Thursday, July 10, 2008

Put a Little Science in Your Life

Brian Greene, the physicist and popular science author, argues convincingly that you ought to "Put a Little Science in Your Life". The money-shot:
But science is so much more than its technical details. And with careful attention to presentation, cutting-edge insights and discoveries can be clearly and faithfully communicated to students independent of those details; in fact, those insights and discoveries are precisely the ones that can drive a young student to want to learn the details. We rob science education of life when we focus solely on results and seek to train students to solve problems and recite facts without a commensurate emphasis on transporting them out beyond the stars.

Science is the greatest of all adventure stories, one that’s been unfolding for thousands of years as we have sought to understand ourselves and our surroundings. Science needs to be taught to the young and communicated to the mature in a manner that captures this drama. We must embark on a cultural shift that places science in its rightful place alongside music, art and literature as an indispensable part of what makes life worth living.


  1. Everyone with an IQ above 75 can see some adventure in physical exploration or personal combat. Seeing adventure in intellectual pursuits is beyond most persons. I believe that Brian Greene confuses fascination with adventure. I find much about science to be fascinating and interesting; I find little about science to be adventurous (except when I torched the ceiling tiles in high school chemistry lab by adding too much permangante to my 'volcano' mix).

    I think Brian Greene's approach (which has been tried before) will be counterproductive: kids will be told that science is adventurous, but they will hate it more than before when it seems boring.

    I don't have a solution other than to try to find science teachers who actually understand science. Most public school science teachers I've met don't even understand the scientific method. (They can parrot the words, but they cannot employ the process.)

  2. Very good points, Dr. T. I do think, however, there is *something* to be said for a Saganesque approach to inspire people. I agree educating teachers is more important, but science DOES provide a fascinating - perhaps even adventurous - view of the world. We're slowly constructing a grand narrative from the universe's beginning 13.7 billion years ago to the modern day, via billions of years of stellar evolution and billions of years of biological evolution and thousands of years of cultural evolution. Now THAT'S an epic!

  3. Just today I was reading Ben Stein, the nutjob behind "Expelled" (and "Beuller? Beuller?"), saying the following:

    When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers, talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

    It made me sick, to think that people can be that prejudiced about something as clearly beneficial as science...

  4. Hi Jojo, yes, I've seen that quote. It pissed me off too - it's deeply idiotic and dangerous to boot.