Most Americans support science because:
A) The scientific method allows scientists to learn the Truth. B) All Americans are fascinated by science.
C) All Americans are bored silly by science.
D) Science has helped make our lives easier, safer, etc.
E) All scientists are sexy.
Feedback: Without science and technology, the great majority of us would be dead, so we tend to be supporters of science. Although we know that science works, we’re never sure that it is completely right. Students so often discover things that professors missed, or that professors got wrong, that scientists would be silly to claim Truth. Comparing the TV ratings of the latest hit to the ratings of the latest science program on public broadcasting shows that many Americans are not fascinated by science, but the science-show ratings are above zero, so some people are fascinated by science. And hope as we might, it is unfortunately clear that not every scientist is sexy (just most of them are…). Points Earned: 1.0/1.0
A scientist gains knowledge about how the world works, and uses that information to successfully predict what will happen in an experiment. This proves that the scientist’s knowledge is: A) True; you can’t get it right unless you know what is going on. B) Lucky; no one knows what is going on, so only lucky people get things right. C) Close; no one really knows what is going on, but people sort of know. D) Cheating.
E) One or more of True, lucky, or close to being true (or cheating), but we can’t tell which.
Feedback: If you guessed “heads” before a coin flip, and it came up heads, that would NOT prove that you can predict all coin flips; you will get half of such guesses correct by chance. You might be cheating, you might be lucky, or you might have figured something out. Points Earned: 0.0/1.0
Newton’s ideas on physics “won”, and Aristotle’s ideas were kicked out of science and over into history. Why? A) Newton’s ideas were more elegant, and so were intellectually favored. B) Newton’s ideas did a better job of predicting how nature would behave. C) Newton’s ideas appealed to dead white European males, whereas Aristotle’s didn’t. D) Newton’s ideas appealed to dead white European males, whereas Aristotle’s didn’t because Aristotle wore a toga all the time. E) Newton won the Nobel prize.
Feedback: Unlike painting or literature, scientific inquiry has a well-defined procedure for figuring out if Newton's ideas are better or if Aristotle had it right all along. In looking at a painting, we can ask different people what they think, or we can make up our own mind on whether we like it or not, and that is perfectly valid. In science, we have to ask: does the idea fit with the way the world works? Can I predict the speed of a falling object better using Newton's ideas or Aristotle's? As it turns out, Aristotle’s ideas didn’t predict things very well, and Newton’s did. Points Earned: 1.0/1.0
When scientists agree that a particular scientific theory is a good one, and the scientists use that theory to help make new things, cure diseases, etc., that "agreement" came about because: A) A single experiment had an outcome that was well-predicted by that theory. B) A number of different experiments by different people all had outcomes that were well-predicted by the theory. C) That's what it says in all the books.
D) A single, well-respected scientist put forward the idea. E) The Nobel prize committee gave the inventor of the idea a lot of money.
Feedback: Agreement on scientific theories is a contentious, drawn-out, and sometimes acrimonious business. Scientists are no better (and no worse!) than everybody else: we think we are right and those who disagree with us...