Section 5 of the NOS part of the guide (page 11) is all about how science is perceived by the general public. I like this section of the course as it deals with (amongst other things) biases, fallacies, pseudo science and the correct terminology.
In this months National Geographic magazine there is a great article all on this topic (March 2015, page 30 – 47, ‘The Age of Disbelief‘).
Statements such as ‘a third of American’s believe humans have existed in their present from since time began’ (page 41) and ‘less than half of all American’s believe the Earth is warming because humans are burning fossil fuels’ (page 45) really catch your eye and make you think, is this really possible? Is this really true?
Well, apparently it is and I think this is a really sobering thought or statement to hit your classes with.
Why don’t you ask them ‘have humans been in their present form since time began?’ and ‘is the Earth warming due to humans burning fossil fuels?’ these two questions and look at the responses your students make (I hope, 100% of them will answer ‘no’ and then ‘yes’!)
Image reproduced according to the licence at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang#mediaviewer/File:Universe_expansion2.png.*
I would then show them the answers above – your students will probably be shocked to begin with but then ask your students to consider why the public has responded in such a way. Is it due to a lack of education, the media, misinterpreted questions or something different.
The next question is to ask your students how we go about changing this? How can we ensure that the public is aware of correct and (what may seem to us) simple scientific knowledge.
A third important question (possibly controversial) is to ask does it matter? Is it the job of scientists to worry about these things and not the general public (this seems a little arrogant to me but I stand to be corrected on this).
i think as teacher the challenge we have with regards to this is where do we fit it into the course. The bulk of this information relates specifically to NOS statements 5.3, 5.4, 5.5. Whilst statements 5.4 and 5.5 are covered in the guide, 5.3 isn’t. I do wonder if these is some scope for fitting it in through a G4P …. Although that is about as far as I have got with this idea!
If you are looking for related resources, there is a great BBC TV series called ‘Horizon’ – a few years ago they released an episode titled ‘Science Under Attack’ that touch on themes similar to those above. It is very well made and worth a look – it deals with the ‘Climate Gate’ scandal and other related misconceptions with regards to science. You can find it on you tube or by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awkP5_n_YS8
I hope you enjoy the documentary. As ever, it would be great to read your thoughts and ideas with regards to this topic.
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