I find it so interesting that very few people (atheists, agnostics, christians, skeptics, and the apathetic) pay lip service to science, i.e. science proves “x” or scientist A says “y” but scientist B says “not ‘y'” and very few people actually know how or why “x” is proven or why “y” is or is not true. What is science? How is it used? From whence has this come?
“Science” is from the latin scio, scire meaning “to know” and more specifically, from scientia meaning “knowledge.” It is used to describe a process (scientific method, “doing science”) and a body of knowledge (such as biological science and physical science). In this, I will only cover the process as the body of knowledge stems from this process. The strength of discovering with this method lies in reproducibility. It is a fundamental requirement that experiments performed under identical circumstances will yield similar results. This aspect of science is what makes it useful. The down side to this is that all this testing and experimenting is very time consuming and may also not yield any useful results. For this reason, many politicians see investing in scientific research as a waste of money. What they fail to realize, however, is that the scientific method is the only method which provides reproducible (read: useful) results.
How should science be taught? Should we go from the “bottom up” teaching the method and experimental techniques first then covering the specific details or should it be “top down” with the body of facts demonstrating how the method has worked? Should we cover information historically, in a narrative form, or should it be by relevance to modern understanding? I will not pretend to have the answer to this question, although I can posit alternatives to all of these. Rather than wasting time teaching students mountains of facts which, frankly, many will never use, we should instead teach them how to read scientific literature by walking them through the methods used in specific experiments. Children will remember something better if they understand how we know it. For example:
How do we know the chemical structure of DNA?
How do we know what causes certain diseases?
How do we know what certain cells do?
If we explain the epistemology in an interesting way, it is both more entertaining than a series of facts and they still get the facts. It is both “top down” and “bottom up” at the same time. It could be explained “bottom up teaching (history first) from the top down (facts first).” Most scientific review articles are notorious for providing mountains of background information regarding the specific research. These would make excellent teaching tools for students of all ages.
Our scientific educational system needs to change to engage students rather than swamp them. Science is, after all, a method, let us demonstrate how and why it works rather than the finished products.