This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 01 table of contents.

The Role of Science

Science can be seen as the ultimate extension and development of critical thinking. Science is an institution devoted to identifying ideas of substance, treating them as maps for real-world action, then evaluating the results of such tests.

What idea is expressed by Popper and Polya?

Above all, science involves putting ideas to the test. Noted philosopher Karl Popper described the basic pattern of science as "conjection [speculation] and refutation." Putting it more simply, Stanford University mathematician George Polya said at the age of 90, "What is the scientific method except Guess and Test?" (Blakeslee, 1978)

How many students in big intro classes did not report great enjoyment of science classes?

The word "science," while familiar to all, does not automatically bring joy to the hearts of students. I asked two classes of over 250 students each to report anonymously whether they had ever taken a science course that they truly enjoyed. In one class, 57% said yes, 30% said "somewhat," and 12% said no. In the other class, 54% said yes, 28% said "somewhat," and 17% said no. That means nearly 40% of the students started college with less than inspiring experiences of science in their backgrounds. (The good news is that nearly 60% had positive experiences.)

How is science "remarkable"?

If you are one of the 40% whose early science courses were uninspiring, you might want to give science a fresh look at the college level. Science is a remarkable institution in our culture. It is international in scope and not limited by any particular religious, political, or philosophical belief system. It is powerful, relentless, accumulating more reliable knowledge each year. It is self-rejuvenating, continually re-checking and correcting yesterday's knowledge. The subject matter is unlimited. Science should not be boring! Whatever it is you find interesting about life, or about reality, science can help you study it and learn more about it.

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Copyright © 2007-2011 Russ Dewey