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What's Wrong With Science And Science Education


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#35 Michaelangelica

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 02:16 AM

To belong to a club or social group you need to believe the tenants of that group or subgroup.
Otherwise you are ostracised pilloried and find earning a living hard
This is a basic tribal, social, mechanism that has been in existence for eons.
No one will help feed an iconoclast.
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#36 FrankM

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Posted 09 November 2010 - 01:59 PM

Copernicus and Galileo were proponents not of spherical earth theories (because the theory was accepted scientific dogma in their times), but of sun-centered (heliocentric) models of the solar system. Although Galileo was persecuted by the Roman Catholic church, he wasn’t martyred – that is, executed. Copernicus, a protestant, wasn’t even persecuted.


There is considerable contemporary thought that one does not have to be executed to be a martyr to some cause. Madame Curie is sometimes referred to as a martyr to science, not because she was executed, but in the way in which she died.

I read about Copernicus from a number of sources, not a wiki article, and found he had connections high in the Catholic church.

The cited wiki article about Copernicus, contains this statement:

Some of Copernicus' close friends turned Protestant, but Copernicus never showed a tendency in that direction.


I do not cite wiki articles as being an authoritative source. I doubt that a thesis (maybe at some liberal arts institutions) or a technical report in a scientific journal would accept a paper that used a wiki article as a reference. I will make an exception in this post. The wiki flat earth entry, which represents a consider expenditure of time, cites publications about flat earth beliefs. There are a number of sources cited that show the earth as a round disk as opposed to spherical. I would not conclude that all educated people in previous centuries, educated being those able to read and write proficiently in one or more languages, had the same beliefs about the earth's shape.

A major search engine returns somewhat over 700,000 page hits where the term "flat earth" occurs. I read some of the articles, and they are in a sense interesting in how seemingly educated people accept a particular belief even when there is a wealth of contrary evidence.

I am certain that have seen in earlier books about nuclear science where the model of the atom is presented much like our solar system, and the electron orbits were circular. I recall seeing an old NIST logo, some five plus years ago, which depicted what were described as electrons circling an atoms core. The NIST logo was a slightly abbreviated version of the classic nuclear logo.
http://www.dreamstim...go-image1550704

Now I wonder where they got the idea to use a series of circular orbits, represented by ellipsis's, to represent the structure of an atom?

Sometimes, I find I could have used a better term in a sentence after I have cast it in perpetuity electronically. Rather than stating it this way, This dogma was accepted by the scientific thinkers for centuries, I could have substituted many philosophical thinkers.

I did not note an objection to my statement in Post #21, which I quoted in Post #32.

I stated in Post #21 that the current societal characteristics of the scientific establishment, and its authority structure, functions much like a long established religion, with its prophets, saints and martyrs. Every religion has dogmas and the contemporary scientific establishment has its own, which are contained in the its generally accepted theories, often presented as facts.


I know why dogmas, religious or science, can change over periods of time; arguments are presented, in a variety of forms, that convince the authority structure to modify an existing dogma.

#37 Erasmus00

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Posted 10 November 2010 - 05:06 PM

There are a number of sources cited that show the earth as a round disk as opposed to spherical. I would not conclude that all educated people in previous centuries, educated being those able to read and write proficiently in one or more languages, had the same beliefs about the earth's shape.


None of the depictions of a round disk are from modernity. Even by late antiquity, the belief that the Earth is flat was not the prevailing one.

I am certain that have seen in earlier books about nuclear science where the model of the atom is presented much like our solar system, and the electron orbits were circular. I recall seeing an old NIST logo, some five plus years ago, which depicted what were described as electrons circling an atoms core. The NIST logo was a slightly abbreviated version of the classic nuclear logo.
http://www.dreamstim...go-image1550704


Maybe a childrens book, because such an image is easier to grasp. A solar system-like model of the atom only existed for a few brief years, between Rutherford's scattering experiment and Bohr's atom. It was known to be inconsistent with Maxwell's equations from its inception.

This brings up an interesting question- is it useful to use these simpler models of atoms in children's science books? Is a simple to understand explanation worth not being 100% accurate?

Now I wonder where they got the idea to use a series of circular orbits, represented by ellipsis's, to represent the structure of an atom?


Who cares how the artist got its inspiration- this is about scientific models, not artistic depictions.

You don't seem to want to discuss scientific education, rather you seem to want to discuss what you perceive to be unfounded dogma.
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#38 FrankM

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 09:11 AM

None of the depictions of a round disk are from modernity. Even by late antiquity, the belief that the Earth is flat was not the prevailing one.

What time frames do you mean by modernity and late antiquity?

Maybe a childrens book, because such an image is easier to grasp. A solar system-like model of the atom only existed for a few brief years, between Rutherford's scattering experiment and Bohr's atom. It was known to be inconsistent with Maxwell's equations from its inception.

This brings up an interesting question- is it useful to use these simpler models of atoms in children's science books? Is a simple to understand explanation worth not being 100% accurate?

It is well known that most children will become adults who have little scientific knowledge. The simple introductions to scientific concepts that children receive will stick with them for the rest of their lives unless they pursue additional science education, most do not.

Who cares how the artist got its inspiration- this is about scientific models, not artistic depictions.

That is exactly how myths, or unfounded dogma, becomes entrenched in the thinking of the masses. If the artist that created the nuclear logo knew that it was presenting the structure of an atom incorrectly, then the artist is responsible for much of the misconception in the minds of the public. Those that knew better, and didn't or don't object to the logo's misrepresentation, are aiders and abettors of misinformation. It doesn't make any difference that we know better, the errant information is firmly entrenched in the minds of the vast majority of adults everywhere, at least those that received some degree of public education. The nuclear logo they might see someplace reinforces in their minds that it represents the structure of an atom. If asked by one of their children what the logo means, what do they tell them?

Speaking of unfounded dogma, just how long did the scientific community use the term empty space?

#39 HydrogenBond

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 11:17 AM

This brings up an interesting question- is it useful to use these simpler models of atoms in children's science books? Is a simple to understand explanation worth not being 100% accurate?


When you build a house, you first prepare the site and then lay the foundation. Those simple models are part of site preparation and a good science foundation. Many students don't complete the house of science, so they look like an empty lot with a hole. But the foundation is still there. This allows them to conceptualize how the house may be built upon the foundation, even if wrong.

Say we decide to be 100% accurate from the start. This is like putting up the siding before the foundation. What you end up with is a hollow shell sitting on the polished terraine of fad and prestige. There is no foundation to help them think, independently, because it starts too complicated, so they will memorize buzz wirds to appear educated.

The debate between the hole in the ground and the hollow shell is sort of interesting. The hollow shell is more about proper terminology and by the book. The hole in the ground is more about fundamental questions but lacks the proper aire of jargon. The frame work between them is missing. But in the end, it is still easier to build the framework on a foundation, than from the outside facade, inward down to a foundation.

#40 Erasmus00

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 12:25 PM

What time frames do you mean by modernity and late antiquity?


The generally accepted definition. Modernity is about 1500 to the present. Late antiquity would be something like 3rd to 7th centuries.


It is well known that most children will become adults who have little scientific knowledge. The simple introductions to scientific concepts that children receive will stick with them for the rest of their lives unless they pursue additional science education, most do not.


I would argue that for a mental (non-quantitative) picture, the simple electrons orbiting a proton is reasonable, simply because you can visualize it. Its only when you start to take it too seriously that you develop problems. How do you explain quantum mechanics and probability clouds to young students?

#41 FrankM

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 08:09 PM

The generally accepted definition. Modernity is about 1500 to the present. Late antiquity would be something like 3rd to 7th centuries.

I did a search for what you say is the generally accepted definition. Merriam-Webster doesn't specify any dates when it defines modernity. The Modernist Studies Association states their studies cover the later nineteen- through the mid-twentieth century, which doesn't include the present. http://msa.press.jhu.edu/ I checked with a few other dictionaries and none provided a date range with their definition.


I would argue that for a mental (non-quantitative) picture, the simple electrons orbiting a proton is reasonable, simply because you can visualize it. Its only when you start to take it too seriously that you develop problems. How do you explain quantum mechanics and probability clouds to young students?

I am not in a teaching profession, so I will have to ask some of my neighbors, who are K-12 teachers, how they teach quantum mechanics and probability clouds to young students: I know I wasn't taught those concepts in Jr High and High school.

What age group are you referring to as young students, how young? I don't understand what you are implying by the sentence, "Its only when you start to take it too seriously that you develop problems."

It would be somewhat absurd that children in the K thru 12 classes are taught to accept a model of the atom that is wrong, when many of these students will never be taught what is correct. Maybe part of the answer to "What's Wrong with Science and Science Education" is being started by those who teach science to young students. I wonder how those who do take additional science classes react to the information that the model of the atom they were originally taught to accept is now wrong?

#42 HydrogenBond

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 10:31 AM

If you look at the history of the science of the atom, the over simplified models were the state of the art in their day. Science built upon each step in this history to set the foundation and framework leading to the current state of the art. It represented a natural progression of human thought at the level of genius du jour. What this does for the modern student is give them a graph in their minds, with these historical data points of thinking extrending to the present, so they have a better sense of extrapolating the curve to the future. The current state of the art is just the modern data point on that curve and not the end point.

Students who don't go into science, but only learn the first data point will have the same problem as students who only learn the current state of the art but not the past. Neither are not fully equipped to extrapolate the curve in the right direction for the future. The uneducated may go off the line that is historically known. The overly educated will do the same thing in terms extrapolating from their one point into the future, since their extrapolatin is not restricted by all the genius of the past.

In physics for examples, there are many theories for different things. They all can't be correct since many are mutually exclusive. This leads to alternate reality being called reality. If we know the curve of historical 20/20 hindsight, you also know which alternate realities don't fit that historical curve. Those who don't learn from history tend to repeat the same mistakes. Even the first couple of data point had their own alternate reality models and theories, whuch did not follow the line to the future.

One possible upgrade to education is to teach the scientific learning curve, in concise form, so all students can see where the curve started, went and is heading. For the advanced students who like science, I would also show them some of the alternate realities that formed at each data point, so they can understand even today this hisotorical alternate reality also happens. They may have appeared cutting edge in the context of the times, but turned out to be illusions.

Another thing I would teach is that the human mind is the most important instrument of science. But like any instrument, it needs to be properly calibrated, so we can avoid the some of the illusions that are bound to appear, when any tool is not calibrated properly.

#43 FrankM

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 09:03 PM

The uneducated may go off the line that is historically known.


Which means they could pass on to their offspring concepts that are archaic, which might include what are considered myths by some. Some of the offspring will receive enough education to correct an earlier parent taught erroneous view, but some never do, hence myths are perpetuated.

The overly educated will do the same thing in terms extrapolating from their one point into the future, since their extrapolatin is not restricted by all the genius of the past.


Or why what was considered a genius view in the past turned out to have put science on a wrong path, and what mistake (for whatever reason) the genius view advocated that led down the wrong path

In physics for examples, there are many theories for different things. They all can't be correct since many are mutually exclusive.


This doesn't prevent advocates of a particular view from skewing research funding toward their view. The review of Lee Smolin's book, The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next, highlights a few of the issues that effect science and science education.

Two independent and published reviews of The Trouble suggest that what Smolin observes in physics is what is also happening in climatology--and, in fact, I argue, it is what is happening in all science, from kindergarten curricula to the Pulitzer Prize.

http://library.cross...ture_to_Law.pdf

Page 3. of the above mentions University grade inflation. It is not just in Universities, individuals are being given passing grades and higher grades than they deserve at all grade levels to preserve their self esteem.

Page 4 provides the following statements:

Here the charlatans and demagogues are trying to exploit the public vulnerability created by a public school system that has replaced science and mathematics with recycling and self-esteem curricula.

When the article gets around to saying “most scientists believe…,” it’s time to go back to the comics section.

Its fate would be sealed by a minimally scientifically literate public.


I do not want to delve into the issue where hosts of individuals in the political authority structure like having a minimally educated public in all knowledge areas, as this issue contains enough charged material to justify its own post.

#44 Erasmus00

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 12:26 AM

I am not in a teaching profession, so I will have to ask some of my neighbors, who are K-12 teachers, how they teach quantum mechanics and probability clouds to young students: I know I wasn't taught those concepts in Jr High and High school.


The problem, in my mind, is that you really can't. These are highly mathematical concepts that require formal mathematics to really "understand." In fact, I would argue that in this case the map is the territory- the math is the model.

It would be somewhat absurd that children in the K thru 12 classes are taught to accept a model of the atom that is wrong, when many of these students will never be taught what is correct. Maybe part of the answer to "What's Wrong with Science and Science Education" is being started by those who teach science to young students. I wonder how those who do take additional science classes react to the information that the model of the atom they were originally taught to accept is now wrong?


Given that it is impossible to understand the current model of the atom without an understanding of partial differential equations and a year of college level physics, what should we teach? The "solar system" model of the atom contains some important true things:
1. the idea of atoms
2. a heavy nucleus at the center
3. lighter electrons further out.

Things it gets wrong:
1. electrons don't have well defined positions and trajectories
2. leaves open the question "why don't electrons spiral into the center?"
3. would get nearly any quantitative question incorrect.

So the majority of students will never need or try to do quantitative calculations with the model of the atom. The ones that do will take physics classes in highschool and college. Given that- shouldn't we present an understandable model of the atom to young students? Should we wait until we can teach every detail before we present these things? If so, most science will have to wait until college, certainly that isn't the right solution.

Also, Frank, you seem to have some weird axe to grind with global warming. The paper you reference above is a review OF REVIEWS of Lee Smolin's book. The author could have at least read the book himself. Further, Lee Smolin's book is not the context in which to discuss global warming. I would suggest reading a few technical books and familiarizing yourself with the actual scientific issues of global warming. If you have criticisms, offer them on a technical level. Reading articles that state positions in a non-technical way, and basing your opinion on them is like being a cheerleader for cheerleaders.

#45 FrankM

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Posted 13 November 2010 - 03:24 PM

The simplistic models of the atom are a useful teaching tool to a point, but the students should not be left with the impression that the simplistic model is all that is known. Teachers at the K-12 levels have a real problem in that they are trying to keep students interested in the subject material, and the subject material they are teaching is authoritative. The K-12 teachers have enough issues without adding the caveat that some material being presented as authoritative is not quite accurate or complete, which covers more subjects than the sciences.

Back in the dark ages, when I was in the formal part of the education system, a very low percentage of students dropped out of high school. Now, high school dropout rates are at 30%.
http://chronicle.com...-Rate-Is/65669/

In the same dark ages, at Colleges and Universities, the number of students that needed remedial instruction in what were considered high school subjects was well below 10%.

Nationwide, about a third of first-year students in 2007-08 had taken at least one remedial course, according to the U.S. Department of Education. At public two-year colleges, that number rises to about 42 percent.

http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2010/05/high_need_for_remedial_classes.html

There are major deficiencies in the education system, and these deficiencies will influence science education. It is bad enough that students are poorly educated in the material considered appropriate for their age groups, it is worse if they are being indoctrinated with a particular dogma; this is the only viewpoint on a subject they should accept. There are all kinds of dogma, which can include political, religious, lifestyle, and science arenas. Lee Glassman's article, which I cited in my previous post, discusses a number of science issues, but he doesn't use the term dogma. He refers to four categories, which are noted in the title of Glassman's article, a few lines down.

The paper you reference above is a review OF REVIEWS of Lee Smolin's book.

There are a lot of reviews of Smolin's book, but I wanted to cite an article that had more focus on education and how students are being influenced.

http://www.thetroubl...om/reviews.html

The article by Jeff Glassman is not listed on Smolin's website, probably because it wasn't primarily focused on Smolin's book.

The title of Glassman's article is Conjecture, Hypothesis, Theory, Law with the sub-title of The Basis of Rational Argument, December 2007. The four terms in the main title cover a lot of territory.

Also, Frank, you seem to have some weird axe to grind with global warming. The paper you reference above is a review OF REVIEWS of Lee Smolin's book. The author could have at least read the book himself. Further, Lee Smolin's book is not the context in which to discuss global warming. I would suggest reading a few technical books and familiarizing yourself with the actual scientific issues of global warming. If you have criticisms, offer them on a technical level. Reading articles that state positions in a non-technical way, and basing your opinion on them is like being a cheerleader for cheerleaders.

This post is not about global warming, pro or con. This forum, Hypography, is about presenting viewpoints, pro and con on various subjects. I do not believe that I have to limit citations to articles that contain viewpoints that agree with everybody that participates in Hypography. Please note that Glassman doesn't even mention the <<<censored subject>>> in his web site name.

http://www.rocketsci...stsjournal.com/

A statement made by Glassman in the originally cited article is appropriate:

Scientifically credentialed individuals advance unvalidated models by proclaiming a consensus. It's an infection like university grade inflation.

Tormod, do you think I have a weird axe to grind on global warming?

#46 Erasmus00

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 03:11 AM

The simplistic models of the atom are a useful teaching tool to a point, but the students should not be left with the impression that the simplistic model is all that is known.


Of course they shouldn't, but its more important to expose them to the idea of the atom they can grasp then it is to expose them to a 100% accurate idea.

Back in the dark ages, when I was in the formal part of the education system, a very low percentage of students dropped out of high school. Now, high school dropout rates are at 30%.
http://chronicle.com...-Rate-Is/65669/


The dropout rate has been steadily declining since 1960 (when the dropout rate WAS something close to 30%. See the department of educations statistics http://nces.ed.gov/f...play.asp?id=16. The current dropout rate is below 10%.

In the same dark ages, at Colleges and Universities, the number of students that needed remedial instruction in what were considered high school subjects was well below 10%.

http://www.cleveland...al_classes.html


Mostly this is the result of more people going to college, and not any indicator of a drop in quality. 70% of highschool graduates enroll in a college http://www.bls.gov/n...e/hsgec.nr0.htm

There are a lot of reviews of Smolin's book, but I wanted to cite an article that had more focus on education and how students are being influenced.


Why do you think that article has anything do with education?

The article by Jeff Glassman is not listed on Smolin's website, probably because it wasn't primarily focused on Smolin's book.

The title of Glassman's article is Conjecture, Hypothesis, Theory, Law with the sub-title of The Basis of Rational Argument, December 2007. The four terms in the main title cover a lot of territory.


Yes, I read the article, it doesn't seem relevant to the discussion at hand. The terms hypothesis,conjecture,theory and law are used interchangeably by most actual scientists. Also, anyone who tries to argue about science by selectively quoting from reviews of a popular science book does not understand a rational argument.

#47 FrankM

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 05:28 PM

Of course they shouldn't, but its more important to expose them to the idea of the atom they can grasp then it is to expose them to a 100% accurate idea.

Why start out with something that is mostly wrong when a more accurate model can be used. I suspect k-12 educators continue to use the wrong model because that is what they were taught. I am sure there a lot of good ideas out there on how the structure of the atom could be better presented at the k-12 level.

The dropout rate has been steadily declining since 1960 (when the dropout rate WAS something close to 30%. See the department of educations statistics http://nces.ed.gov/f...play.asp?id=16. The current dropout rate is below 10%.

Totally different set of conditions than used in the Chronicle article. The necs govt report is extrapolating the dropout rate up to a student age of 24.
http://chronicle.com...-Rate-Is/65669/

I know individuals that enrolled in some program to get a GED, this after finally realizing that the lack of a high school credential, or equivalent, has crimped their economic situation. The local newspaper emphasizes this program to entice high school dropouts to complete their basic education. The fact is that 30% of the students are dropping out of the regular high school program. I quote from the Chronicle article:

Gregory M. Darnieder, special assistant and senior adviser to Education Secretary Arne Duncan on the secretary's Initiative on College Access, said 30 percent of the nation's high-school students are not graduating.

The number of remedial education programs has increased over the years, and much of the end-game graduation improvement shown in the necs govt report is because of these programs.

Mostly this is the result of more people going to college, and not any indicator of a drop in quality. 70% of highschool graduates enroll in a college http://www.bls.gov/n...e/hsgec.nr0.htm

No drop in quality? That is ludicrous. Any critical examination of the criteria being used to admit students will show that many less qualified students, based upon SAT results, are being accepted over higher qualified students.

I think Glassman has concluded that the general public is not minimally scientifically literate.

Its fate would be sealed by a minimally scientifically literate public.

http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/64_07_Conjecture_to_Law.pdf

The following report provides info on science education in a variety of countries. The report cites the top ten countries in most of its tables, and in the few tables where it lists countries, it has the U.S. at the bottom of the heap. The statement in the first paragraph of the Summary and Conclusion is revealing.

This finding is notable because physical science is not as heavily emphasized in the United States and suggests that other countries view physical science concepts as central to foundational scientific literacy and as critical to providing a strong base for Upper Secondary courses in Chemistry and Physics.

http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED512106.pdf

K thru 12 is just one place where science education is failing.

#48 Erasmus00

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Posted 14 November 2010 - 06:31 PM

Why start out with something that is mostly wrong when a more accurate model can be used.


How is it mostly wrong? What do you think the correct model of the atom is? Give the model that you want taught.

I suspect k-12 educators continue to use the wrong model because that is what they were taught.


I would assume most k-12 educators took a science class in highschool or college, and thus are aware that the solar system model of the atom hasn't been state of the art for nearly 100 years. If they are unaware, then I would agree, this is failure.

Totally different set of conditions than used in the Chronicle article. The necs govt report is extrapolating the dropout rate up to a student age of 24.



These are the only authoritative numbers I know of. You want to use something Gregory M. Darnieder said, with no reference to any data.

No drop in quality? That is ludicrous. Any critical examination of the criteria being used to admit students will show that many less qualified students, based upon SAT results, are being accepted over higher qualified students.


Less qualified students are going to college, certainly (when we jumped from 65% of highschool grads enrolling in college to 70%, I doubt that 5% were honor students). That does not a drop in the quality of the educations these students are getting. Further, I find no evidence that high achievement students are being denied educations.

I think Glassman has concluded that the general public is not minimally scientifically literate.


Glassman himself is not scientifically literate. His distinction between conjecture,hypothesis and law is a false one. All "evidence" he presents is anecdotal. Further, his article has nearly nothing at all to do with education.

The following report provides info on science education in a variety of countries. The report cites the top ten countries in most of its tables, and in the few tables where it lists countries, it has the U.S. at the bottom of the heap. The statement in the first paragraph of the Summary and Conclusion is revealing.


The article is a nice summary of scientific education in various countries. What specifically do you want to discuss from it? Do you feel the scholastic assessment tests used to rank countries are reasonable assessments?