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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 28 2011: It is not nessesarily bad that they question the truthiness of something. There is a lot of bad science out there. Scientific reseach could prove that doing the rain dance every day at noon cures cancer if you get a sample size of one student. There was 'scientific research' that claimed that looking at erotic images makes people more able to predict the future. This was accomplished by setting up an experiment where a person would look at erotic images (or not, if in control group), then guess whether a light to the left would light up, or if one on the right would light up. ~53% of people guessed correctedly after looking at said images, and ~49% guessed correctly with out looking at the images. I don't really need to explain what is wrong with this situation.

    Anyway, the point is that 'known' truths in science are just temporary explantions for what happens. These explanations only last until a new explanation, which works better, is formed. Therefore, I recomend that you encourage independent thought, and explain that science is just the best explanation that we currently have available, and does not nessesarily correctly explain every possible situation. I think this will be the most effective tool for making your point.

    Best of Wishes
    • Feb 28 2011: I just love the fact that you used the word truthiness.

      The sum total of human knowledge is but a drop in the true nature of our universe. Socrates only called himself wise because he acknowledged the fact that he did not know really much of anything.

      Putting that aside, we can use scientific experiments to build an education as long as we acknowledge the boundaries of our instruments and methods. We can never measure a meter to its exact length because there can be an infinite number of significant digits, but we can do a lot of cool things if we estimate or settle for a certain amount of accuracy.

      It may be true that each person has his own truth for moral issues, but scientific education is about a universal truth about the nature of the universe. But, that's just my opinion.
      • Feb 28 2011: If scientific tools are used in a critical way, it could be nice criteria in dicision-making. What we should be concerned about is blind faith in science. Sometimes, we forget science is one of imperfect ways of humans to view the world. As you can see in economic crisis in 2008, just one step before the huge catastrophe people couldn't realize (90% of them even recognize) the seriousness of financial crisis. They had believed their omnipotent mathematics(you know, a representative of science) could predict and control all kinds of risks. Maybe now, we should be more careful about the way to use science than before

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