal and relentlessly accumulating statistics, many who teach in the schools, colleges, and universities remain unaware of the emerging data; others fail to see any relevance to their own teaching.

Beginning about 1971, investigators began administering elementary tasks in abstract logical reasoning (such as those pioneered by Jean Piaget [see Piaget and Inhelder (1958)] in his studies of the development of abstract reasoning capacity in children) to adolescents and adults of college age and beyond [see, for example, Chiapetta (1976); McKinnon and Renner (1971)]. The tests have centered principally on arithmetical reasoning with ratios or division and on awareness of the necessity of controlling variables in deducing cause-effect relationship.

Although the results vary significantly from one population to another (economically disadvantaged versus economically advantaged; concentrating in science and engineering versus concentrating in humanities or fine arts versus concentrating in the social sciences, etc.), the overall averages have remained essentially unchanged with increasing volume of data since the first small samples were reported in 1971, and, most suggestively, the averages do not change appreciably with increasing age beyond about 12 or 13: Roughly one third of the total number of individuals tested solve the tasks correctly; roughly one third perform incorrectly but show a partial, incipient grasp of the necessity mode of reasoning; the remaining third fail completely. In Piagetian terminology, the first group might be described as using formal patterns of reasoning, the third group as using principally concrete patterns, and the middle group as being in transition between the two modes [Arons and Karplus (1976)].

The weaknesses revealed by these two specific tasks would mean relatively little if they stood by themselves, but, in fact, these weaknesses are closely correlated with weaknesses in other modes of abstract logical reasoning such as discriminating between observation and inference; dealing with elementary syllogisms involving inclusion, exclusion, and serial ordering; recognizing gaps in available information; doing almost any kind of hypothetico-deductive reasoning.

Most of the curricular materials thrust at students in the majority of their courses at secondary and college level implicitly require well-developed reasoning capacity in the modes that have been listed in this discussion. In fact, only a small proportion of the students (less than one third) are ready for such performance. The rest, lacking the steady, supportive help and explicit exercises required, resort, in desperation, to memorization of end results and procedures. Failing to develop the processes underlying critical thinking, they fail to have experience of genuine understanding and come to believe that knowledge is inculcated by teachers and consists of recognizing juxtapositions of arcane vocabulary on multiple choice tests. (Readers familiar with studies of William G. Perry will recognize his first category of intellectual outlook among college students [Perry (1970].)


In our Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, we have worked intensively for some years with populations of pre- and in-service elementary school teachers and other nonscience majors ranging in age from 18 to over 30. Initially no more than about 10% were using formal patterns of reasoning. By starting with very basic, concrete observations and experiences, forming concepts out of such direct experience, going slowly, allowing students to make and rectify mistakes by confronting contradiction or inconsistency, insisting that they speak and write out their lines of reasoning and explanation, repeating the same modes of reasoning in new contexts days and weeks apart, we have been able to increase the fraction who successfully use abstract patterns of reasoning to perhaps 70 to 90%, depending on the nature of the task.

The most important practical lesson we have learned is that repetition is absolutely essential -- not treading water in the same context until 'mastery' is attained, but in altered and increasingly richer context, with encounters spread out over time. Quick, remedial exercises in artificial situations preceding 'real' course work are virtually useless. One must patiently construct repeated encounters with the same modes of reasoning in regular course work and allow students to benefit from their mistakes. Progress becomes clearly visible in the sense that the percentage of successful students increases with each repetition.

It is still a very long step from the development of specific abstract reasoning processes in one area of subject matter, such as elementary science, to more advanced levels of subject matter in the same area, not to speak of transfer to entirely different areas. What little evidence exists suggests that very little transfer occurs from experience acquired in only one discipline. I myself am strongly convinced, however (mostly by fragmentary, anecdotal evidence, and perhaps some admixture of wishful thinking), that very great progress could be effected if students were simultaneously exposed to such intellectual experience in entirely different disciplines. This is largely a matter of conjecture since an organized experiment at the college level has not really been tried ..."

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Ryan Dupée

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Even by 1890, it Was Understood that the Habit of Some to Hastily Conjure Up an Explanation for Every New Phenomenon Leads to the Development of Weak Theories / These Weak Theories are Prone to Advancing to Ruling Theories, Which Generally Suffer from the Investigator's Hasty, Narrowed Focus / By Contrast, the Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses Can Generate More Thorough Theories by Minimizing the Partiality of Intellectual Parentage

It's a long piece; if you cannot read it all, then use the bold text to skim ...

The Method of Multiple Working Hypotheses
Science, Vol. 15, No. 366
Feb. 7, 1890
pp. 92-96
Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science

"As methods of study constitute the leading theme of our session, I have chosen as a subject in measurable consonance the method of multiple working hypotheses in its application to investigation, instruction, and citizenship.

There are two fundamental classes of study. The one consists in attempting to follow by close imitation the processes of previous thinkers, or to acquire by memorizing the results of their investigations. It is merely secondary, imitative, or acquisitive study. The other class is primary or creative study. In it the effort is to think independently, or at least individually, in the endeavor to discover new truth, or to make new combinations of truth, or at least to develop an individualized aggregation of truth. The endeavor is to think for one's self, whether the thinking lies wholly in the fields of previous thought or not. It is not necessary to this habit of study that the subject-material should be new; but the process of thought and its results must be individual and independent, not the mere following of previous lines of thought ending in predetermined results. The demonstration of a problem in Euclid precisely as laid down is an illustration of the former; the demonstration of the same proposition by a method of one's own or in a manner distinctively individual is an illustration of the latter; both lying entirely within the realm of the known and the old.

Creative study, however, finds its largest application in those subjects in which, while much is known, more remains to be known. Such are the fields which we, as naturalists, cultivate; and we are gathered for the purpose of developing improved methods lying largely in the creative phase of study, though not wholly so.

Intellectual methods have taken three phases in the history of progress thus far. What may be the evolutions of the future it may not be prudent to forecast. Naturally the methods we now urge seem the highest attainable. These three methods may be designated, first, the method of the ruling theory; second, the method of the working hypothesis; and, third, the method of multiple working hypotheses.

In the earlier days of intellectual development the sphere of knowledge was limited, and was more nearly within the compass of a single individual; and those who assumed to be wise men, or aspired to be thought so, felt the need of knowing, or at least seeming to know, all that was known as a justification of their claims. So, also, there grew up an expectancy on the part of the multitude that the wise and the learned would explain whatever new thing presented itself. Thus pride and ambition on the one hand, and expectancy on the other, developed the putative wise man whose knowledge boxed the compass, and whose acumen found an explanation for every new puzzle which presented itself. This disposition has propagated itself, and has come down to our time as an intellectual predilection, though the compassing of the entire horizon of knowledge has long since been an abandoned affectation. As in the earlier days, so still, it is the habit of some to hastily conjure up an explanation for every new phenomenon that presents itself. Interpretation rushes to the forefront as the chief obligation pressing upon the putative wise man. Laudable as the effort at explanation is in itself, it is to be condemned when it runs before a serious inquiry into the phenomenon itself. A dominant disposition to find out what is, should precede and crowd aside the question, commendable at a later stage, 'How came this so?' First full facts, then interpretations.

The habit of precipitate explanation leads rapidly on to the development of tentative theories. The explanation offered for a given phenomenon is naturally, under the impulse of self-consistency, offered for like phenomena as they present themselves, and there is soon developed a general theory explanatory of a large class of phenomena similar to the original one. This general theory may not be supported by any further considerations than those which were involved in the first hasty inspection. For a time,it is likely to be held in a tentative way with a measure of candor. With this tentative spirit and measurable candor, the mind satisfies its moral sense, and deceives itself with the thought that it is proceeding cautiously and impartially toward the goal of ultimate truth. It fails to recognize that no amount of provisional holding of a theory, so long as the view is limited and the investigation partial, justifies an ultimate conviction. It is not the slowness with which conclusions are arrived at that should give satisfaction to the moral sense, but the thoroughness, the completeness, the all-sidedness, the impartiality, of the investigation.

It is in this tentative stage that the affections enter with their blinding influence. Love was long since represented as blind, and what is true in the personal realm is measurably true in the intellectual realm. Important as the intellectual affections are as stimuli and as rewards, they are nevertheless dangerous factors, which menace the integrity of the intellectual processes. The moment one has offered an original explanation for a phenomenon which seems satisfactory, that moment affection for his intellectual child springs into existence; and as the explanation grows into a definite theory, his parental affections cluster about his intellectual offspring, and it grows more and more dear to him, so that, while he holds it seemingly tentative, it is still lovingly tentative, and not impartially tentative. So soon as this parental affection takes possession of the mind, there is a rapid passage to the adoption of the theory. There is an unconscious selection and magnifying of phenomena that fall into harmony with the theory and support it, and an unconscious neglect of those that fail of coincidence. The mind lingers with pleasure upon the facts that fall happily into the embrace of the theory, and feels a natural coldness toward those that seem refractory. Instinctively there is a special searching-out of phenomena that support it, for the mind is led by its desires. There springs up, also, an unconscious pressing of the theory to make it fit the facts, and a pressing of the facts to make them fit the theory. When these biasing tendencies set in, the mind rapidly degenerates into the partiality of paternalism. The search for facts, the observation of phenomena and their interpretation, are all dominated by affection for the favored 'theory until it appears to its author or its advocate to have been overwhelmingly established. The theory then rapidly rises to the ruling position, and investgaton. observation, and interpretation are controlled and directed by it. From an unduly favored child, it readily becomes master, and leads its author whithersoever it will. The subsequent history of that mind in respect to that theme is but the progressive dominance of a ruling idea.

Briefly summed up, the evolution is this: a premature explanation passes into a tentative theory, then into an adopted theory, and then into a ruling theory.

When the last stage has been reached, unless the theory happens, perchance, to be the true one, all hope of the best results is gone. To be sure, truth may be brought forth by an investigator dominated by a false ruling idea. His very errors may indeed stimulate investigation on the part of others. But the condition is an unfortunate one. Dust and chaff are mingled with the grain in what should be a winnowing process.

As previously implied, the method of the ruling theory occupied a chief place during the infancy of investigation. It is an expression of the natural infantile tendencies of the mind, though in this case applied to its higher activities, for in the earlier stages of development the feelings are relatively greater than in later stages.

Unfortunately it did not wholly pass away with the infancy of investigation, but has lingered along in individual instances to the present day, and finds illustration in universally learned men and pseudo-scientists of our time.

The defects of the method are obvious, and its errors great. If I were to name the central psychological fault, I should say that it was the admission of intellectual affection to the place that should be dominated by impartial intellectual rectitude.

So long as intellectual interest dealt chiefly with the intangible, so long it was possible for this habit of thought to survive, and to maintain its dominance, because the phenomena themselves, being largely subjective, were plastic in the hands of the ruling idea; but so soon as investigation turned itself earnestly to an inquiry into natural phenomena, whose manifestations are tangible, whose properties are rigid, whose laws are rigorous, the defects of the method became manifest, and an effort at reformation ensued. The first great endeavor was repressive. The advocates of reform insisted that theorizing should be restrained, and efforts directed to the simple determination of facts. The effort was to make scientific study factitious instead of causal. Because theorizing in narrow lines had led to manifest evils, theorizing was to be condemned. The reformation urged was not the proper control and utilization of theoretical effort, but its suppression. We do not need to go backward more than twenty years to find ourselves in the midst of this attempted reformation. Its weakness lay in its narrowness and its restrictiveness. There is no nobler aspiration of the human intellect than desire to compass the cause of things. The disposition to find explanations and to develop theories is laudable in itself. It is only its ill use that is reprehensible. The vitality of study quickly disappears when the object sought is a mere collocation of dead unmeaning facts.

The inefficiency of this simply repressive reformation becoming apparent, improvement was sought in the method of the working hypothesis. This is affirmed to be the scientific method of the day, but to this I take exception. The working hypothesis differs from the ruling theory in that it is used as a means of determining facts, and has for its chief function the suggestion of lines of inquiry; the inquiry being made, not for the sake of the hypothesis, but for the sake of facts. Under the method of the ruling theory, the stimulus was directed to the finding of facts for the support of the theory. Under the working hypothesis, the facts are sought for the purpose of ultimate induction and demonstration, the hypothesis being but a means for the more ready development of facts and of their relations, and the arrangement and preservation of material for the final induction.

It will be observed that the distinction is not a sharp one, and that a working hypothesis may with the utmost ease degenerate into a ruling theory. Affection may as easily cling about an hypothesis as about a theory, and the demonstration of the one may become a ruling passion as much as of the other.

Conscientiously followed, the method of the working hypothesis is a marked improvement upon the method of the ruling theory; but it has its defects, -- defects which are perhaps best expressed by the ease with which the hypothesis becomes a controlling idea. To guard against this, the method of multiple working hypotheses is urged. It differs from the former method in the multiple character of its genetic conceptions and of its tentative interpretations. It is directed against the radical defect of the two other methods; namely, the partiality of intellectual parentage. The effort is to bring up into view every rational explanation of new phenomena, and to devleop every tenable hypothesis respecting their cause and history. The investigator thus becomes the parent of a family of hypotheses; and, by his parental relation to all, he is forbidden to fasten his affections unduly upon any one. In the nature of the case, the danger that springs from affection is counteracted, and therein is a radical difference between this method and the two preceding. The investigator at the outset puts himself in cordial sympathy and in parental relations (of adoption, if not of authorship) with every hypothesis that is at all applicable to the case under investigation. Having thus neutralized the partialities of his emotional nature, he proceeds with a certain natural and enforced erectness of mental attitude to the investigation, knowing well that some of his intellectual children will die before maturity, yet feeling that several of them may survive the results of final ivestigation, since it is often the outcome of inquiry that several causes are found to be involved instead of a single one. In following a single hypothesis, the mind is presumably led to a single explanatory conception. But an adequate explanation often involves the co-ordination of several agencies, which enter into the combined result in varying proportions. The true explanation is therefore necessarily complex. Such complex explanations of phenomena are specially encouraged by the method of multiple hypotheses, and constitute one of its chief merits. We are so pione to attribute a phenomenon to a single cause, that, when we find an agency present, we are liable to rest satisfied therewith, and fail to recognize that it is but one factor, and perchance a minor factor, in the accomplishment of the total result. Take for illustration the mooted question of the origin of the Great Lake basins. We have this, that, and the other hypothesis urged by different students as the cause of these great excavations; and all of these are urged with force and with fact, urged justly to a certain degree. It is practically demonstrable that these basins were river-valleys antecedent to the glacial incursion, and that they owe their origin in part to the pre-existence of those valleys and to the blocking-up of their outlets. And so this view of their origin is urged with a certain truthfulness. So, again, it is demonstrable that they were occupied by great lobes of ice, which excavated them to a marked degree, and therefore the theory of glacial excavation finds support in fact. I think it is furthermore demonstrable that the earth's crust beneath these basins was flexed downward, and that they owe a part of their origin to crust deformation. But to my judgment neither the one nor the other; nor the third, constitutes an adequate explanation of the phenomena. All these must be taken together, and possibly they must be supplemented by other agencies. The problem, therefore, is the determination not only of the participation, but of the measure and the extent, of each of these agencies in the production of the complex result. This is not likely to be accomplished by one whose working hypothesis is pre-glacial erosion, or glacial erosion, or crust deformation, but by one whose staff of working hypotheses embraces all of these and any other agency which can be rationally conceived to have taken part in the phenomena.

A special merit of the method is, that by its very nature it promotes thoroughness. The value of a working hypothesis lies largely in its suggestiveness of lines of inquiry that might otherwise be overlooked. Facts that are trivial in themselves are brought into significance by their bearings upon the hypothesis, and by their causal indications. As an illustration, it is only necessary to cite the phenomenal influence which the Darwinian hypothesis has exerted upon the investigations of the past two decades. But a single working hypothesis may lead investigation along a given line to the neglect of others equally important; and thus, while inquiry is promoted in certain quarters, the investigation lacks in completeness. But if all rational hypotheses relating to a subject are worked co-equally, thoroughness is the presumptive result, in the very nature of the case.

In the use of the multiple method, the re-action of one hypothesis upon another tends to amplify the recognized scope of each, and their mutual conflicts whet the discriminative edge of each. The analytic process, the development and demonstration of criteria, and the sharpening of discrimination, receive powerful impulse from the co-ordinate working of several hypotheses.

Fertility in processes is also the natural outcome of the method. Each hypothesis suggests its own criteria, its own means of proof, its own methods of developing the truth; and if a group of hypotheses encompass the subject on all sides, the total outcome of means and of methods is full and rich.

The use of the method leads to certain peculiar habits of mind which deserve passing notice, since as a factor of education its disciplinary value is one of importance. When faithfully pursued for a period of years, it develops a habit of thought analogous to the method itself, which may be designated a habit of parallel or complex thought. Instead of a simple succession of thoughts in linear order, the procedure is complex, and the mind appears to become possessed of the power of simultaneous vision from different standpoints. Phenomena appear to become capable of being viewed analytically and synthetically at once. It is not altogether unlike the study of a landscape, from which there comes into the mind myriads of lines of intelligence, which are received and co-ordinated simultaneously, producing a complex impression which is recorded and studied directly in its complexity. My description of this process is confessedly inadequate, and the affirmation of it as a fact would doubtless challenge dispute at the hands of psychologists of the old school; but I address myself to naturalists who I think can respond to its verity from, their own experience.

The method has, however, its disadvantages. No good thing is without its drawbacks; and this very habit of mind, while an invaluable acquisition for purposes of investigation, introduces difficulties in expression. It is obvious, upon consideration, that this method of thought is impossible of verbal expression. We cannot put into words more than a single line of thought at the same time; and even in that the order of expression must be conformed to the idiosyncrasies of the language, and the rate must be relatively slow. When the habit of complex thought is not highly developed, there is usually a leading line to which others are subordinate, and the difficulty of expression does not rise to serious proportions; but when the method of simultaneous vision along different lines is developed so that the thoughts running in different channels are nearly equivalent, there is an obvious embarrassment in selection and a disinclination to make the attempt. Furthermore, the impossibility of expressing the mental operation in words leads to their disuse in the silent processes of thought, and hence words and thoughts lose that close association which they are accustomed to maintain with those whose silent as well as spoken thoughts run in linear verbal courses. There is therefore a certain predisposition on the part of the practitioner of this method to taciturnity.

We encounter an analogous difficulty in the use of the method with young students. It is far easier, and I think in general more interesting, for them to argue a theory or accept a simple interpretation than to recognize and evaluate the several factors which the true elucidation may require. To illustrate: it is more to their taste to be taught that the Great Lake basins were scooped out by glaciers than to be urged to conceive of three or more great agencies working successively or simultaneously, and to estimate how much was accomplished by each of these agencies. The complex and the quantitative do not fascinate the young student as they do the veteran investigator.

It has not been our custom to think of the method of working hypotheses as applicable to instruction or to the practical affairs of life. We have usually regarded it as but a method of science. But I believe its application to practical affairs has a value co-ordinate with the importance of the affairs themselves. I refer especially to those inquiries and inspections that precede the coming-out of an enterprise rather than to its actual execution. The methods that are superior in scientific investigation should likewise be superior in those investigations; that are the necessary antecedents to an intelligent conduct of affairs. But I can dwell only briefly on this phase of the subject.

In education, as in investigation, it has been much the practice to work a theory. The search for instructional methods has often proceeded on the presumption that there is a definite patent process through which all students might be put and come out with results of maximum excellence; and hence pedagogical inquiry in the past has very largely concerned itself with the inquiry, 'What is the best method?' rather than with the inqiry, 'What are the special values of different methods, and what are their several advantageous applicabilities in the varied work of instruction?' The past doctrine has been largely the doctrine of pedagogical uniformitarianism. But the faculties and functions of the mind are almost, if not quite, as varied as the properties and functions of matter; and it is perhaps not less absurd to assume that any specific method of instructional procedure is more effective than all others, under any and all circumstances, than to asume that one principle of interpretation is equally applicable to all the phenomena of nature. As there is an endless variety of mental processes and combinations and an indefinite number of orders of procedure, the advantage of different methods under different conditions is almost axiomatic. This being granted, there is presented to the teacher the problem of selection and of adaptation to meet the needs of any specific issue that may present itself. It is important, therefore, that the teacher shall have in mind a full array of possible conditions and states of mind which may be presented, in order that, when any one of these shall become an actual case, he may recognize it, and be ready for the emergency.

Just as the investigator armed with many working hypotheses is more likely to see the true nature and significance of phenomena when they present themselves, so the instructor equipped with a full panoply of hypotheses ready for application more readily recognizes the actuality of the situation, more accurately measures its significance, and more appropriately applies the methods which the case calls for.

The application of the method of multiple hypotheses to the varied affairs of life is almost as protean as the phases of that life itself, but certain general aspects may be taken as typical of the whole. What I have just said respecting the application of the method to instruction may apply, with a simple change of terms, to almost any other endeavor which we are called upon to undertake. We enter upon an enterprise in most cases without full knowledge of all the factors that will enter into it, or all of the possible phases which it may develop. It is therefore of the utmost importance to be prepared to rightly comprehend the nature, bearings, and influence of such unforeseen elements when they shall definitely present themselves as actualities. If our vision is narrowed by a preconceived theory as to what will happen, we are almost certain to misinterpret the facts and to misjudge the issue. If, on the other hand, we have in mind hypothetical forecasts of the various contingencies that may arise, we shall be the more likely to recognize the true facts when they do present themselves. Instead of being biased by the anticipation of a given phase, the mind is rendered open and alert by the anticipation of any one of many phases, and is free not only, but is predisposed, to recognize correctly the one which does appear. The method has a further good effect. The mind, having anticipated the possible phases which may arise, has prepared itself for action under any one that may come up, and it is therefore ready-armed, and is predisposed to act in the line appropriate to the event. It has not set itself rigidly in a fixed purpose, which it is predisposed to follow without regard to contingencies. It has not nailed down the helm and predetermined to run a specific course, whether rocks lie in the path or not; but, with the helm in hand, it is ready to veer the ship according as danger or advantage discovers itself.

It is true, there are often advantages in pursuing a fixed predetermined course without regard to obstacles or adverse conditions. Simple dogged resolution is sometimes the salvation of an enterprise; but, while glorious successes have been thus snatched from the very brink of disaster, overwhelming calamity has in other cases followed upon this course, when a reasonable regard for the unanticipated elements would have led to success. So there is to be set over against the great achievements that follow on dogged adherence great disasters which are equally its result.

The tendency of the mind, accustomed to work through multiple hypotheses, is to sway to one line of policy or another, according as the balance of evidence shall incline. This is the soul and essence of the method. It is in general the true method. Nevertheless there is a danger that this yielding to evidence may degenerate into unwarranted vacillation. It is not always possible for the mind to balance evidence with exact equipoise, and to determine, in the midst of the execution of an enterprise, what is the measure of probability on the one side or the other; and as difficulties present themselves, there is a danger of being biased by them and of swerving from the course that was really the true one. Certain limitations are therefore to be placed upon the application of the method, for it must be remembered that a poorer line of policy consistently adhered to may bring better results than a vacillation between better policies.

There is another and closely allied danger in the application of the method. In its highest development it presumes a mind supremely sensitive to every grain of evidence. Like a pair of delicately poised scales, every added particle on the one side or the other produces its effect in oscillation. But such a pair of scales may be altogether too sensitive to be of practical value in the rough affairs of life. The balances of the exact chemist are too delicate for the weighing-out of coarse commodities. Despatch may be more important than accuracy. So it is possible for the mind to be too much concerned with the nice balancings of evidence, and to oscillate too much and too long in the endeavor to reach exact results. It may be better, in the gross affairs of life, to be less precise and more prompt. Quick decisions, though they may contain a grain of error, are oftentimes better than precise decisions at the expense of time.

The method has a special beneficent application to our social and civic relations. Into these relations there enter, as great factors, our judgment of others, our discernment of the nature of their acts, and our interpretation of their motives and purposes. The method of multiple hypotheses, in its application here, stands in decided contrast to the method of the ruling theory or of the simple working hypothesis. The primitive habit is to interpret the acts of others on the basis of a theory. Childhood's unconscious theory is that the good are good, and the bad are bad. From the good the child expects nothing but good; from the bad, nothing but bad. To expect a good act from the bad, or a bad act from the good, is radically at variance with childhood's mental methods. Unfortunately in our social and civic affairs too many of our fellow-citizens have never outgrown the ruling theory of their childhood.

Many have advanced a step farther, and employ a method analogous to that of the working hypothesis. A certain presumption is made to attach to the acts of their fellow beings, and that which they see is seen in the light of that presumption, and that which they construe is construed in the light of that presumption. They do not go to the lengths of childhood's method by assuming positively that the good are wholly good, and the bad wholly bad; but there is a strong presumption in their minds that he concerning whom they have an ill opinion will act from corresponding motives. It requires positive evidence to overthrow the influence of the working hypothesis.

The method of multiple hypotheses assumes broadly that the acts of a fellow-being may be diverse in their nature, their motives, their purposes, and hence in their whole moral character; that they may be good though the dominant character be bad; that they may be bad though the dominant character be good; that they may be partly good and partly bad, as is the fact in the greater number of the complex activities of a human being. Under the method of multiple hypotheses, it is the first effort of the mind to see truly what the act is, unbeclouded by the presumption that this or that has been done because it accords with our ruling theory or our working hypothesis. Assuming that acts of similar general aspect may readily take any one of several different phases, the mind is freer to see accurately what has actually been done. So, again, in our interpretations of motives and purposes, the method assumes that these may have been any one of many, and the first duty is to ascertain which of possible motives and purposes actually prompted this individual action. Going with this effort there is a predisposi tion to balance all evidence fairly, and to accept that interpretation to which the weight of evidence inclines, not that which simply fits our working hypothesis or our dominant theory. The outcome, therefore, is better and truer observation and juster and more righteous interpretation.

There is a third result of great importance. The imperfections of our knowledge are more likely to be detected, for there will be less confidence in its completeness in proportion as there is, a broad comprehension of the possibilities of varied action, under similar circumstances and with similar appearances, so, also, the imperfections of evidence as to the motives and purposes inspiring the action will become more discernible in proportion to the fulness of our conception of what the evidence should be to distinguish between action from the one or the other of possible motives. The necessary result will be a less disposition to reach conclusions upon imperfect grounds. So, also, there will be a less inclination to misapply evidence; for, several constructions being definitely in mind, the indices of the one motive are less liable to be mistaken for the indices of another.

The total outcome is greater care in ascertaining the facts, and greater discrimination and caution in drawing conclusions. I am confident, therefore, that the general application of this method to the affairs of social and civic life would go far to remove those misunderstandings, misjudgments, and misrepresentations which constitute so pervasive an evil in our social and our political atmospheres, the source of immeasurable suffering to the best and most sensitive souls. The misobservations, the misstatements, the misinterpretations, of life may cause less gross suffering than some other evils; but they, being more universal and more subtle, pain. The remedy lies, indeed, partly in charity, but more largely in correct intellectual habits, in a predominant, ever-present disposition to see things as they are, and to judge them in the full light of an unbiased weighing of evidence applied to all possible constructions, accompanied by a withholding of judgment when the evidence is insufficient to justify conclusions.

I believe that one of the greatest moral reforms that lies immediately before us consists in the general introduction into social and civic life of that habit of mental procedure which is known in investigation as the method of multiple working hypotheses."

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Wealthy people keeping poor people poor.
In 1919, after the end of World War I, Black sharecroppers in Arkansas began to unionize. This attempt to form unions, triggered white vigilantism and mass killings, that left 237 Blacks dead. Writ…
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Here's a link to the initial press release:

Orlando is a false flag event.

Your government at work, to kill, to control, to rule by fear.
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Orlando was just a hoax, there's your tissue.
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Someone invented a folding machine for clothes. Looks like you clip the clothing to the front of the machine, and it rolls them inside where rods fold the clothes.

The video shows kids using the machine and ends with the slogan, "Finally everyone will help fold the laundry." Isn't the idea of a laundry folding machine for nobody to help fold the laundry?
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"The short version: if the federal government says you’re a terrorist—without providing any concrete proof or due process as required by the Constitution—you’re a terrorist, and New York State will list you in a public terrorist registry.  Your name, description, address, occupation, and photo would all be available to anyone with Internet access: your neighbors, employers—anyone."
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The 5 Stages of the Mind: Many, if Not Most, of the Change Challenges You Face Today and Will Face Tomorrow Require Something More than Incorporating New Technical Skills Into Your Current Mindset / These are the "Adaptive Challenges" / They Can Only be Met by Transforming Your Mindset, by Advancing to a More Sophisticated Stage of Mental Development / The Biggest Error that Leaders Make is to Think that Adaptive Challenges Can Be Solved by Purely Technical Means


[2] Adapted from Robert Kegan, In Over Our Heads: the Mental Demands of Modern Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), pp 314-315 by Peter W Pruyn,

[3]-[8] Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey


#immunitytochange   #innovation   #mind  
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A bombshell study released by Stanford University confirms evidence of election fraud during the 2016 Democratic Party primaries.
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Wow. NASA does not know what it is doing.

Magnetic reconnection of field lines? Field lines are not real things.

Anchored to some body? Magnetic fields go through bodies and are never anchored.

Electron demagnetization??? They cannot be magnetized in the first place.

They do not know what happens when two magnetic fields interconnect? Maxwells equations, duh.

Is NASA full of idiots? Reading this paper, yes. Yes, it is.

Hundreds of millions for this? WTF
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+Secret Menu thanks I was just being silly :)
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