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Old 04-23-2001, 10:44 PM
Amedeus Amedeus is offline
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While messing around on the internet yesterday, I came acrossthis article. It got me thinking about some of the odd views of science from many people I know. Many are so poorly educated they do not know some of the simple explinations of science, while others have such an odd world view that they see science through a rose colored glass.

This may just be short-sightedness on my part, being aware of only a small portion of the world. And I realize it is subject to my perceptions and such, but is there some collective thought that is forming that science is some ideology that is losing ground, dying off, no longer needed for us to continue?

I find it startling(personally) that people will abandon logic and reason to believe in something blindly (which is why I put it in GD instead of GQ) such as religion or some Psuedo-Science. However, do you believe this is due to a bad way of teaching science or an misunderstanding rather than ignorance? That the masses of knowledge (and time) required to fully comprehend most of the sciences is beyond learning in a normal life time (for a normal person) that science itself must be accepted on some "blind faith" itself? (Some, that have the knowledge of how science operates can justify that it is not "blind faith" on science in whole, but on the jobs of the scientists to filter out the bad material for us)

So short of teaching everybody the equivilant of several master degrees on every subject, so that understanding can be reached, what do you suggest could be done to keep science from eventually dying off. (And it seems to me that it is fighting a losing battle)*cries*

So, in short;
  • Is there a Gap forming between science and common thought, If so, is it growing or shrinking?
  • Does it take a blind faith to believe in some of the seemingly wild claims science says is fact.* If so, is there a way we can teach a condensed version to prevent the blind faith scenario?
  • And lastly, and not too related to the OP, but I feel like throwing it in: Is a democracy, how it is run currently, an enemy to science. Is there a revision to be made to it, aside from a massive educational campaign, to prevent it from crusing the expansion of science.
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Old 04-23-2001, 11:13 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is online now
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All of the wacky, non-scientific beliefs out there (ESP, UFO's, Homeopathic medicine, herbs, crystals, tarot cars, psychic hotlines, etc. ad nauseum) are just the newest 21st century religion.

People are always looking for easy answers, and in a technological society there are precious few easy answers. So it's not surprising that a lot of people will cling to promised of easy solutions, weight loss without dieting, magic crystals that make you feel better, 'proof' that after they die they'll still live, etc.

When will this change? Probably never. People on balance are probably more rational now than they've ever been. But you'll never get rid of the nonsense.

I'm hoping that Suzanne Somers survives her affinity for foolishness, but I suspect she won't. And if she dies, I really, really hope that some good comes out of it in the form of people re-thinking the 'advantages' of alternative medicine.
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Old 04-24-2001, 12:18 AM
ITR champion ITR champion is offline
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Obviously, there are quite a number of people who are scientifically illiterate, though the actual number would vary depending on the survey. However, I don't see any evidence of a growing gap between scientists and "normal people". If you want to identify a trend, you need to show that it's getting worse. You need to find a survey from the past and prove that back then, there were more people who were scientifically literate. To me it seems unlikely that people have gotten less intelligent over the past few generations, considering that education at all levels has continued to expand faster than the population.

And with that said, I can't resist the opportunity to point out some mistkaes in Mr. Lipps' article.

Quote:
Cigarette smoking causes cancer Ninety-one percent agreed, and it is true, yet 30 percent still smoke!
This proves nothing. Everybody, no matter how intelligent and scientifically literate they are, engages in some unhealthy behavior. If it's not smoking, then it's a poor diet or not getting enough exercise or whatever else. But the fact that people smoke when they know that it causes cancer does not make them idiots.

Quote:
But if that number is only 1 out of 100,000, that still means that we could have some 2,000 acts of violence as a result of a media event.
Let's see. One hundred thousand multiplied by two thousand is two hundred million, so two hundred million people would need to watch a media event for this analysis to be true. There is no media event that attracts this many Americans. On top of that, he says that he has a some scientific means of determining how many people might act violent as a result of media violence, but then in the next sentence, he changes the wording to suggest that everybody who might commit a violent act automatically will.

However, the biggest problem with his analysis is that he bases most of his argument off a single survey. Any good scientist should know that one survey isn't good enough to predict a major national trend.

In summary, I think that Mr. Lipps should subject his own arguments to some good, rational, scientific thinking before he presents them in public.
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  #4  
Old 04-24-2001, 01:06 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Quote:
Is there a Gap forming between science and common thought, If so, is it growing or shrinking?
I believe there is a gap between common thought and that it is indeed growing.

Science simply becomes more and more complicated as time goes on. This is a natural progression of science but the result leaves many behind wondering what is going on. In fact, it is leaving scientists themselves behind. It wasn't so long ago that some of the more competent scientists understood most of what was going on in many fields. As time goes on scientists become more and more pigeonholed in their specialty. So, while Stephen Hawking may be a brilliant theoretical physicist he's probably a lousy biologist, archaeologist, chemist, etc.

This sort of thing can be seen in our day-to-day lives as well. Growing-up I remember helping to work on our family car. Open the hood and there was the carburetor, air filter, oil pan, cylinders, spark plugs, etc. A modest amount of mechanical ability could get you around your car engine quite nicely. Today, I have to search just to find the dipstick and I wouldn't dream of doing any home repairs on it short of changing my own oil and spark plugs. The machine has become so complicated that only people with specific training can be useful in working on the engine.


Quote:
Does it take a blind faith to believe in some of the seemingly wild claims science says is fact.* If so, is there a way we can teach a condensed version to prevent the blind faith scenario?
It sire seems this way sometimes. Especially when you start getting into some of the weirder aspects of things like quantum theory that are thoroughly counter-intuitive. Scientists today remind me of the priesthood of old. All knowledge was stored in the monasteries/churches and the priest were the nearly the only educated people around. Like a little kid with parents you take a lot on faith because they simply know so much more than you do. For a long while it simply doesn't even occur to you to question them.

However, scientists, unlike most parents and the clergy of old, don't get upset when the uninitiated do start asking questions. The scientific method is built upon repeatability of results...not the 'because I said so' that is so fond a response of parents and at one time the church. A scientist, if asked, should be able to take anyone (assuming reasonable intelligence) and show them why a thing is so. Granted, for some things this might actually require years of study but it is open and there for any who wish to see for themselves.

As for a 'condensed' version of science it is possible and happening to some extent. Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time was a shot in this direction. He felt that what he and his peers were doing was FAR beyond the realm of what the ordinary person could comprehend so he set about de-mystifying some of science. Certainly much of what is talked about dumbed down for the average Joe but at least it tries to re-engage the public into science and some of the cool things they try to do.

You might even argue that the Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, The Health Channel and the History Channel also help to bring science back to the masses. Granted we're getting mass media, ultra-dumbed down stuff here but at least it might spark some interest and keep many people clued in to some extent.


Quote:
And lastly, and not too related to the OP, but I feel like throwing it in: Is a democracy, how it is run currently, an enemy to science. Is there a revision to be made to it, aside from a massive educational campaign, to prevent it from crusing the expansion of science.
I'm not really sure what this question is asking.

Along with democracy comes a free market (more or less). A free market encourages new ideas better than any other economic system yet practiced. Research and development are integral to the forming of many of these new ideas which means science is safe and sound.

Of course this means that commercially interesting science is safe and sound while pure science for the sake of science may be in trouble. However, it has been shown in the past that pure science may have huge economic value somewhere down the road that no one foresaw when the work was being done. As a result I think the US government (and many other governments for that matter) still fund 'raw' science just to ensure a good shot at the next big thing...whatever it may be.
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Old 04-24-2001, 07:53 PM
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Sam Stone wrote:

Quote:
I'm hoping that Suzanne Somers survives her affinity for foolishness, but I suspect she won't. And if she dies, I really, really hope that some good comes out of it in the form of people re-thinking the 'advantages' of alternative medicine.
If Suzanne Somers survives her cancer, it won't be because of her use of alternative medicine. According to this thread, she has had the tumor removed from her breast surgically and has had the recommended amount of follow-on radiation therapy. The biopsy of her lymph nodes was normal, which meant that chemotherapy was neither called for nor recommended.

In other words, she has already received the complete treatment for her breast cancer that "mainstream medicine" recommended. Her use of a homeopathic remedy is in addition to, rather than instead of, her surgery and radiation therapy.

Of course, if she has a complete recovery, you just know she's going to claim the homeopathy did it.
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Old 04-24-2001, 08:45 PM
Amedeus Amedeus is offline
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Good replies.

Quote:
And with that said, I can't resist the opportunity to point out some mistkaes in Mr. Lipps' article.
I see them now that you point them out. (shamefully I did not see them myself) Just proves that even those in the scientific community can make the same shortsighted mistakes everybody else makes. However, as limited as my own perceptions of this world are, I have noticed (and I might have just noticed it happening too) that people, intelligent people too, seem to believe the strangest nonesense. Yet to believe that nonesense they throw out the logic and reasoning tools of science. Sometimes throwing out science all together.

As for the democracy. I am by no means suggesting we become socialists or go back to a feudal goverment. I too believe that a democracy opens up possiblities that are not available in other forms of goverment. (I do not feel it is the ONLY form of goverment that is possible for this to exist though). I base this part of my questions off of what happened in Kansas with the schools and evolution. When everybody gets equal say in what the goverment does, and 3/4 of the population is not informed enough to make a good enough decision, mistakes will be made.

Since it seems to me, that Science in the media is under attack. (hell, even in movies, tv, ect, they make the scientist out to be really stupid) People turn to thier (I hesitate to say this but..) primative beliefs, and unfounded fears and of course the system works in ways that the masses have the voice.

So, is there a way, aside from extremely strict Education guidelines (No more cries of "take algebra out of the cirriculum, we don't need it for everyday life") to protect rational thinking and growth as a human species? (The only way I could think of is way to biased..To vote you must have and prove you have X amount of education..ect, too uh, extremist)
  #7  
Old 04-24-2001, 08:57 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is online now
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Re: Suzanne Somers

I don't think your information is correct. I just saw her being interviewed on 'Larry King Live, and she explained exactly what she's doing.

Her doctor recommended Chemotherapy to prevent recurrance, and she refused. She's also taking a growth hormone that is known to promote the growth of tumors, and her doctor told her to stop taking it. She refused, because she's a big believer in 'hormone therapy' for general ills. She's taking Iscador, which I believe is a homeopathic medicine. She's injecting it directly into her stomach every day, which I understand is very painful.

She also said that if she goes 5 years without recurrance, she's going to go on tour and promote alternative medicine to cancer patients. That'll help kill a few more people.
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Old 04-24-2001, 09:24 PM
Patty O'Furniture Patty O'Furniture is offline
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Quote:
Any good scientist should know that one survey isn't good enough to predict a major national trend.
This begs the OP: Most raggedy old ordinary people are not good scientists, so how can we avoid the lure of easy answers & smooth talkers when the only alternative seems to be learning about physics, genetics & rocket science?

And what is worse, general ignorance & incompetence abounds. When the weather man announces that there is a 50% chance of rain on Saturday and a 50% chance of rain on Sunday, and therefore confidently concludes that the chance of rain for the weekend is 100%, we all have to wonder if anybody learns anything at all in school.

Clearly, we can't school the general population in the advanced sciences. Our only hope is to teach skepticism & encourage logical thought during childrens' most impressionable years. A parent who teaches his child about the wonders of (choose one or more of the following):

• Phychic surgery
• Astral projection
• Power crystals
• White supremacy
• The conspiracy du jour
• The Bible
• The Talmud
• The dead sea scrolls
• The Turner Diaries
• Homeopathy

...ensures that his particular set of morals (or lack thereof), prejudices, biases & ignorance is carried on through successive generations. I'm not saying that teaching a child about the The Talmud or white supremacy is necessarily bad (knowledge itself is not intrinsicly evil) but with reinforcement, that child is most likey going to write certain ideologies into the stone tablet that will guide his behaviour later in life.

Nature & the reptilian brain instill a powerful sense to blindly follow those who have borne us, no matter what ridiculous things they say.

There is no hope.
  #9  
Old 04-24-2001, 10:02 PM
Saint Zero Saint Zero is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Attrayant
Nature & the reptilian brain instill a powerful sense to blindly follow those who have borne us, no matter what ridiculous things they say.

There is no hope.
Oh yeah, let's just kill everyone and get it over with then.

Why even bother pursue enlightenment if it's not going to do any good?
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  #10  
Old 04-24-2001, 11:34 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is online now
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Part of the problem is our new 'sensitivity' and political correctness that tries to get us to treat all opinions as equally valid. Thus, some celebrity with more popularity than brains can get on Larry King Live and talk about curing cancer with Iscador instead of Chemotherapy, and the host simply nods.

Meryl Streep can testify in front of Congress on Dioxins, and her opinion is given the same weight (or more!) as the Ph.D in biochemistry who comes up next.

What we need a good dose of good old healthy ridicule, aimed at people who promote half-baked ideas that can harm other people. When snake oil salesmen would show up in a town in the 1800's, they were often run out of that town by people who knew better.

When the Celebrity of the moment goes on nationwide TV and talks about their new sea-algae diet, or their new homeopathic treatment for depression, the response should be laughter, anger, or serious investigation, as the situation warrants. But to give their opinions serious weight simply because they are uttered by a person who is famous is simply wrong.

To that end, James Randi and other public skeptics are doing a great job. So is this message board. And you can do your bit by attacking foolish notions when you hear them, if the situation is appropriate.
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Old 04-25-2001, 12:13 AM
edwino edwino is offline
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A scientist-in-training

I think that science has always been far ahead of the mainstream. I think that scientific knowledge (at least since the Renaissance) has always been generally inaccessbile by the mainstream public, by being holed up in elite universities or uninterpretable jargon.

Information, though, has a nasty habit of spreading. It has been the historical equalizer of civilizations and peoples. In the modern age, this nasty habit is downright endemic.

The most essential and startling ideas of science, no matter how bizarre they seem at first, always filter down into common knowledge. Heliocentrism, universal gravitation, the Big Bang, evolution, and heredity were all startling ideas at first. Now, by and large (yes I know the examples of people who don't accept this) they are part of "common sense" for the averagely educated person (perhaps high school graduate). I'd bet that half of these can give at least one fact about relativity and quantum physics, which are two of the twentieth century's most bizarrre theories. (Note that I am basing this on public high school education in Texas in the 1980s and 1990s. I'm sure that other places and situations are much better.)

With communication, knowledge, once discovered, is not generally lost. An expanding realm of knowledge is refined for even basic education.

On a personal note, I get questions all of the time about human and molecular genetics. Most of it deals with the more sensationalized aspects of the field (cloning, gene therapy, etc.), but people are asking questions. Newly discovered facts are distributed. I have taught high school students things about human genetics that were unknown when I was in high school.

Call me an optimist. The overall trend in most of the world favors more knowledge rather than less. Access to knowledge leads to independent thought. This has been the trend since the Renaissance, and I don't see it changing.
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Old 04-25-2001, 02:03 AM
Icarus Icarus is offline
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Re: A scientist-in-training

Quote:
Originally posted by edwino
Call me an optimist. The overall trend in most of the world favors more knowledge rather than less. Access to knowledge leads to independent thought. This has been the trend since the Renaissance, and I don't see it changing.
I share your optimism and agree with your premise. But I can't help but ask, isn't that precisely the problem? The system of knowledge continues to increase, sprouting new fractal branches every day. As with all systems, entropy and chaos eventually result. The onslaught of new information grows exponentially so that even the scientist is at a disadvantage outside of his/her area of expertise.

So, as a species we posses more knowledge. But the individual is generally unequipped to unerringly assign the proper legitimacy to the knowledge that is present. The layman, educated in science as a youngster may use independent thought and still arrive at specious disciplines and justify their beliefs with "science".

Perhaps the scientific method needs to be updated in some way to solve this paradox?
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Old 04-25-2001, 09:55 AM
edwino edwino is offline
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Icarus

Not really. As a scientist working on a very narrow area of molecular genetics, I still know my share of human and mouse genetics, as well as other biology in general. I am not totally out of touch in those fields and in a few afternoons I can be relatively up-to-date, with the help of a few review articles. I also regularly attend seminars, journal clubs, and research talks which let me know about research outside of my direct field. Most scientists also try to read general interest journals like Nature and Science -- they have research from all aspects of science, as well as summaries of the articles for people who don't work directly in the area.

In the medical world things are relatively similar -- there is a requirement for continuing medical education throughout your career in order to keep board certification or whatnot. Most doctors I know try to keep abreast of major developments in their fields, as well as new drugs and procedures.

Knowledge is growing at a staggering rate. This is why we have books and computers. We don't need to know everything about everything. With good access to information, we have access to information about anything.

Lastly, there have always been specious claims justified by "science." People can justify what they want using science. It will not receive acceptance, though, unless it is built on a valid hypothesis, the reasoning is sound, and experimental data support the hypothesis. This is the nature of the scientific method -- there is no need for an update, IMHO.
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Old 04-25-2001, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Amedeus
I find it startling(personally) that people will abandon logic and reason to believe in something blindly (which is why I put it in GD instead of GQ) such as religion or some Psuedo-Science. However, do you believe this is due to a bad way of teaching science or an misunderstanding rather than ignorance? That the masses of knowledge (and time) required to fully comprehend most of the sciences is beyond learning in a normal life time (for a normal person) that science itself must be accepted on some "blind faith" itself? (Some, that have the knowledge of how science operates can justify that it is not "blind faith" on science in whole, but on the jobs of the scientists to filter out the bad material for us)
You may wish to start by not lumping unlike things together in the best pseudo-science tradition. There are lots of people with higher degrees --- masters degrees, PhDs, even in hard sciences like physics --- that are believers in religions like Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. You might want to note that CSICOP does not address religion, but pseudo-science specifically.

In other words, try separating your concerns. They really are different, you know.
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Old 04-25-2001, 11:49 AM
Patty O'Furniture Patty O'Furniture is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Saint Zero:


Why even bother pursue enlightenment if it's not going to do any good? [/B]
No hope of things getting much better, is what I was trying to say. Parents will always have ultimate control in their child's formative years, and children will probably continue to grow up believing in the same truths or lies that their parents firmly believed in.

I'm not sure what the solution is, or if there is one. Most parents probably feel that they are raising their kids just fine. It's not until they reach their teens when it becomes apparent that the children have espoused some ridiculous idea about faith healing or tarot cards and have decided to build their whole lives around it.
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Old 04-25-2001, 09:44 PM
Amedeus Amedeus is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by dlb


You may wish to start by not lumping unlike things together in the best pseudo-science tradition. There are lots of people with higher degrees --- masters degrees, PhDs, even in hard sciences like physics --- that are believers in religions like Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism. You might want to note that CSICOP does not address religion, but pseudo-science specifically.

In other words, try separating your concerns. They really are different, you know.
I was not implying, or did not mean to imply, anything relating to religion, other than using the idea of "faith".

However, my concerns are how they are not really so different in todays age. Many people are simply not educated in the mathmatics, logic, or methodologies to understand where something as complex as how we read the elements in stars for example. The mathmatics involved in measuring things such as the moons orbit or the distance to the nearest star are hardly touched apon in school. (Yes, i know its all just algebra, calculus, trig, and geometry, but how many people in high school really paid that much attention to algebra, let alone took calc)

What I was getting at was that without knowing all of these things directly, one must just accept the proclamations of science as it is given. On faith alone most of the time. I am in no way comparing science with religion other than in that way.

*Just for the record, I am not a true Athiest, while I have not aggreed 100% on any particular religion, I do have my spiritual beliefs. However, I am no fool to mix my science with religion, or let my religion corrupt the reality of my world. (call me agnostic)
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Old 04-26-2001, 08:38 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Amedeus
. . . That the masses of knowledge (and time) required to fully comprehend most of the sciences is beyond learning in a normal life time (for a normal person) . . .
All of the sciences are linked and intertwined; each one is just one subcategory of an overarching universe of knowledge. Learning about one science synergistically helps one understand related sciences (and perhaps even some unrelated sciences, through analogy and metaphor). I think it's well within the "normal" person's capabilities to learn enough in a "normal" period of education to be able to understand, to some extent, all the sciences, and thus not be required to take anything on faith: with a good scientific education, anyone should be able to understand the basics of unfamiliar sciences--after all, they all follow the same rules of nature--with a "normal" amount of study.
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Old 04-26-2001, 09:01 PM
Amedeus Amedeus is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by lissener
All of the sciences are linked and intertwined; each one is just one subcategory of an overarching universe of knowledge. Learning about one science synergistically helps one understand related sciences (and perhaps even some unrelated sciences, through analogy and metaphor). I think it's well within the "normal" person's capabilities to learn enough in a "normal" period of education to be able to understand, to some extent, all the sciences, and thus not be required to take anything on faith: with a good scientific education, anyone should be able to understand the basics of unfamiliar sciences--after all, they all follow the same rules of nature--with a "normal" amount of study. [/B]
Ok, now that I really give it some thought, I can see that, or at least believe that.

But I do disagree about the definition of normal amount of study. What I would consider (and correct me if im wrong)a normal amount of education is the average type of classes taken in high school. Some Biology, a bit of geology, a smattering of chemistry and such. But the true Chemistry classes, Physics, Trig, Calculus, and things like electronics ect, are only taken by a small minority of the student body. And even some of those people either 1)Ignore it based on personal bias(evolution for example) or 2)Pass the class but never give it much thought. Most of the "Average Joes" (And I don't mean what Is average here) that I know took nothing more than Algebra in High school, and some of them didn't even go that far. (Hell, I only took algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II)

I am also basing this on merely the people I knew in my own school, and people in about 5 other public schools in my area. It could be very well be very different in many areas, and I am sure VERY different in some private schools. If I am wrong on this part, I will concede, as my only argument is based on one small area in one country.
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Old 04-26-2001, 09:50 PM
asphodel asphodel is offline
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Amedeus
Quote:
Originally posted by lissener

But I do disagree about the definition of normal amount of study. What I would consider (and correct me if im wrong)a normal amount of education is the average type of classes taken in high school. Some Biology, a bit of geology, a smattering of chemistry and such. But the true Chemistry classes, Physics, Trig, Calculus, and things like electronics ect, are only taken by a small minority of the student body... Most of the "Average Joes" (And I don't mean what Is average here) that I know took nothing more than Algebra in High school, and some of them didn't even go that far. (Hell, I only took algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II)
I am also basing this on merely the people I knew in my own school, and people in about 5 other public schools in my area. It could be very well be very different in many areas, and I am sure VERY different in some private schools. If I am wrong on this part, I will concede, as my only argument is based on one small area in one country.
Maybe part of the problem is in how American courses are structured, where you can take algebra, geometry, calculus, etc... as separate courses. Where I went to high school (Alberta, Canada), you could take Math 10, 20, and 30 (or the lower level Math 13, 23, 33) in grade 10, 11 and 12 .

I would think that this system would produce a more well-rounded mathematics education as you don't just learn algebra or trig or whatever. At each level you learn a combination of algebra, geometry, statistics, trigonometry, logarithmic functions, and if you take Math 31 then you learn calculus. Recently they have adjusted this so that Math 30 is either "Pure" or "Applied", the exact distinction isn't clear, but Applied has less focus on algebra, and Pure is required for Math 31. Also, although you don't have to do the "higher" level stream, you do have to have Math 30 or 33 to graduate.

Most universities require that you complete Math 30 Pure in order to join a science-related faculty, but you only need Math 30 Applied for arts-related courses.
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Old 04-30-2001, 01:33 PM
lissener lissener is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Amedeus
Ok, now that I really give it some thought, I can see that, or at least believe that.

But I do disagree about the definition of normal amount of study. What I would consider (and correct me if im wrong)a normal amount of education is the average type of classes taken in high school. Some Biology, a bit of geology, a smattering of chemistry and such. But the true Chemistry classes, Physics, Trig, Calculus, and things like electronics ect, are only taken by a small minority of the student body. And even some of those people either 1)Ignore it based on personal bias(evolution for example) or 2)Pass the class but never give it much thought. Most of the "Average Joes" (And I don't mean what Is average here) that I know took nothing more than Algebra in High school, and some of them didn't even go that far. (Hell, I only took algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II)

I am also basing this on merely the people I knew in my own school, and people in about 5 other public schools in my area. It could be very well be very different in many areas, and I am sure VERY different in some private schools. If I am wrong on this part, I will concede, as my only argument is based on one small area in one country.
It seems to me you're making a comment about the American Publis School System, with which I largely agree (I went to boarding school and all the courses you mention--besides electronics--were required, for all four years [as was four years of languages, and the other basics--the only "electives" we had were art and music; otherwise the school was a true prep school]), rather than a statement about the topic you proposed in your OP; or at least the sentence that struck me the most:
[quote]
  • That the masses of knowledge (and time) required to fully comprehend most of the sciences is beyond learning in a normal life time (for a normal person) that science itself must be accepted on some "blind faith" itself?
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  #21  
Old 05-01-2001, 11:44 AM
Podkayne Podkayne is offline
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I think there's a problem with the way science is taught. I think that the only important thing to teach in science class is the scientific method.

There is no fact that your average person cannot live without, and there's no possible way to educate The Masses so that they have a working knowledge of any one field of science, much less all of them. But what they need to know is to know what science is, and how it works.

They need to know what uncertainties and error bars are. They need to know how peer review works. They need to know what a hypothesis, a theory, and a law are.

Now, I was taught all this stuff in school, even before I majored in a science in college, but I frequently run in to people who claim that they were never taught these things. More likely they were taught, but they didn't pay enough attention, because it was not communicated to them that this stuff is vital, not just the boring stuff that you rush through in the first week of school, before plunging into experiments and field trips and dioramas and memorization of facts.

Teaching even a small fraction of the body of knowledge that science has accumulated is a Sisyphean task. Teaching how science works, however, is not only easily achievable, but necessary. People need critical thinking skills. They need know how to find reliable sources and look up the right answer if they don't know it. They need to be able to tell science from pseudoscience.
  #22  
Old 05-01-2001, 08:51 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is online now
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Hear hear. I think you hit the nail on the head. School places too much emphasis on facts, and not enough emphasis on logic, reasoning, the scientific method, induction, critical thinking and reading, how to identify a real authority vs a wanna-be, etc.
  #23  
Old 05-02-2001, 02:02 PM
Pábitel Pábitel is offline
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Well as for why there is such a gap between science and "common knowledge" in the US I would blame the trend towards religious fundamentalism.

Think about it. For 12 years the schools teach some version of "science" distilled down to the proper reading level. Meanwhile the same students who are getting this uninspired version of "science" are hearing at home and in church and hey even in their state legislatures and the national press that Anthropology, Zoology, Paleontology, Geology, Astronomy, Physics, Archeology, etc. are all a bunch of lies sent by Satan to lead them away from the truth.

With the watered down science that most kids get in school is it any wonder that they pay more attention to the people leaping about and shouting about "creationism" and "young earth theory"?

The same parents who are telling their children that science is a lie are the ones who are blaming the schools and the teachers because Johnny can't pass a standardized science test. What do they expect?

Anyway that's where I would look. I've seen reports comparing Europe and the US as regards science competence among highschoolers and the only thing I can see to account for the differences is the trend in the US to, especially Christian, fundamentalism.
  #24  
Old 05-02-2001, 02:26 PM
Needs2know Needs2know is offline
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Well maybe this is one reason for the gap....

http://www.democrats.com/view.cfm?id=2411

Needs2know
  #25  
Old 05-02-2001, 04:16 PM
jharding jharding is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Podkayne
I think there's a problem with the way science is taught. I think that the only important thing to teach in science class is the scientific method.

There is no fact that your average person cannot live without, and there's no possible way to educate The Masses so that they have a working knowledge of any one field of science, much less all of them. But what they need to know is to know what science is, and how it works.
Ditto to that.

However, I would suggest that there are more or less critical bits of information that most adults should know at least in rough general terms. Basic principles of ecology and the second law of thermodynamics might be two examples.

I like the following quote from philosopher Jean Beaudrillard which seems to sum up at least some of the ideas expressed in this thread.

"We live in a world where there is more and more information and less and less meaning."
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  #26  
Old 05-03-2001, 07:35 PM
tracer tracer is offline
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Needs2know wrote:

Quote:
Well maybe this is one reason for the gap....

http://www.democrats.com/view.cfm?id=2411
Ah, yes. It's all a vast disinformation conspiracy put on by giant evil corporations.

As opposed to the right-wing view, which is that it's all a vast disinformation conspiracy put on by the giant evil Federal Government.
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