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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Darwinism and popular culture: Only trolls would carry out Gallagher's orders, but for some reason he wants them carried out by gentlemen ...

What Makes Science 'Science'? Trainee teachers don't have a clue, and most scientists probably don't either. That's bad news.
So says James Williams, kvetching in The Scientist, 22(10) October 2008, Page 29:
As a science educator, I train science graduates to become science teachers. Over the past two years I've surveyed their understanding of key terminology and my findings reveal a serious problem. Graduates, from a range of science disciplines and from a variety of universities in Britain and around the world, have a poor grasp of the meaning of simple terms and are unable to provide appropriate definitions of key scientific terminology. So how can these hopeful young trainees possibly teach science to children so that they become scientifically literate? How will school-kids learn to distinguish the questions and problems that science can answer from those that science cannot and, more importantly, the difference between science and pseudoscience?
And in "Why the Philosophy of Science Matters" (The Scientist, October 2008), Richard Gallagher follows up, grousing:
You might expect that newly minted science graduates - who presumably think of themselves as scientists, and who I'd thought of as scientists - would have a well-developed sense of what science is. So it's pretty shocking to discover that a large proportion of them don't have a clue. At least that's the case in the UK, going on the evidence of our Opinion author James Williams ("What Makes Science 'Science'?"). He found that a sizeable proportion of science graduates entering teacher training couldn't define what is a scientific fact, law or hypothesis.

No, but why should that matter? Gallagher goes on to announce that the reason this ignorance is a problem is that the grads won't be able to properly diss "climate change deniers, GM modification scaremongers, or creationists."

In short, they are not as well qualified propagandists as they might be.

But Gallagher's and Williams's project doesn't require history and philosophy science. If they are studied only in order to improve one's skills in stamping out opposition to current dogmas, quite frankly, other methods - like the Royal society's exemplary firing of Christian Darwinist Michael Reiss, are vastly more effective.

And, while we are here, let us mention another method that Gallagher complains of:

One giveaway of how scientists think is to look at their everyday, informal interactions. Our Community website and numerous science blogging sites provide the opportunity to apraise this. Is the discussion logical, objective, disinterested, cautious? No! It turns out that scientists are as disdainful, vitriolic even, as everyone else, even in discussions about science.

Here's a recent examples from our site: "I absolutely do not accept the proposal above that an ignorant idiot serving up pious horsemanure should be coddled for his or her blithering idiot beliefs. Contempt is the only appropriate communication to such people...."

This is mild in comparison to the exchanges on other sites.
Ah yes, I well believe that. I no longer accept comments at any of my private blogs.

The reality is that the level of communication that Gallagher deplores is entirely appropriate to persons who assume that they possess, in science, the Means to Discover All Truths and are not bound by any traditional, usually religiously based conventions of courtesy.

Only trolls would carry out Gallagher's orders, but for some reason he wants them carried out by gentlemen.

Sorry, Gallagher, that's way out of your price range. You must begin by wanting truth for itself first, even if it does not confirm all your prejudices. Otherwise, stick with the trolls and don't bother educating them in history and philosophy of science.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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