When you hear the words—science, formulas, scientific methods, experiments, procedures—where do you go? Do you turn off? As an educator in the field of science, how can I turn you on?
For some people it may be second nature to notice whether or not descriptions (in newspapers, various publications, on television or in professional journals) make any sense logically or are avoiding some obviously related questions that should be asked and answered. Logical fallacies are perpetrated in every field, but the vast majority of people must be taught this type of skeptical reasoning—it is not second nature for most of us. This recognition of faulty reasoning is learned by those specializing in Science, while those not specifically trained in Science are often scientifically illiterate.
Many of the American public seem to have a desire to believe whatever is the current fad—such things as the 50th anniversary hype in 1997 of alleged government cover-ups of alien autopsies in Roswell, New Mexico or that current advances in cloning will be used by those in power (politically or economically) for subversive means. These beliefs may stem from a variety of factors and fear is certainly one of those factors. Fear comes in many forms—fear of the unknown, fear of that which is not understood or is misunderstood (often resulting in erroneous conclusions), fear that something important is being kept from all but a select few (conspiracy theories).
Fictional writers often portray science in a negative light, feeding on the fears of the masses, exemplifying the worst possible outcomes. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” suggests there is something monstrous about science, something to be feared. But is it ...
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...hould we apply (question) to test this idea/theory’s validity? Does it still hold true? Does the theory of gravity hold true if you use a boulder, a rock, and a pea? What could be done to prevent an egg from breaking when dropped from a second story? Once we have students’ interest and curiosity, test the theory. Don’t expect them to memorize something someone else tested and found to be true—allow them to learn for themselves.
Bishop, J. Michael. “Enemies of Promise.” The Presence of Others: Voices That Call for Response. Ed. Andrea A. Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewicz. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. 255-261.
Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: First Ballantine Books, 1997.
21st Century Education. The Scientific Method. 15 Nov. 1999 <http://pc65.frontier.osrhe.edu/hs/science/hsimeth.htm>.
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