Issue Date: September 7, 2009
Education & Science Viewpoint
I have read about the need to overhaul science education in the U.S. and about the conflict of evolution and intelligent design for several years. To me, these two items are related. Much of the science that I was taught in public school was what I now consider the "current status and history of science." Some years we were taught about the scientific method, but not much time was spent on it.
I performed a little survey recently asking about the scientific method. Both the new high school graduate and fellow scientists agreed that they learned about the scientific method around eighth or ninth grade and were able to remember the basic steps of the method with some thought and hints. The nonscientist had very vague memories of the lessons and no memories of the steps.
So much information is now easily available on the Internet. The tools that need to be taught now should be the scientific method, how it is used, and how to find the history and current status of a specific scientific topic in order to understand that topic. Of course, a certain amount of the "current status and history of science" needs to be taught to give a good foundation on which to build more knowledge about science. The lessons on the scientific method can start in first grade with simple experiments that show cause and effect, variables, and reproducibility. These lessons on the scientific method should be presented every year, possibly twice a year.
As students get older, the lessons can focus on an historical example early in the school year and on a current example later in the school year. I read several articles on graphene with interest, and I think graphene would be a great topic for the study of the scientific method in current research (C&EN, March 2, page 14, and May 11, page 31, for example). It would be fun having students use adhesive tape to try and duplicate one of the methods used to make thinner layers of graphite to make graphene.
How does this relate to evolution and intelligent design? Most Americans. do not remember the scientific method. Those of us who do can see that no reproducible research supports intelligent design, but that evolution has much research supporting it.
As children are better educated in the scientific method, maybe some who would not have chosen such a "geeky" subject will find science more appealing. I find the scientific method to be a very creative process when it comes to determining new questions and how to test them. Perhaps there is a future scientist who will be able to determine a way to test and create reproducible research on intelligent design. Maybe they just need to be shown the creative part of science.
Katherine L. Dudrick
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