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Mtl_zack's avatar

Is science playing too big a role in the world?

Asked by Mtl_zack (6751points) September 23rd, 2008

in quebec, every student has to take a class called research methods. basically, you learn that science is good and abstract thoughts are bad. you even learn how to answer abstract questions using math. this is horrifying to me, because there is only one way to interpret math. sooner or later, everyone will become a drone, thinking how the universe was created in the same way. science makes us think that there is only 1 possible solution, but there are many possible solutions for every person on earth. interpretation is basically banned in science.

there are some questions that cant be answered by science, and if under a rare circumstance, one of those questions is answered due to science, we would be dissapointed because we can’t interpret numbers in our own ways.

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18 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Mon cher Mtl_Zack, au contraire. I am regularly disappointed at how often today people substitute their, often uninformed and ill-considered, opinions for facts.

I am regularly distressed by how little credence is given to fact, to logic, to science as we fall rapidly backward to tribal and fear-based mentalities that equate contrived conspiracy theories with the historic record.

What is needed is a lot more critical thinking skill teaching.

All of the above said, science is not, of course, the answer to everything in the world. On the whole, however, it is no longer being given its due.

augustlan's avatar

There is no such thing as too much logic, too much reason. That said, the heart should also play a huge role in life.

Mtl_zack's avatar

but should we be learning abstract ideas such as abortion and gay marriage in scientific form, as my class does? i agree, that there are many things that science helps with. however, there are many things that cannot and should not be thought of in a scientific way.

we had to do a “burning building” exercise where we had to choose from 11 people who had different personalities and jobs, who we would save first from the burning building. we all came up with different answers, and then, to our dismay, the teacher pulls out a slide that shows the “correct” order to take out the people. this guide was thought of by using pure logic. the pedophile was saved 3rd because he had a high paying job at a hospital as an oncologist and had 3 kids and an unemployed wife, as well as living parents. the argument was that he can help other people by saving lives using his profession, he could contribute to the economy with his salary, he has people who depend on him, and his wife could not take care of the children because she has no income. if i were his daughter who was sexually manipulated, i would not save him from the fire, but from an outsiders perspective, he is # 3 to be saved.

think about the above example, and tell me if the daughter should have saved her father, or let him burn.

girlofscience's avatar

Research Methods is not about the mutilation of abstract thought; it builds the foundations for the beauty of scientific thinking.

No amount of science in the world could be too much. Science is far from overrated and may continue to be for a long time.

I can’t even say more about this topic because I am appalled and tired.

augustlan's avatar

@Zack: That seems like an exercise for philosophy or ethics class, not science. That’s why I was saying logic has a definite role in life, but the heart must be listened to as well.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Mtl—Your answer, along with too many other factors to name here, is the type of thing my husband and I have vowed our son (and future children-hopefully) won’t be exposed to.

We’re homeschooling.

As for your question. As I was growing up, I was told many times by teachers that my answer was wrong. Then, I’d go over how I came to the conclusion I had, or bring in a book and discuss how my book contradicted the lesson. Only to be told that the answer in their Teascher’s manual was the correct one. (this applied to science, english, history-etc)

There are so many ways to interpret everything in life…including how to accomplish one’s goals at work or in a relationship.

Nimis's avatar

Your class sounds interesting—if it were voluntary.
As something you have to take, it sounds a little fucked up.

Les's avatar

Even if this class is mandatory, as I suspect it is based on your lack of enthusiasm for it, I still think it sounds like a fantastic class. As many have said above, I believe that science and scientific reasoning is not taught enough in our schools (and by ‘our’, I mean the US. I don’t know what Canada’s curriculum is like.). People seem to have no problem with their kids taking art classes to learn how to express themselves, social sciences to learn about why the world is the way it is and the ways in which past events have lead to where we are now, or English classes to learn how simply by mentioning a rose was red, an entire description of the antagonist’s attitude and feelings can be unveiled.

And it is for good reason parents have no problem with their children taking these classes. They are important. Vital, I may even say.

But when it comes to thinking critically, being able to make a guess, test it out and get a result, parents (and apparently, students as well) cringe. There are some things in life that a mathematical, or ‘analytical’ thought may not suffice. Such as choosing what color to paint a field of flowers. But there are some things which require having the resources available for rational thought. I personally believe that the two examples you gave (abortion and gay marriage) are just the sort of topics that require rationality, and not emotion. To be able to analyze both these subjects, make lists of the pros and cons of allowing them, test out theories, create new theories, is what has been lacking in this country (and the world), and what we so desperately need.

And one last thing. I do not believe that analytical thought and creative thought requires separation. You mention that with more “research methods” type classes, we may become drones. Well, what if we stopped teaching classes like that, and only focused on the humanities. Would we then be drones as well? I think so. I think that any quality educational system should realize the importance of teaching their students as much as they possibly can about everything, so that in the end, their students can think, create, analyze, feel and know for themselves.

Nimis's avatar

If they were simply acquiring tools of logic, sure.
But it sounds more like they’re learning a way of thinking.

And while I agree with that way of thinking,
I think it should be a personal choice.

Les's avatar

Why not give them one more way of thinking? Why not allow students to see that there are multiple ways of looking at the world around themselves? Every class a student will take teaches her a way of thinking. This class is no different, as far as I can tell. Classes are meant to give students tools for the future. Where is the harm in giving these students one more tool?

Nimis's avatar

I’m concerned that this class isn’t presented
as just one of many possible ways of thinking.

From how the question/narrative is phrased,
it sounds as if it is presented as the only way?

Les's avatar

Well, (and by the way, I’m not arguing with you, Nimis) then this particular school didn’t do a good enough job teaching the other ways of thinking, now did it?

Nimis's avatar

Yes, therein lies the problem.
Arguing? Didn’t think that we were. :)

Les's avatar

Ok, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t think I was arguing with you. You make a very good point. ;-)

wundayatta's avatar

There are many methods for attaining knowledge in this world. They don’t all work very well. Knowledge allows you to more accurately predict the results of any action taken. The scientific method, since it assumes nothing, seems to be the most effective learning method.

Math is just another symbolic language. We use it to analyze various situations. However, it can only go so far in terms of concrete relationships (where an action always results in the same result). Most relationships between actions and results are probabilistic. 40% of the time when I do X, the result is Y, the rest of the time, the result might be Z, A, or B. So don’t worry, there will be no drones. There is much room for interpretation in numbers. There is much that numbers don’t explain.

Just remember that numbers are the same as words. If we didn’t use numbers, we could still describe relationships between things in words. It would just take longer. Numbers can be used to streamline the discussion. They do not bring us any certainty, however.

I guess what I’m saying is that your understanding of science and scientific method, and math and statistics is very incomplete. If you knew more, you couldn’t ask the question you asked.

When you say that there are some questions that can’t be answered by scientific investigation, how can you know that? Sure there are things that we do not yet have adequate explanations for, but this does not mean we won’t ever get such explanations.

Religion is another way of gathering knowledge. In Christianity, for some versions of it, they say all the knowledge they need is in the Bible. The Bible explains everything. Some religions say that there is a lot we don’t know, but our deity knows. We may never be able to know, because we can’t be the deity. If you belong to such a religion, then you look for truth in your holy book, and you distrust information gathered by making hypotheses, gather data to test those hypotheses, and either supporting them (though not proving them completely), or disproving them. Such a system knows too little (although you call it too much). So some religious people need a God to give them the feeling that even though there’s a lot they don’t know, they have a benevolent deity watching out for them, and that deity knows what its doing.

So, to answer your question: No, science is not playing too big a role in the world. In fact, it plays too little a role.

Jreemy's avatar

Science plays too small of a role in the world. It does sound a bit extreme to think that any abstract thoughts are bad, but too many abstract thoughts have been known to cause harm. Seriously, when was the last time we had a war over what the particular value for a number is? Logic often leads to the suffering of fewer people. Abstract thought, in moderation, is ok though. Without the ability to think outside the box, advancement can be slowed. I suppose it all depends on what kind of abstract thought you mean. But in short, no, science is not playing too large of a role in the world.

marinelife's avatar

Some of this material does not actually sound like science or the scientific method. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. i think the teacher is taking liberties. I think there are better ways to teach critical thinking skills. i do not agree with the burning building answer or calling the class’ repsonses wrong.

siouxdax's avatar

Absolutely not. If anything science needs to be more of a role in our everyday lives.

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