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Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

But, It’s Just a Theory!

I have a love of learning and exploration, especially when it comes to ideas. The biggest ideas of all are religions and in my pursuit to learn about religion I’ve read the Bible, Quaran, Book of Mormon, texts by the Dalai Lama and also books on Hare Krishna movement. I’ve also explored Greek, Roman, Celtic, Native American and Norse religions to a point.

However, to get a full balanced view, I’ve also read books with opposing ideas such as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I don’t identify with any religion but neither am I an athiest. However, out of all the books I’ve read, The God Delusion is the one that makes the most sense. Why? Because it’s backed up by rigorously tested theories.

But what IS a theory?

The word theory is often misunderstood, especially in my experience by strongly religious people, to mean “something that is unproven and is just an idea” for example the commonly heard “but evolution is just a theory”.

However, when the scientific community uses the word theory, they are talking about something different entirely. A theory is a an explanation of a phenomenon that is based on observation and experimentation. Experimentation produces observable facts and these facts are connected together to create a theory.

A fact is a simple, undeniable (except to philosophers) observation about the world around us. For the purposes of this post, a single fact is represented by an orange dot and will be treated as a piece of evidence.

A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for different observations. Hypotheses are formed by combining multiple known facts and serves as a basis for further exploration. These hypotheses are tested under different conditions. During the testing process, new evidence is added to our understanding allowing us to form a better idea of what is happening. However, these pieces of evidence can be interpreted in a number of ways (e.g. string theory vs. loop quantum gravity).


3 -Multiple Theories


These hypotheses are tested rigours under different conditions.

During the testing process, new facts are added to our understanding allowing us to form a better idea of what is happening. This new evidence is then used to disprove theories that contradict the evidence and can provide support for theories which include and help explain it.


5 - Discounted Theories


After the initial process of elimination, there may still be multiple legitimate combinations and interpretations of the facts. However, the combination which makes the fewest assumptions is deemed to be more likely.

6 - Remove Assumptions


When enough evidence is gathered to support an idea, a scientific theory is proposed.

The theory explains all existing pieces of evidence, and while it gives us a much better idea of what is actually happening, there’s often still quite a way to go until full understanding.


7 - Theory vs Reality


In summary, when a scientist explains that there is a theory, what they actually mean is “we’ve gathered a large body of evidence and through repeated experimentation and a rigorous process of elimination we’ve developed an explanation of this phenomenon which is supported by all the evidence that is available on this phenomenon.”

So next time you hear “it’s only a theory”, whether related to religion or motivation theories, feel free to point this out.

P.s. This post was influenced by an image I saw on Imgur by .

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Books Other

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Summary

Motivation is examined in almost every airport management book, how to energise and inspire your team is vital to your success as a manager and a leader. Steven Pinker took an in-depth look at what actually motivates us and dispels a few myths about motivation that keep hanging around. In his studies, Pinker discovered that rewards improve performance in routine and algorithmic tasks, but as soon as any cognitive effort is required, rewards actually have negative effects on performance. He found that offering a reward narrows focus and hinders our ability to think laterally and creatively.

Rewards by their very nature, narrow our focus. That’s helpful when theirs a clear path to a solution. They help us stare ahead and race faster…the rewards narrowed people’s focus and blinkered the wide view that might have allowed them to see new uses for old objects.

Intrinsic motivation is much more powerful. When we’re doing something out of curiosity or for fun, we are much more motivated and often outperform situations where we are incentivized or rewarded for our involvement and performance. In one study, it was found that non-commissioned (unpaid) artworks were judged to be more creative than commissioned (paid for) pieces.

Not always, but often when you are doing a piece for someone else it becomes more “work” than joy.

I’ve personally encountered this phenomenon, where I am happier and more productive when continuing to work from home on a particular problem after office hours than when I’m in the office. I’m in the office because I HAVE to be, but when I am working in the evening from home, I am CHOOSING to and it makes all the difference.

Daniel Pinker gives the following summary of his work:

When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

If you’re looking to develop a deeper understanding of motivation, then Steven Pinker’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, explores the subject in detail and proposes how we should change the way we think when trying to motivate our employees, colleagues and even children.

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Memory Memory & Learning

Why Should You Write Everything Down?

Throughout the course of the day, you’ll hear, read and see lots of things which we can trigger ideas or thoughts. We assume that we’ll remember all these thoughts, but in reality, most ideas are gone within a few minutes of them first popping into your head. How many times have you had a profound thought in the shower or just before bed, to find that a few hours later, not only don’t you remember the idea, but you don’t even recall ever having had one – unless you have trained your memory of course.

There is a solution, it’s not new and it’s not radical but it is effective. Write everything down. It seems like this is a rookie piece of advice and to be honest it is. But if you write all your thoughts down, by the end of the day, you’ll be surprised at how many good ideas and thoughts go through your mind in a single day.

I recommend buying or choosing a dedicated notebook to take notes in. After all, who wouldn’t want to follow in the footsteps of one of our most renowned geniuses? Leonardo da Vinci was famous for keeping copious notes and his notebooks have been pored over by millions.

Keeping a notebook has multiple benefits:

  • You don’t lose any of your potentially great ideas
  • It allows you to create a database of information, giving your brain a bit of a rest
  • Writing an idea down actual makes you more likely to remember it as the brain

The alternatives are the many online tools and apps which offer notetaking functionality (Evernote, OneNote, Google Keep etc.) however, they don’t have the benefits of physically writing down. The act of writing focuses the brain on the information as you not only need to hold it in your short-term memory, but you need to convert the thought into physical action and then engage the language centre of your brain for that movement to produce something with meaning.

Don’t underestimate the power of keeping a notebook, the greatest minds in the world all did – why ignore a winning formula?

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Books Other

Recommended Smart Thinking Books

If you want a good grounding in smart thinking, books are the best place to find it. I love reading and particularly love books on smart thinking, whether they’re about the brain, body language, politics or strategy. Naturally over the years I’ve read hundreds of books and decided to assemble a list of the books which have had the strongest effect on my knowledge of smart thinking and those which have impacted the way I think and view the world the most.

As I read and discover more I’ll add books to the list. See Recommended Smart Thinking Books


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Books Other

The Memory Palace – Learn Anything and Everything – Summary

Memory palaces are one of the oldest memory techniques in existence – they were first mentioned back in Ancient Greece by the poet Simonides. Lewis Smile’s book is the best I’ve read on teaching about how to construct your own memory palace.

Our visual and spatial memories are incredibly powerful and by creating vivid detailed mental images you can remember a startling amount of information. Combined with mental journeys through a building or area you know well, you can dramatically improve the accuracy, depth and reliability of your memory. The technique can be used to learn and memories almost any type of new information.

While the book doesn’t break any new ground or introduce and new concepts, Smile takes you through 2 memory palaces which teach you to remember all of Shakespeare (in chronological order) and Dicken’s works. The writing is engaging and quite simply – very effective. I followed the journey in the memory palace myself and the works of Shakespeare are deeply ingrained in my mind.

If you’re looking for a no-nonsense and effective way to improve your memory practically overnight, The Memory Palace is the perfect book to read.

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