I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
― Isaac Newton
In the January 23 issue of Science Bruce Alberts writes,Rather than learning how to think scientifically, students are generally being told about science and asked to remember facts.Their science teachers failed to make it clear that science fundamentally depends on evidence that can be logically and independently verified; instead, they taught science as if it were a form of revealed truth from scientists.This attitude carries over into the way scientists report their findings and the supine attitude of the media.
Alberts remarks,Most shocking to me is the finding that many college-educated adults in the United States see no difference between scientific and non-scientific explanations of natural phenomena such as evolution.But more shocking is the realization that Alberts and most scientists don’t recognize the distinction either. Alberts seems unaware that there is no scientific explanation for the fossil record of speciation. Darwin’s theory ofsurvival of the fittestprovides no mechanism that generates discrete yet interdependent organisms. Darwinists have no idea what thesparkis that brings matter to life or what symbiotic resonances are behind organisms’ adaptation to their environments.
Many otherscientific factslikeblack holesand thebig bangare merely flawed mathematical constructs. They have not been observed. Teachers and students should be conscious that mathematics operates in avirtual realityand is not to be confused with science, which relies on real-world observation, measurement and experiment. Mathematics describes behavior, it doesn’t explain. To make matters worse, mathematicians routinely demonstrate confusion and lack of rigor in their use of language when defining mathematical terms.
So in science curricula the emphasis should not be onfactsbut on clear thinking and skepticism, along with the history of key scientific debates and the philosophy of science. But the most important lesson is that the basic mysteries remain. And it is the many mysteries that can motivate students and the public to take an active interest in science again. As the biologist Rupert Sheldrake has remarked,by giving up the pretence that the ultimate answers are already known, the sciences will be freer — and more fun.
— Wal Thornhill
(from the February 15, 2009 Article It’s Time for Change)