Contact DisComforting Ignorance

Have thoughts, comments, criticisms, requests, or proselytization? Email

No prayers. (Why not?)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Been Schooled In Science?

By science we understand the knowledge of facts to be meant, and not speculative theories on the meaning of such facts. Only too often are such theories in the minds of some confounded with the knowledge of facts -- real science. -- Paul S. L. Johnson, Creation (p165)

SGU #168 discussed, at one point, with PZ Myers that students aren't receiving the basic tenets of science, such as what is it, how do we know what we know, fundamental concepts, etc.

Reflecting back, I never learned anything like that in high school (or before that). That's really saying something, too, since I went to one of the the top ranked schools in the country. My education included a year of biology and three intensive years of chemistry. Oddly enough, I also had a theory of knowledge class which only dealt with philosophical questions, but never touched on science.

In fact, it is only through the reading and studying on my own time that I learned these things, especially through atheist and skeptic discussions.

Something we see often with the anti-evolution crowd are arguments that arise from this ignorance. For example, in one comment to The Raytractors, one fundamentalist Christian writes:
It is wrong to teach evolution in schools because it is not a fact but a theory.
We can't attribute this as a lack of eduction; we must attribute this to a failure of education. I was never taught the difference. I think I had always thought that a law is just a proven theory. Describing germs or gravity as theories would have sounded very peculiar to me.

The first time I ever learned anything basic about science was in a physics class my senior year in college -- rather, a physics lab. But this was only because the lab centered around recreating the original experiments used to discover certain properties and then trying to discover them ourselves with a conclusion. And still, the only thing basic I was presented was that science is wholly comprised of "provisional truths." Nothing beyond that.

How do we expect to ever win against the scientific illiterate if we aren't teaching basic science literacy at the middle- and high- school levels? It's like teaching kids how to analyze a novel without teachings the basics of theme, tone, etc.

With an eduction built upon an ignorance of basic science, why should we be surprised when people post things like "you weren't there" or "evolution isn't a fact, it's just a theory" or "science has been wrong before"?

No comments: