Friday, July 21, 2023

Science as a Way of Thinking

 Some Carl Sagan on Charlie Rose:

"We've arranged a society based on science and technology, in which nobody understands anything about science technology. And this combustible mixture of ignorance and power, sooner or later, is going to blow up in our faces. Who is running the science and technology in a democracy if the people don't know anything about it? Science is more than a body of knowledge, it's a way of thinking. A way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we're up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along."

Maybe a bigger problem today is the number who believe they understand science better than they really do. Last year I wrote about a commenter insisting on the need to do his own independent research about Covid and masks because all research is biased. I explained how the scientific method aims to significantly reduce personal bias, unlike the unscrutinized unreviewed research the writer was doing alone in his basement. This is really hard for people to understand. They need to see the experiments themselves, but many studies are long and difficult to read, and they don't trust a summary. Some people will grab at a line that's out of context or read a study that isn't even an actual study but just a website sub-titled "peer-reviewed study."   

So now, before we can teach about the scientific method, we have to undo all the mess they've bought into, and before that, we have to convince people that they've been sold a bill of goods. 

We've got our work cut out for us!

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