Obstacles to Evolution of Modern Society: Inhibited Critical Thinking Skills
The edifice of modern science and scientific thought is constructed upon the cornerstones of “Scientific Method” and the Theory of Evolution. Scientific method is a way of thinking that distinguishes scientists from laypersons. Scientific method is the way students of science explain different phenomena and it is the basis of science’s ascendancy. The theory of Evolution provides a window into the processes that govern the living world.
Physical Evolution and Social evolution have enabled human beings to become what they have become in this modern world. These topics are taught across the world in schools and colleges in Science classes. Critical thinking and knowledge about scientific method opens up young minds, nurtures the inherent inquisitiveness and leads to excellence in science. Without the right questions, no research is possible and without research, science would not survive.
While Evolution and Scientific Method are taught in Pre-Medical classes (Grade XI-XII) in Pakistan, no particular emphasis is accorded upon the usefulness and importance of these topics. For students of Grade XI-XII, these are just two topics among a swathe of other topics found in the textbook of Biology, that need to be crammed and regurgitated to pass the exams. Our Society is not conducive to inquisitiveness as a whole (thus questioning the teacher in class is not considered “good manners” by many teachers) and ignoring these topics kills the last remains of inquisitiveness that the students possess. According to Salman Khan, founder of “Khan Academy” on the internet, ‘Curiosity is a hard thing to squash, but the traditional model of education manages pretty well: Listen to lectures, take notes, feedback what you have learnt, and then forget it all. You’re not allowed to go beyond the curriculum.’
Critical Thinking is another important subject not taught at schools in Pakistan (bar a few elite ones). It enables young students to think independently and opens their minds to possibilities. I believe that medical students are not considered students of science/scientists by their teachers or themselves. Nobody teaches either the scientific method or the theory of evolution in major medical schools. No wonder that little to no research is being done in Pakistan by Pakistani doctors.
I have spent a life time among doctors and have yet to see a single doctor who thinks according to the scientific method (there is one exception to this observation,which proves the rule). Due to all these factors, most students don’t ask questions during classes and spend a lifetime with half-baked concepts about different subjects. Even in the annual exams, cramming is encouraged by paper-setters which inhibits the last vestiges of analytical thinking. As a result, many students find Foreign Exams (USMLE, PLAB, AMC) to be more difficult.
While Critical thinking should be taught to all students, irrespective of their medical field, evolution and scientific method must also be made an essential part of the medical curriculum.
P.S. Indian-American Oncologist Siddartha Mukherjee wrote an excellent book on the history of Cancer, called “The Emperor of All Maladies”. It is a fascinating book that describes the evolution in field of oncology from Pre-historic times till modern day medicine. He has described the genesis of a lot of medical terminologies and students of special pathology can gain enormous background information about the evolution of their subject from this book. I would recommend this book to medical students, not just for the anecdotes but also because it shows the process of evolution in the field of medicine.
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