Wednesday, July 19, 2006

scientific methods

there is this whole ongoing debate in science circles about how to present science to non-scientists. how much science should non scientists know? what should be our role as scientists and what should be their role as 'regular' people?

dlamming, over at saccharomyces, describes something that i want to get more into by offering my solution to the problem.

a lot of folks have suggested that more, or better, science education in high school level education is the solution.

well, i certainly disagree with the premise that the general public needs to know more science (at least in terms of scientific details, which is what classes generally are). what i do think, is that the general public should know better how to think.

dlamming talks about how science and the scientific method is not necessarily intuitive and took much learning for it to become intuitive for him:

First, at this point in my life, I consider the scientific method rather intuitive... but is it? Over four years of college, I took numerous courses in which I was taught how to figure out how to solve a problem instead of simply regurgitating answers. A lot of these classes were really hard... at least until I started to figure things out.

it's not that folks don't get enough science education, it's that they don't get the right kind.

generally, your first few (required) years of science are: memorize and regurgitate. first off, this is worthless if you're not going on in science. why the hell do you need to know how many chromosomes a mouse has? secondly, it's worthless even if you are going on because you're not going to remember anything you've memorized and regurgitated anyway.

as dlamming says, it took several (many?) upper level classes to learn to THINK the right way.

those classes that taught him, and all scientists, to think should be the introductory classes. the first thing you should do when you approach science (which is just the modern day incarnation of early philosophy) is learning to think about the problem, the solution and how to get from the former to the latter.

after those introductory classes, after you've learned to think and problem solve, then you get into the general knowledge stuff.

further, i think when teaching general science knowledge classes it should always be in the context of science history. how did we learn this? what was the problem people saw and what did they do to solve it? again, couching it all in the method of: how do you think about problems? how do you go from first principles? how do you problem solve?

once people know how to think through issues it is infinitely easier to feed them information that they will be able to process on their own, while coming to more intelligent conclusions.


At 11:38 AM GMT-5, Blogger dlamming said...

bleah, science history.

if there's one thing that turned me off from bio, it was hearing over and over about hooke and his cork cells over and over again. or, really, at all. modern science history maybe... but the way i've learned science history is pretty terrible.

At 11:41 AM GMT-5, Blogger gtfhwzk said...

I remember a similar thing happened to me in studying Philosophy. There was a certain point where I started to question assumptions and apply logic to arguments. Before that it all seemed rather silly and whimsical where anything that sounded good could be true.

At 2:19 PM GMT-5, Blogger catswym said...

i don't think i EVER heard about hook or his cork cells.

it's all in the method. for instance, "aspirin" was science history, and an enjoyable book.

more what i meant was: how did they figure out that it was dna that was the genetic material?

how did they figure out vitamin deficiency? etc, etc.


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