Scientific approach to problem solving:
The scientific method and the features of scientific knowledge described above are in no way restricted to the domain of scientists alone. These characterise a scientific approach to solving problems whether they are scientific, economic, social or even personal. These attributes of science reflect an attitude of mind which is basically rational and can be adopted by anyone who has understood them. Thus, scientific approach can, and indeed should, form the basis of not only solving different kinds of problems in laboratory situations but also in everyday life.
Even if it seems repetitive, let us once again outline the scientific approach to problem solving. If we are faced with a problem, what should be our mental attitude towards it? First of all. we should approach it with an open mind, without any preconceived notions, whims or prejudices. Then, no external pressures of authority should be allowed to affect our observations or analysis. What methods should we adopt for solving the problem? While analysing it, we should try to look at it from all posible angles, Consider all the factors involved, ask all possible questions and gather all data and facts about it. Doubt and scepticism are the hallmarks of scientific approach. We should not accept blindly, on faith, any statement without examining it critically. We should base our analysis on rational and objective thinking and then come to conclusions.
In no case should we rush into hasty decisions. We should also avoid making generalisations on the basis of insufficient evidence. Further, we should not consider our conclusions as the last word on the said problem. If any new facts or evidences come to light which alter our results, we should always be prepared to revise our conclusions. We shouid be flexible in our attitude and avoid being dogmatic in our views regarding any matter. Hard work, discipline and basic integrity arc certain other attributes which we will have to adopt if we are to make the scientific approach a process of thinking and a method of acting, in other words, a way of life. We will now consider certain examples from our everyday life which can help in clarifying the ~deas presented above. There are many social problems associated with developmental projects wherein it becomes imperative to adopt a scientific approach. Let us take the problem of choosing a location for an industry to manufacture chemicals. Apart from the technical aspects, social factors would also have to be taken into account while taking this decision. For example, how densely populated that area is, how the displaced people will be resettled. what the industry's effect on the surrounding environment will be. how and where would its waste products be disposed of, the wind direction in case there are any toxic leaks, where would the workers be housed, what industrial safety measures would be needed and so on. Unles5 we take all such factors into account, weigh the pros and cons sc~entifically and then take decisions, we will never be able to avert disasters like the Bhopal gas tragedy of December. 1984. For instance, a few years ago a study w'as carried out to test the general belief that 'student unrest is caused by first generation learners whose parents are not educated'. Extensive data about such students was collected and the analysis showed that this belief was wrong. Even in our everyday life, we use this approach to optimise our efforts. For example, if you have to meet three persons in different parts of the town, you can plan your visit to optimally use your time and money. Housewives often optimise their monthly purchases by checking the prices and quality of goods at various stores; if a cheap store is far away, they have to decide to buy a larger quantity so as to justify more travelling expenses.