The Corner

Re: Democrats and Science


You are right (now there’s a thing you don’t hear much here these days). Part of the problem is, I think, is that Kuhn and others introduced continental rationalism into the solidly empiricist tradition of science. That makes a “proper scientific attitude” much harder to discern, and also makes it easier to exploit for political ends (as Kuhn did, although I nevertheless think a lot of what he said is valuable).

That’s why if we want to educate people in science, I think we need to start with the history of science and technology. Tales of scientific discovery (preferably involving derring-do) introduce youngsters to the scientific method much better than a dry old text book (I could mention Darwin and the Beagle here, but Franklin and the kite will do just as well). If you learn how Archimedes, Galileo, Newton and Faraday discerned the world, and what spurred Da Vinci, Watt and Edison to invent things, then you’re more likely to have the scientific tradition imbued within you as you learn science. I’m not sure we can save the current generation from living in a world of 60s-induced befuddlement about what is and what isn’t, but we can work on the next.

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