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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 19 2011: If science were always conducted scientifically (objectively), they would have no point and there would be no point in talking to them. But, too often, they are right about scientific evidence contradicting other "scientific" evidence. If science could be done more independently and was not motivated by people trying to demonstrate what they already believe, and, if it was not funded by those who hope to profit from findings, then we would know that science is real. But, as long as money and politics are tied to science, every test is going to be set up to yield the results that are most beneficial to the people behind it...
    • Feb 23 2011: Scientific research is not always done or funded by people with a vested interest in a particular result. I agree that when it is, it undermines the search to 'reduce uncertainties about truth.' However, many scientific studies are conducted under the best possible conditions by researchers and funding sources that want to find reliable results. The experiments are often reviewed by unbiased peers. These studies are reproduced by independent scientists to provide more data to either confirm or deny the original results. (Even the studies done by tobacco companies to 'prove' that cigarettes are not unhealthy, for example, are a part of the scientific process, however, because peer review & independent studies clearly show the flaws in their method.)

      People who insist on denying science can not be fully educated because science is a part of the world and 'educated' means (at least in part) knowing about the world.

      I have had students who absolutely deny that humans and apes evolved from common ancestors. I have had students absolutely refuse to accept that the Earth is 4 to 5 billion years old. I present these students with the data that overwhelmingly support these claims. Some of them begin to ask questions. Others just shrug their shoulders and say, "I don't care. It can't be true."

      The ones who shrug sometimes terrify me. How many people who decide to walk into a supermarket parking lot and start shooting people use the scientific method to help them make this decision? I am not claiming that every person who denies science becomes a sociopath. I am suggesting that one can not base one's actions on irrational thought if one truly understands the scientific process.

      Students who resist new understandings can not be fully educated. To be a student means to ask questions, to be open to new interpretations and to test preconceived notions.
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      Feb 28 2011: umm...

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