Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Why a Good Education in Science is Important

This article starts off as an expose of Ralph Nader and fails miserably. It tries to impugn Nader's credibility by pointing out the apparently intentionally sloppy work done by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). With no other, more direct, link between unethical activities and Ralph Nader, his premise falls short.

What the article does bring up is an issue near and dear to me: the misuse of science for political purposes. This is a condition I blame on the way that science is taught today. For the most part, science classes, particularly on the elementary level, are taught as a rote set of facts. What tends to be lacking is a study of the method by which scientific data and conclusions are reached. In the article, NYPIRG is cited repeatedly for willfully bad methodologies, apparently for the purposes of achieving results that would invite the political action that they are seeking. Without a proper grounding in the proper methods of science, people would have no way of telling what are reliable results and what are not.

As it currently is, science is taught much like history, a series of facts with no indication or basis for justification. Science taught like this allows the unscrupulous to slap the label of "Scientific" on something without being called on it. Science taught like this is like a catechism, something handed down by an anonymous authority that has to be taken on face value.

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