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Learning How to Think Impacts Science

02/05/2018 by Campion Fund

It is astounding what Leonardo Da Vinci accomplished in his lifetime. By concentrating on his notebooks, Isaacson reveals in his recent biography how much ahead of his 15th century peers Leonardo’s understanding of the world was. He anticipated scientific discovery in so many ways. He wanted to know about the human form in order to enhance his art so he dissected cadavers and made many important discoveries about our bodies. He recorded all of his work precisely in his notebooks. His drawings of the fetus in utero are magnificent not only in terms of his art but in terms of his anatomical precision.
Leonardo was driven by an unbelievable curiosity of how the world works. He carried his notebooks with him everywhere; he would jot down his thoughts, his questions about life and his daily observations. He developed the idea that he needed to repeat his observations with a persistence and a single-mindedness that permeated his entire life. In essence, he learned how to think about what he observed. Of course, being an artistic genius, he covered his notebook pages with incredible drawings. In many respects Leonardo Da Vinci is history’s first scientist, long before the scientific method was developed. Leonardo’s sense of insatiable curiosity along with perseverance is an important characteristic of a successful scientist in 2018.
These observations regarding De Vinci makes me ponder about the education of today’s scientists. Learning how to think is essentially the most important intellectual undertaking a person must achieve to become a creditable scientist. How can this be accomplished? A great deal of debate is now focused on teaching STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and many of these subjects are being taught to young people at earlier and earlier ages. This is all well and good, but our society cannot forget about teaching the liberal arts. Language, literature, music, art, history, including classical history as well as philosophy exposes people to new ways of thinking and seeing the world. In essence it teaches a person how to think. It teaches people to ask why, how and what if? It broadens horizons and challenges congealed concepts.
A career in science is not about learning facts. The scientific method is a process of continually asking questions and trying to solve problems. Unfettered scientific thinking made our country great and it will be unfettered thinking which will advance all scientific fields. We cannot afford to lose the sense of curiosity and the persistence that comes with seeking and finding answers. We need to learn and keep the process of how to think alive. The reproductive sciences are no exception.