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Sigal Tifferet

Senior Lecturer, Ruppin Academic Center

TEDCRED 500+

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Can people who deny science be educated? How?

Some of my undergraduate students deny scientific research with the following claims: (1) my experience shows otherwise, (2) scientific results are always changing, (3) each person has his own truth.
Is there a way to change their way of thinking, or should it be treated as a belief, similar to religion which is unfalsifiable?
If it is subject to change, how would you go about achieving that change?
Please do not answer the question "Should people who deny science be educated?", that is a different issue.

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    Feb 16 2011: People who deny science can only be educated if they stop denying science. If they stick with it long enough, have good educators, and personally experience science, then it seems impossible for one to deny science. The problem might be in the "stiffness" of current education systems and the inaccessibility of science. Call it a light bulb moment, but I find it hard to believe that someone would really be able to make an educated decision to deny science.

    It seems as though most undergraduate students who deny science do so in accordance to claim (1). The problem with this seems to be that these students think that they know everything (or at least most things), and these things have been 'proven,' whether it be by science or personal experience. In that, I'm saying they haven't been humbled by the amount of information that we don't know, but are always trying to discover.

    The only way to combat it? Education and truth (or Truth?). There are some things we do know, some we don't, but as was said earlier, each scientific discovery is an incremental step towards what is correct/true/right. This relates to claim (2), but also draws on what many scientists are taught in training: A "good" hypothesis is one that is (in one way) falsifiable. At the core, scientists develop an idea to test it, not to push an agenda (not mentioning problems with current science - sticking with the idea of research). If we present science as infallible, then one erroneous claim (even if taken out of context) can shatter the whole establishment. Remember, the Titanic was "unsinkable."

    The fact that science is changing is what makes it exciting. There's a place for everyone in research due to this. Who isn't excited by discovery? Unlike other fields (ie religion) we're not beating the same stories and "facts" into oblivion. Rather, we're developing new explanations that are better and can even be improved upon.

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