.In this WIRED article, a scientifically illiterate writer explains "science literacy". It's as horrid as you'd expect. He preaches the Aristotelian version of science that Galileo proved wrong centuries ago. His thesis is that science isn't about knowing scientific facts, but being able to think scientifically. He then claims that thinking scientifically is all about building models of how the world works.
This is profoundly wrong. Science is about observation and experimental testing of theories.
For example, consider the following question. If you had two balls of the same size, one made of lead and the other made of wood, and you dropped them at the same time, which would hit the ground first (ignoring air resistance)? For thousands of years Aristotelian scientists claimed that heavier objects fell faster, purely by reasoning about the problem. It wasn't until the time of Galileo that scientists conducted the experiment and observed that these balls hit the ground at the same time. In other words, all objects fall at the same speed, regardless or size or weight (ignoring air resistance). Feathers fall as fast as lead on the moon. If you don't believe me, drop different objects from a building and observe for yourself.
Likewise, Aristotle taught that men had more teeth than women, you know, because that makes logical sense. Galileo first got in trouble with the "scientists" of his time by actually asking people to open their mouths and counting their teeth. As it turns out, men and women have the same number of teeth.
The point here is that science is based on observation, not pure reason. Doing science means either understanding the observations made by previous scientists (i.e. "facts") or making the observations yourself. Doing science means making predictions based on theories, then conducting experiments to see if the prediction is correct. There is no science without observation.
The WIRED writer poses a similar question about a fan pushing an object across a frictionless surface. It's a silly question because, presumably, we are supposed to assume air exists for the fan to work, but that air doesn't exist to slow things down. In any event, you can't really reason about this without first learning the scientific theories of "mass" and Newtonian equations like F=MA. These theories were developed based on observation. The writer demands that to "do science" means approaching this problem from an Aristotelian method of reasoning, divorced from previous scientific observations.
entire face of the cube is either all light or all dark, unlike a sphere which gets partially lit
Scientific literacy starts with understanding what science is, namely that it's based on observation, coming up with theories/hypotheses to explain the observations, then relentlessly testing those theories, trying to prove them wrong. Secondly, scientific literacy means learning the observations made by scientists over the last few hundred years. We don't have to come up with F=MA or the speed-of-light ourselves, but learn from previous scientists. Believing in Evolution doesn't make you scientifically literate, understanding radioisotope dating and rock strata does.
What this WIRED article highlights is that Aristotelian science illiteracy is so pervasive it even infects science writers at major publications. What you should do about this is pick up a book and try to cure your own illiteracy. Really, any high-school textbook should do.
On the other hand, Aristotelian Science is still relevant today – theoretical physics relies heavily on it to develop theories based on a multitude of anecdotes and logical reasoning.
Just one example is the theory of relativity.
"Science is about observation and experimental testing of theories."
I think it is hypotheses that are tested. Theories are the result of that testing. Theories are, or in science should be, hypotheses that could be falsified, but were not.
Perhaps I am being too picky though.
Although i do dislike the nebulous term of "science" (buts this is a gripe against society not this article) as if its a definite thing, rather than a collection of techniques and abstractions to extract fundamental patterns from a system under observation, for the same reasons i dislike "security" when used as if its a concrete tangible state rather than a philosophy that should pervade through every aspect of a design/system/implementation/organization.
In short, you dont DO science, much like you dont DO security, rather you practice the dicipline's and apply the principles.
Nevertheless, there are number of rational constructs that are apparently non-observable but play a role in science. For example, Cantor's notions of multiple infinities. Your pure view of experimental science tends to ignore the question, "where do the hypotheses come from?" Maybe more important, it has tended to relegate rational thought to a tainted domain, throwing out the baby with the wash.
Could you please elaborate? I don't get it.
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