Skip to comments.Civic Science
Posted on 05/02/2006 4:37:41 PM PDT by RightWingAtheist
BACK IN 2001, Harvard president Lawrence Summers used his inaugural address to identify an especially significant problem he believed the university was facing. Harvard, said Summers, was failing to teach science to its undergraduates.
"We live in a society, and dare I say a university," Summers proclaimed, where few people would confess to not having read any plays by Shakespeare or to not knowing the meaning of the categorical imperative, but where it is all too common and all too acceptable not to know a gene from a chromosome or the meaning of exponential growth." With Summers-an accomplished economist not shy about touting the virtues of quantitative thinking-on the loose in Harvard Yard, that seemed likely to change.
Instead, when Summers leaves office this June, his vision of making all Harvard undergraduates more science-literate will remain unrealized. A special university committee installed to revamp the undergraduate curriculum declined to require new science classes. Certainly this outcome is partly due to Summers's own troubles at Harvard-including his loss of clout after making controversial remarks about women and science in 2005-as well as the institution's traditional resistance to change. Yet Harvard's lack of response to its president reveals a problem larger than local campus politics.
It is easy to say Americans, even those graduating from elite universities, lack scientific knowledge. But it is hard to define what science literacy consists of-and harder still to know how universities can impart it to, say, English majors. Does science literacy mean knowing a roster of facts or concepts? Having a sense of the scientific method? Appreciating the history and philosophy of science? Being competent in math, the lingua franca of the sciences? All of the above?
(Excerpt) Read more at boston.com ...
I have two degrees and took minimal science. I did learn enough to understand basic science issues and Michael Crichton novels.
I think that people in general need to have enough basic knowledge in science to get an idea of concepts like the shaky scientific basis for all the "global warming" nonsense; the relative risks involved in use of nuclear power vs. fossil fuels; the energy consequences of adding ethanol to gasoline; the environmental consequences of adding any oxygenated compounds to gasoline, for just a few.
His remarks were not controversial. They were made controversial by the hard left professors who wanted to get rid of him. It was similar to what happened to Trent Lott while ignoring Robert Byrd, what they do to Bush and Cheney while ignoring Clinton and Gore, what they did to DeLay while ignoring corrupt Democrats, and on and on.
If the media didn't make them serious, the lefts' claims would first be laughable and then boring, but instead they are made into crises rather than objectively considered.
Larry Summers got a raw deal from his leftist buddies and few have yet to correct the perception.
The left does not want a more literate populace. They want an indoctrinated populace.
I don't if this is worthy of pinging the entire crevo list, but I think the issue of public scientific literacy is relevant enough to most of you to merit a ping.
Good article, but probably not for the whole list. I'll ping "the few," which will overlap with many of those you've already pinged.
This problem goes back a long way. It has always been acceptable for non-science majors and faculty to not understand science, but it has always been required that scientist understand the arts, music, history, English, Psychology, Social Pseudoscience and a bevy of other fields.
Perhaps it is because science has the reputation of being "difficult" and perhaps it is the result of the incredible jargon overload in science and perhaps it is the scientists themselves.
But it has been that way for a long time.
Science is difficult! It takes study, research, quantitative thinking, all those kinds of things. Maybe even (shudder) mathematics!
Easier to be a lawyer or MBA.
(And that's just what the country needs is more lawyers and MBAs. Choke!)
When I tell people I was a physics major they go on and on about how they hated math/science and couldn't understand it. Others nod their heads approvingly.
Were I to say the same about literature, art, and music, they would see me as a uncultured barbarian. (But they still want me to fix their computers when they can't.)
Yes. Have you read "State of Fear?"
I give you Lynn Margulis, one of Evolution's most famous ladies and not bad looking when she was young. But she was also married to Carl Sagan and their pillow talk must have been very strange.
Here's some info:
However, you'd be better off just finding a woman that "fits" you - not an easy proposition. The kids will do what they want, but you can hope.
Hmmmmmm, now where have I heard that phrase before.....?
I recall that all Arts&Science majors at my (very typical) university were required to pass only very basic math (statistics) and of the 4 required elective categories, only 1 spanned the 'hard sciences' (and joke courses like 'Physical Science 101' passed as part of this requirement).
Tell me, what's typically more difficult - a 300-level mathematics class (like differential equations) or a 300-level history class?
If you ask me, a college program in psychology, art, sociology, history, English, philosophy, etc. should be just as rigorous as ones in the hard sciences (and they could be) - might go a long way to restoring credibility to those fields and weed out the potentially unqualified. People that can't handle it shouldn't major in one of the 'classical subjects'.
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