Follow me into the stars. Refresh the idea of critical thinking. A new body of literature imagines “dark stars,” invisible “stars” of high mass, composed of what astrophysicists call “dark matter.” Dark matter is inferred from gravity’s behavior in deep space. Why should we care? In a sense, we do not need to. But in another sense, we must. Critical thinking matters.
From a macro-science view, “dark stars” are simply interesting because they might explain “black holes,” intense spots in space from which no matter, not even light, escapes. The new theory suggests that “black holes” come from collapsed “dark stars.”
Again, you say, “Who cares?” We go about our lives whether or not “dark matter” produces “dark stars” and whether or not they collapse to form “black holes,” all because of gravity. But hold, do a bit more critical thinking.
What is gravity? Science says it is the weakest of the four forces holding the Universe together, the one that works at the longest distance. Beyond keeping our feet down, it keeps big things – like stars, planets, and moons – in a magical equipoise, neither flying away nor always colliding.
Unlike other forces – the strong nuclear, weak nuclear, and electromagnetism – which operate at the small or “quantum” level, gravity only works on the really big stuff – with a long reach.
Interesting, right? Exploring little things, like atoms, electrons, quarks, and neutrinos, may also seem irrelevant, but asking questions sharpens the mind. Isn’t the better part of life learning? And perhaps more practically, do we not get more than we bargained for when we ask questions?
From science to economics, religion to politics, we so often are deluged – and so we accept a lot from “experts” without asking, but is that how you get to the truth? Are we doing the critical thinking needed to arrive at the truth?
What if we started asking, for example, why? For example, why does gravity keep planets in equipoise? Why do they not fly away or crash? Why do plants resist gravity, not stay defeated? In short, why is what is not – not?
In politics, as in science, we often let others shape our views. We do not ask why Yet asking is vital – especially when logic, history, or our own instincts give us reason to wonder or question.
Sure, as science is advanced by hard questions, so is a republic. That is where progress – as well as preserving what works, what should not be changed, and affirming truth – both come from.
Critical thinking – questioning assumptions, wondering aloud, and not letting experts or politicians blindly define what we think, is where it is really at. It is the only way to advance knowledge.
Of course, accepting everything without question is far easier than asking questions, but what did Socrates say? “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Dark stars remind us of gravity, which reminds us there is no why for gravity, which leads to pondering all Creation and a Creator. Questions matter.
Closer to home, questioning a world filled with false, faulty, and flawed assumptions is more important than ever. This is a luxury of freedom, but also part of what keeps freedom alive.
Critical thinking is how we ponder life’s mysteries but also how we keep politicians honest, push discovery and invention, find cures and solutions, and assure accountability. In an age of closing minds, we need to re-open minds with hard questions, far more critical thinking.
Thankfully, in America, we can do that – although we have slowed and are not teaching kids how. From dark stars to dark politics, truth is about asking. As Einstein observed, in his concise way, “Question everything.” When told not to especially – do. No better time than now.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.