Science Literacy, and Democracy…

Derived from Carl Sagan in “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark,” on Skeptic.com: Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (infographic)

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Education, Existentialism, Human Rights, Politics

“The human understanding is no dry light, but receives infusion from the will and affections; whence proceed sciences which may be called ‘sciences as one would.’ For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride; things not commonly believed, out of the deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.” Sir Francis Bacon, NOVUM ORGANON (1620)

“A clairvoyance gap with adversary nations is announced, and the Central Intelligence Agency, under Congressional prodding, spends tax money to find out whether submarines in the ocean depths can be located by *thinking hard* at them.”

Both quotes from “The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle in the Dark,” chapter 12 – “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” Sir Francis Bacon’s quote is in the chapter intro.

The steps of the scientific method go something like this:
1. Make an observation or observations. 2. Ask questions about the observations and gather information. 3. Form a hypothesis — a tentative description of what’s been observed, and make predictions based on that hypothesis. 4. Test the hypothesis and predictions in an experiment that can be reproduced. 5. Analyze the data and draw conclusions; accept or reject the hypothesis or modify the hypothesis if necessary. 6. Reproduce the experiment until there are no discrepancies between observations and theory. Source: Live Science – Science & the Scientific Method

Writing a physics and nano blog, one wants the audience (be they somewhat limited), to catch on to the central theme of the weblog: science, and the promotion of science literacy, for citizens of this country, and since this is the web, Earth.

SCIENCE IS FOR ALL STUDENTS. This principle is one of equity and excellence. Science in our schools must be for all students: All students, regardless of age, sex, cultural or ethnic background, disabilities, aspirations, or interest and motivation in science, should have the opportunity to attain high levels of scientific literacy.

Scientific literacy implies that a person can identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed.

National Science Education Standards (1996), Chapter 2: Principles and Definitions, National Academies Press

This blog is a continuing, meaningful discussion about scientific and technological literacy (STL), and its importance in fostering a society of informed citizens – indeed, a prerequisite for participatory democracy – conversant in emerging fields as consumers and eventual future participant contributors. In the language of scripture, I would like to “begat” citizens versed in technology that want to research, discover, and publish in it. For a world so impacted by it, it is imperative we’re all versed in it, scientists, engineers, artists, and lay citizens alike.

We have gone through a dizzying four-year experiment with technology and authoritarianism. No less than Foreign Affairs (Does Technology Favor Tyranny?) has studied the impact. It was fostered by a birther lie, and technology (Twitter). Though I doubt the current flailing will change election results, we have a number of citizens, in the words of Tom Nichols, who voted for the sociopath. Some of our fellow citizens “created their own realities” (Karl Rove), or delved in “alternative facts” (Kellyanne Conway). His political party could stop him, but they’re too cowardly, afraid of him and his base. Sadly, these are NOT their constituents: most members of Congress are multimillionaires, worth well over the salaries we pay them. They serve, for want of a better term, American Oligarchs (Andrea Bernstein), and the businesses they give endless tax breaks to.

E Pluribus Unum is probably the first Latin phrase you’ve ever heard, or read: “out of many, one.” It’s the nation’s motto, and poetic, but in the era of news feeds, echo chambers, and social media groups, E Pluribus Multis is more illustrative and quite apropos.

We must depart, somehow, in the next succession of days, from the false empowerment of divisive Multis, into a future fully embracing science literacy, and Unum for the survival of the species. Our baloney detection kits must be tuned to high gear.

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”

“We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

We owe it to Carl’s grandkids, and our children’s futures, to get this right.

Published by reginaldgoodwin

Engineering Physics, Bachelors of Science, December 1984 Microelectronics & Photonics, Graduate Certificate, February 2016 Nanoengineering, Masters, December 2019 Nanoengineering, Ph.D., December 2021

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