May 3, 2010

Can Science Education Work?

Scienceeducation3.jpgTaner Edis recently posted a fairly dismal take on science education over at the Secular Outpost. I really want to reject it, but I can't shake the feeling that much of it is correct. After noting that surveys consistently show that public distrust of science remains high in matters of paranormal and supernatural phenomena, Taner wrote:
People like me, who are deeply involved in science education, often think that all we have to do is improve scientific literacy...and a better educated population will come to see that trust in science is well-warranted. Then we'll have fewer people believing in ghosts and psychic powers, creationism, occult conspiracies, anti-vaccination paranoia, climate change denial, Scientology, etc. etc...But such hopes themselves might be more faith-based than empirically well-supported.
Man, that really hits home. As someone who is often astounded by the low levels of scientific literacy among college students, I fear that Taner may be on to something here. It does feel like we have been fighting a losing battle for a long time.

Still, I am not ready to give up. Perhaps what is called for is a change of tactics. Maybe it is time we realize that we are going to need to do more than try to improve science education in order to erode superstition. Don't we owe it to humanity to at least try? In any case, I cannot go along with Taner's suggestion that we simply bow out and "pretend that science plays perfectly nice with religion."

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