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Author Topic: we accepct scientific theories without question, but...  (Read 6354 times)

paul.fr

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Why do we accept scientific theories that we may not understand, but if we see a wet paint sign. we just have to touch it to make sure! Why is that?

ermm, maybe this is sociology!
« Last Edit: 19/05/2007 09:41:54 by paul.fr »


 

another_someone

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #1 on: 19/05/2007 11:21:00 »
What do you mean by 'we accept scientific theories without question'?

The nature of science is that one should not accept anything without question, and if you are accepting scientific theory without question, then you are indulging in faith based religion not in science.

As for the 'wet paint' sign - I don't personally have a great urge to touch wet paint, but if I am in the vicinity of a sign that says wet paint, there is often a degree of inconvenience in avoiding the are that is supposedly covered in wet paint, so one wants to assure oneself that that inconvenience is still necessary (and to get a feel for just how wet it is, and thus how easily it will transfer itself to one's clothing if one were to make accidental contact with the paint).  A 'wet paint' sign is a caution, it is not a statement of fact - the sign might have been wholly inappropriate in the first place, although in greater likelihood there was once wet paint in the vicinity, but it may well have dried before the sign was removed.
 

paul.fr

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #2 on: 19/05/2007 20:29:25 »
What do you mean by 'we accept scientific theories without question'?

The nature of science is that one should not accept anything without question, and if you are accepting scientific theory without question, then you are indulging in faith based religion not in science.

well, we all "know" that e=mc2 and most will accept this without question. Their reasons could be many.

As for the 'wet paint' sign - I don't personally have a great urge to touch wet paint, but if I am in the vicinity of a sign that says wet paint, there is often a degree of inconvenience in avoiding the are that is supposedly covered in wet paint, so one wants to assure oneself that that inconvenience is still necessary (and to get a feel for just how wet it is, and thus how easily it will transfer itself to one's clothing if one were to make accidental contact with the paint).  A 'wet paint' sign is a caution, it is not a statement of fact - the sign might have been wholly inappropriate in the first place, although in greater likelihood there was once wet paint in the vicinity, but it may well have dried before the sign was removed.
So most of us for whatever reason, possibly you want to sit on a bench that has a wet paint sign on it. yet, "we" have to test the accuracy of the sign! I just find that very curious.
 

another_someone

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #3 on: 19/05/2007 23:29:45 »
well, we all "know" that e=mc2 and most will accept this without question. Their reasons could be many.

So most of us for whatever reason, possibly you want to sit on a bench that has a wet paint sign on it. yet, "we" have to test the accuracy of the sign! I just find that very curious.

You point out a major distinction between the two issues - most of us really don't care whether E=mc2, at least insofar as most of us will not change our own behaviour dependent upon the truth of that statement or not; whereas we will change our behaviour if there is a sign on a bench we wish to sit on that says "wet paint", so the truth of that statement matters more to us than whether E=mc2 is true or not.

The second issue is that science does not lie.  I don't mean that scientists do not lie (they are after all human), but that if you can prove something to be scientifically true, then you know it is always true (OK, I know that is a bit of a simplification because science can never actually prove anything to be always true - but the point is that if an experiment can be repeated at different times and by different people, you can have a fair assurance that the experiment will always have the same result).  All the sign says is what a human has desired us to believe, but past experience has taught us not to trust what humans tell us, and we know that in the past we have found signs that said "wet paint" which was not actually associated with wet paint; so we have good past experience to treat such signs with suspicion.
 

Offline lightarrow

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #4 on: 20/05/2007 10:50:47 »
well, we all "know" that e=mc2 and most will accept this without question. Their reasons could be many.
What is m there? Are you sure to know?
 

lyner

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #5 on: 21/05/2007 12:54:53 »
It's very endearing that humans accept what 'Scientists' say.
The problem is that they also accept attractive ideas that all sorts of nutters come up with, too. Cosmetics adverts have a lot to answer for.
It's often much more attractive to latch on to a crackpot 'alternative' idea.  The present  fashion in education  for encouraging pupils to question things  should  make them less susceptible to being duped. However, what seems to happen, instead, is that they fall for the garbage and question the well found theories.
You can't win.
 

paul.fr

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #6 on: 21/05/2007 13:23:41 »
It's very endearing that humans accept what 'Scientists' say.
The problem is that they also accept attractive ideas that all sorts of nutters come up with, too. Cosmetics adverts have a lot to answer for.


Do you not think that what scientists say, is accepted because most don't have the tools, or understanding to question it? Whilst i agree with you about the cosmetics industry, i see this as almost cult-like, where the desire to be saved is replaced by the desire to be beautiful.


It's often much more attractive to latch on to a crackpot 'alternative' idea.  The present  fashion in education  for encouraging pupils to question things  should  make them less susceptible to being duped. However, what seems to happen, instead, is that they fall for the garbage and question the well found theories.
You can't win.

I am confident that you are a marvelous educator, but do you think that some teachers may not be adequately qualified and others may have their own agenda in certain subjects?
 

another_someone

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #7 on: 21/05/2007 15:14:41 »
The present  fashion in education  for encouraging pupils to question things  should  make them less susceptible to being duped. However, what seems to happen, instead, is that they fall for the garbage and question the well found theories.
You can't win.

But is not the issue whether one regards science as a cult in its own right, where one is taught what the high priests of science would wish the masses to believe; or whether you democratise science.

The problem is, as in politics, while we may insist that democracy is a good thing, many people seem to have a naive idea that if you give everybody a choice, they will all make the choice that you would wish them to make - but that is not democracy, is it - democracy allows people to make choices that you had never expected or desired them to make.
 

Offline tony6789

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #8 on: 21/05/2007 16:24:38 »
let me ask another question...how do they get no walking on the grass signs in the middle of the grass?
 

Offline Ben6789

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #9 on: 21/05/2007 16:26:45 »
If everyone beileves this is a "pen." It's a pen. It's a writing tool but also a storage place for animals. If everyone beileves a writing tool is a "dog." then it's a dog. Who says this is a "dog"? You do.

Or, at least, the majority does.
 

lyner

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #10 on: 22/05/2007 10:39:42 »
Quote
but do you think that some teachers may not be adequately qualified and others may have their own agenda in certain subjects?
I think that this is true and it is lamentable.
However, in Science teaching, I think there are  fewer private agendas than in many subjects. The problem I see is mostly ignorance. This is due to the universal practice of 'non-specialist' teaching of all three Sciences; a very cheapskate system.
More money spent on education - smaller classes and higher wages - would solve this over night. But that's another issue.

Quote
or whether you democratise science.
What does that mean?
The 'high priests' , largely, have opinions which are based on a huge consensus of knowledge and a massive conservative tendency. They are continuously subject to peer revue- which is the best regulator we have.
(The loopy ideas and the 'snake oil' arrives via advertising and the media - not mainstream Science)
It is not regarded as elitist to say that most people just can't understand Maths, beyond simple arithmetic so why is it regarded as elitist to say the same about higher science? If you haven't the skills or haven't put in the graft, you can't access the higher levels of any discipline.  Where does democracy come into it? Who plays football in the Premiership? The best players available, not Joe public; is that democratic? Do we want it to be?
 

another_someone

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #11 on: 22/05/2007 13:26:49 »
Quote
or whether you democratise science.
What does that mean?
The 'high priests' , largely, have opinions which are based on a huge consensus of knowledge and a massive conservative tendency. They are continuously subject to peer revue- which is the best regulator we have.
(The loopy ideas and the 'snake oil' arrives via advertising and the media - not mainstream Science)
It is not regarded as elitist to say that most people just can't understand Maths, beyond simple arithmetic so why is it regarded as elitist to say the same about higher science? If you haven't the skills or haven't put in the graft, you can't access the higher levels of any discipline.  Where does democracy come into it? Who plays football in the Premiership? The best players available, not Joe public; is that democratic? Do we want it to be?

Many religions also use peer review to vet new theories, and are certainly massively conservative.

The problem is that such a structure can become very inward looking, and can easily find itself unable to absorb paradigm shifts that are required to move forward.  I am not saying that this is yet so of science, but allowing science to be the preserve of an elite who are answerable to no-one but themselves creates the conditions that allows this to become so.

The relationship with mathematics is not quite so - people are not expected to blindly accept the results of mathematics that they do not understand.  Because mathematics is a purely abstract discipline, one may choose to seek to understand it, or one may just regard it (or parts of it) as irrelevant to one's needs.  With science, we have a situation where people are expected to believe, but possibly take on faith, the conclusion of scientists, and act upon it.  The results of science often effect public safety (e.g. when the governments chief scientist assured us that humans cannot be affected by BSE).  Science, unlike mathematics, cannot be disregarded as an abstract that is irrelevant to the physical life around us.

The other problem is, and this is not a criticism (in fact, I would worry more if it were not so), that scientists themselves often (maybe even usually) cannot agree, and not so infrequently, have their own loopy ideas; so who are we to believe anyway.  Schools can teach us an official version of science, but it does not mean that every scientist one meets will buy into that version.  This then becomes the school's version of science, rather than the scientists' version of science.

The problem is belief (and this is just as true of peer reviewed science as it is about advertising) is that it often comes down not to what do you believe as who do you believe.  This has not changed since the days when one had to choose between Martin Luther and the Pope.  It is an inevitable part of human nature.
 

paul.fr

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #12 on: 22/05/2007 13:42:28 »
Quote
but do you think that some teachers may not be adequately qualified and others may have their own agenda in certain subjects?
I think that this is true and it is lamentable.
However, in Science teaching, I think there are  fewer private agendas than in many subjects. The problem I see is mostly ignorance. This is due to the universal practice of 'non-specialist' teaching of all three Sciences; a very cheapskate system.
More money spent on education - smaller classes and higher wages - would solve this over night. But that's another issue.


Too true, i will not bore you about the times i have had to complain about what my niece was taught in history. I Think you are referring to "general science"", do they still teach that?

My problem with it was, that it was just too general. No specifics, the quality of the teaching is also an issue. I was quite lucky, the head mistress at my middle school was one of the authors of the text books used in the curriculum, so she was quite a task master..er...mistress.
 

Offline BillJx

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #13 on: 25/05/2007 04:46:54 »
I am confident that you are a marvelous educator, but do you think that some teachers may not be adequately qualified and others may have their own agenda in certain subjects?

I think most people would accept that a degree in maths or sciences is generally more demanding than a liberal arts degree.  It's fine that they require different abilities, but they should be equally challenging.  University isn't (or shouldn't be) for everyone. A university degree should be proof that you're at least capable of being intelligent, in at least some areas.  I'm not sure that a degree in education proves that. I'm not calling teachers stupid! Most of the ones who I know are very intelligent including a couple of my sisters and a niece who could have easily pursued a PHD climate science but chose to teach kids.  I'm just saying I'm not sure the educational process weeds out those who aren't intellectually equipped to be exceptional teachers.
If my bias is wrong, I'd be delighted to be disabused of it.

People accept scientific theories because checking them would generally require a couple decades of intensive study.  Checking the paint is simply more realistic.
 

another_someone

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #14 on: 25/05/2007 13:20:17 »
Too true, i will not bore you about the times i have had to complain about what my niece was taught in history. I Think you are referring to "general science"", do they still teach that?

History was always a subject I had a personal interest in, at least for those years in which I was not being taught it at school (i.e. during my primary school years, when there was no history teaching at school; and in my 6th form and later at college, when I was no longer being taught history at school - my interest certainly disappeared during the years that it was a subject that was being taught to me).

My mother was always antagonistic to history because she had been taught history during the war, having lived through the war in Hungary, starting with the pre-war government, then the increasingly nationalistic wartime government, followed by a few months of German occupation, followed by a transient post war Hungarian government, and subsequently a communist post war government - each with their own agenda on history, and so she was all too acutely aware of how the teaching of history was intimately bound with the politics of the day.
 

paul.fr

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
« Reply #15 on: 25/05/2007 13:26:20 »
Too true, i will not bore you about the times i have had to complain about what my niece was taught in history. I Think you are referring to "general science"", do they still teach that?

History was always a subject I had a personal interest in, at least for those years in which I was not being taught it at school (i.e. during my primary school years, when there was no history teaching at school; and in my 6th form and later at college, when I was no longer being taught history at school - my interest certainly disappeared during the years that it was a subject that was being taught to me).

My mother was always antagonistic to history because she had been taught history during the war, having lived through the war in Hungary, starting with the pre-war government, then the increasingly nationalistic wartime government, followed by a few months of German occupation, followed by a transient post war Hungarian government, and subsequently a communist post war government - each with their own agenda on history, and so she was all too acutely aware of how the teaching of history was intimately bound with the politics of the day.

History is written by the victors of any war. So some reading between the lines may be warrented, my history subjects at school were the Russian Revolution (as may now become obvious) and WW2. What i had to correct the teachers on was the over simplistic and plainly wrong way they were teaching the politics of the Third Reich.
 

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we accepct scientific theories without question, but...
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