Friday, January 30, 2009

Prince Alberts!

The first author came today. THE first author (even if it is listed just aplhabetically). The man whose name comes first on the book Molecular Biology of THE CELL (the holy grail for undergrad and grad biology students) came to visit Duke today! Bruce Alberts is every grad student's hero (and enemy for making such a big book). He's also now the editor in chief of science magazine and on a bajillion (his word) committees.I went to a luncheon and spoke up about science education with him before his lecture this afternoon about how to better teach science in our country.
One of the most interesting points he made is that, after a focus group study with college educated adults, the participants saw little difference between knowledge revealed in the bible and knowledge revealed in a science textbook. Crazy, huh? These college educated people accepted the knowledge in science books as coming from an authority just like 'knowledge' from the bible comes from an authority. Except that nothing could be further from the truth.

Science is about observing the world around, asking questions, forming hypotheses to answer those questions, figuring out the predictions those answers would make, and testing whether those predictions come true. Religion and faith don't test hypotheses or make predictions (well, only the really loony ones make predictions, and then not based on evidence). The problem is that even college educated adults are not taught to fully appreciate what science is, how it works, or where knowledge really comes from - empirical reasoning and experimentation. Inquiry based learning is the only way knowledge is acquired - and it is solely dependent on evidence, something religion seems to scorn.

After he spoke at lunch I quickly jumped up and got him to sign my very own copy of the book - 4th edition.

Now when I read it I'll absorb the information so much better ... or just get the newer edition online and read about all the mistakes.

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