Loving Science vs Understanding Science

· Personal Views
Authors

I wanted to point out an excellent editorial from Science Magazine. They have set up a site http://www.scienceintheclassroom.org with a link for high school and university level content. The full editorial is located here, but you need to register for free to access it:

http://portal.scienceintheclassroom.org/sites/default/files/post-files/science-2013-alberts-289.pdf

Here are the key points from the editorial I wanted to share:

“Being well informed about science is not the same thing as understanding science…. What is needed is methods for importing some knowledge of the tactics and strategy of science to those who are not scientists.”

I think a lot of people are more in love with the idea of loving science more than they actually love science. Whenever science flies in the face of their strongly held opinions, they lose their objectivity and claim the scientists are in some way coerced, deceived or are flat out lying. They leap towards a firmly held belief in a science fiction understanding and lack education, comprehension or both.

too-much-science

“For a nation to take optimum advantage of what science has to offer, it is imperative that its citizens understand how scientists make judgments and gain confidence in the scientific approach for evaluating the safety of foods and of medical treatments, warning of dangers to the global environment, or arguing for immediate actions that address potential crises.”

Experience demonstrates that myths can very easily spread when a population lacks a solid understanding of how scientific knowledge is generated. At both the individual and community levels, this lack of appreciation can lead to important decisions being made that are based not on science, but on what might be called “”magical thinking”.

I think many people fall into this category.  Especially when the subject is Genetically Modified foods, Vaccinations, Evolution or Climate and Weather.  It’s not even worth trying to debate or educate them because their minds are made up. If you don’t agree with or support their dogma, you’re dismissed as “deceived” or “closed minded”.  In science we call such people the “we” and the “not we”.  You can’t read a few articles from ONE primary source on a website and think you have the faintest clue how the science works.

“A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling, it would rather be a man who plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them by an aimless rhetoric” – Thomas Henry Huxley

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