Saturday, August 7, 2010

An Argument for a Dramatic Improvement in the Science Education of Our Children

The technological wonders of the modern age are quite spectacular. One of the most profound of these is the Hubble telescope. Many human lives are saved and horrific diseases are averted daily due to the great strides made in the arena of health and medicine. The additional examples that could be cited are too numerous to mention here. Technological improvements are a direct outcome of the application of scientific enquiry and discovery.

The human world is beset with many problems that demand solution – the most urgent of these being climate change. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports this contention, including:

•Record setting high temperatures during the last ten years
•Erratic, severe and unusual weather conditions
•Increase in the frequency and severity of forest fires
•Increased acidity in the world’s oceans that has impacted the health of coral, phytoplankton and shelled creatures especially oyster larvae
•Melting and receding of glaciers worldwide
•Melting of the ice in the Arctic Ocean during the summer months.

The science that has established the relationship between the increased concentration of carbon dioxide and methane, the so-called greenhouse gases, resulting from human activity is clear and irrefutable.

In spite of these data, there is a marked resistance in this country to accept not only the obvious implication of these observations, but the meaningfulness of the observations themselves. This, to me, is extremely disturbing, for inaction or lack of sufficient resolve to confront this issue will inevitably result in disastrous consequences for future generations.

This inability to grasp the urgency of the issues that confront us is a direct result of the failure to educate our children in the realm of science. Science has some essential characteristics that make it exceedingly well suited for problem solving. It is cooperative effort; scientific advances are a direct result of strides made by investigators in the past as well as the present. Science depends on a growing body of knowledge; it builds upon all that has been already discovered. In addition, the scientific process is open-minded; any hypothesis or law must fit the data that is accumulated through observation. If new data does not fit the interpretation then the conclusions need to be modified to accommodate the newly acquired facts. Science requires a rigorous thought process that relies on higher-order functions in the human brain.

In my judgment, it is not possible to meet the challenges we face in this technologically-driven world without a sufficiently adequate education in the sciences. We have failed abysmally in this regard in the United States. Ignorance is not bliss by any stretch of the imagination. Ignorance will inevitably lead to erroneous conclusions and ultimate disaster.

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