It is not logical to leap from unquestioning acceptance of all experts
to the dubious
virtue of always challenging authority and taking unpopular views.
1960s, it has seemed fashionable to assume authority wrong because it is
authority, and to feel that, if someone is not precisely correct in some
his or her statements are self-serving lies. Unfortunately, blindly
can lead to the same types of problems as blindly following it. Challenging
demanding understandable explanations (while pursuing knowledge to further
understanding), and rigorously analyzing arguments are the stuff of intellectual
curiosity and progress. Refusing to believe when you don't know any
the other person seems to me to be oppositional rather than intellectual.
The Kansas State Board of Education, creationists in general, and Jamal
described by Singham) are not particularly shining examples of critical
careful weighing of evidence, intellectual curiosity, and rejection of
W. C. Morrey
Florida Atlantic University
Science does not operate through belief but through proof, experimental
mathematical. Once proof has been achieved, belief becomes irrelevant.
Therefore, it is not necessary to "achieve belief" or to use propaganda
purpose. What is important is to teach the fundamentals of the scientific
Belief is antithetical to the scientific search for evidence. The
believer is not
concerned with evidence except as it reinforces the belief. The choice
believing in science and believing in pseudoscience is no choice at all.
believe in neither, but instead look for the evidence. Even Galileo
did not stand up
for what he believed--he only stood up for what he could prove.
Because science is a collective, rather than an individual, endeavor, we
to scientific issues that are beyond our current comprehension. Specializing
applied optics, I have lost intimate contact with the physics and mathematics
cosmology, and I read the same popularized accounts that are available
layperson. How then do I draw conclusions about cosmology?
The answer is
twofold. First, I accord my cosmology colleagues the same respect
that I expect from them. Their conclusions, published in reputable,
journals and not yet refuted, stand as the best that we currently know
topic. Second, I do not necessarily accept these conclusions as ultimate
since even peer-reviewed conclusions must also pass the test of time.
take decades or centuries, but eventually, a surviving theory is established
What distinguishes science from philosophy or theology is that the debate
conclusively at some point. We know that Earth is not the center
of the universe,
and we can describe planetary motions through Newtonian mechanics and even
apply relativistic corrections--such matters are no longer in doubt.
cannot fully comprehend them, that does not mean that they are free to
alternative theories. That is what Singham should have told his creationist
rather than saluting his independent spirit. Anyone ruled by a belief
is the opposite
of an independent spirit. And the students who accepted what Singham
were not necessarily dolts, but perhaps they suspected that the conclusions
science were more likely to be correct than the pronouncements of
pseudoscience. Perhaps they applied the same probabilistic judgment
that we all
must apply when faced with issues beyond our ken.
The corollary of the preceding is that teaching orbitals to 10th graders
or the Big
Bang to college sophomores is a bad idea. Students at those levels
do not have
the background knowledge to appreciate such concepts. "Introductory"
physics courses wrongly pretend to be science courses. They should
be thought of
as liberal arts courses, in which the students receive a necessarily superficial
overview to satisfy their curiosity about current topics and to expand
imaginations. Real science courses should be taught only when students
background to appreciate and understand the material, not when they must
what is presented by an act of faith. We need to remove fluff and
reinstate rigor in
science instruction. Otherwise, fewer and fewer people will be able
between the methods of science and those of creationism or other pseudoscience.
And we scientists will have contributed by failing to understand and properly
propagate the scientific method.