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How bad is science knowledge in the US?

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  • How bad is science knowledge in the US?

    Would you believe 1 in 4 don't know the earth revolves around the sun?

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2014/02/16/...-orbits-earth/

    It's even worse in Europe, where 1 in 3 got that wrong.

  • #2
    “What the deuce is it to me?" he interrupted impatiently: "you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Paprika View Post
      “What the deuce is it to me?" he interrupted impatiently: "you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”
      "A Study in Scarlet," if I remember correctly.

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      • #4
        Yes. I think the point brought up is strong. Unless the lack of certain scientific knowledge will cause harm, I don't see why there should be an implicit requirement that people 'know' certain privileged science facts, which often is equivalent to 'scientists say so, therefore it is so'.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Paprika View Post
          Yes. I think the point brought up is strong. Unless the lack of certain scientific knowledge will cause harm, I don't see why there should be an implicit requirement that people 'know' certain privileged science facts, which often is equivalent to 'scientists say so, therefore it is so'.
          "Strong"? This is general stuff that is taught in third grade. This is most certainly not "privileged science," nor does it require specialized knowledge.

          And remember, the quote was premised on the notion (considered false even then) that a person's mind only had a limited amount of space (and was, more to the point, meant to indicate Holmes's eccentricities). Why would one seek to follow an idea that was based on a false premise?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Outis View Post
            And remember, the quote was premised on the notion (considered false even then) that a person's mind only had a limited amount of space (and was, more to the point, meant to indicate Holmes's eccentricities). Why would one seek to follow an idea that was based on a false premise?
            It was also premised on the utility of the knowledge to the specific knower.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Paprika View Post
              It was also premised on the utility of the knowledge to the specific knower.
              Hmmm ... so knowledge should only be acquired if it has utility to the person?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Outis View Post
                Hmmm ... so knowledge should only be acquired if it has utility to the person?
                That's not my perspective. Rather, if the knower perceives no utility in the knowledge, why should he be expected to retain it?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                  That's not my perspective. Rather, if the knower perceives no utility in the knowledge, why should he be expected to retain it?
                  A valid point, perhaps ... but the idea frankly depresses me.

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                  • #10
                    Considering the demographics of the children the USA has to work with compared to Europe, this is high praise indeed. But absent more information on the issue, I'm not really going to take this study at face value.

                    After all, it did appear in Time Magazine:

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                      That's not my perspective. Rather, if the knower perceives no utility in the knowledge, why should he be expected to retain it?
                      The big problem with that approach is that we live in a world where more and more we are leaning on science and technology for our quality of life. If you don't understand the basics of the science and technology you won't be able to make informed decisions on important scientific and technical matters. The saddest example today is with AGW deniers. People who don't understand even high school level physics are getting conned by all of the BS propaganda generated by the oil and gas company lobbies.

                      Bill Nye the Science Guy made this his number one point in his recent "debate" with Creationist Ken Ham. Believing in special Creation may not harm us much but having a scientifically illiterate voting populace will kill us as a country.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by HMS_Beagle View Post
                        The big problem with that approach is that we live in a world where more and more we are leaning on science and technology for our quality of life. If you don't understand the basics of the science and technology you won't be able to make informed decisions on important scientific and technical matters. The saddest example today is with AGW deniers. People who don't understand even high school level physics are getting conned by all of the BS propaganda generated by the oil and gas company lobbies.

                        Bill Nye the Science Guy made this his number one point in his recent "debate" with Creationist Ken Ham. Believing in special Creation may not harm us much but having a scientifically illiterate voting populace will kill us as a country.
                        I agree that in some contexts, there is social utility in some scientific knowledge, though individuals may not perceive utility in them. But I would argue that not all scientific knowledge has such utility.

                        Tell me, what do you mean by 'scientific literacy'? What parts of science are necessary to become minimally 'literate'? What are the necessary basics? Newtonian mechanics? Atomic theory? Some kind of quantum conception?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                          I agree that in some contexts, there is social utility in some scientific knowledge, though individuals may not perceive utility in them. But I would argue that not all scientific knowledge has such utility.

                          Tell me, what do you mean by 'scientific literacy'? What parts of science are necessary to become minimally 'literate'? What are the necessary basics? Newtonian mechanics? Atomic theory? Some kind of quantum conception?
                          I would say, at the very least, some knowledge of how to separate science from pseudoscience, and sufficient background knowledge to avoid hucksters who attempt to propagate pseudoscience.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Outis View Post
                            I would say, at the very least, some knowledge of how to separate science from pseudoscience, and sufficient background knowledge to avoid hucksters who attempt to propagate pseudoscience.
                            Agreed. I would also say some medical knowledge is essential.

                            But for example, from a layman's perspective, the truth about the AGW controversy will require sifting through the data and the models, which requires skills and knowledge that is not basic. I don't think I can come up with a workable solution to that, but I think that on such technical (scientific, economic) issues laymen without the requisite knowledge should not vote.

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                            • #15
                              People are ignorant in general. I can link you to dozens of these videos asking questions of people on just about everything that might be considered pretty important. I saw one video where the interviewer led people to believe that JFK had just recently died. It actually scared me. There was also another video where the guy made people support everything Romney stood for because the guy told them it was what Obama stood for.
                              "I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole, it was like... we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." - Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State (source).

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