The Importance of Science Literacy

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What is the difference between science and opinion? If science is so great, why do they use words like ?theory? instead of “fact”?

Science is a way of thinking

You may think of it in its specific fields like biology or physics, but science is a foundational way of thinking that is not concerned with the actual topic of research.

Neil deGrasse Tyson stated, ?science illiteracy is a threat to a nation.? This sounds like hyperbole, but it is a clarion call to the decline of progress. Science is necessary for every area we depend on to move forward as a people. From technology to medicine, science literacy is the language we should all be speaking.

To move forward, let?s begin with some basics and dispel some faulty thinking:

The Scientific Method is not just for experiments

In school, we learn that scientists address problems in society by beginning to ask questions. Why do ice cream sales go up during times where there are more crimes? Why do some stars move from side to side instead of staying fixed? Why do some people become addicts? When is the best time to grow tomatoes? These questions lead the scientist to do research in those areas to see mathematical patterns.

From this research, the scientist begins to develop hypotheses which are predictive statements: There is a significant positive relationship between ice cream sales and crime rates. The Dopaminergic system is involved in the addiction process. Gravity is causing the movement of the stars that move from side to side. They then test those hypotheses by creating experiments that try to control for bias, error and confounding variables. The results are reported without regard to whether their predictions were right. From the results, whether positive or negative, they can begin to infer some things. Theories come from many proven hypotheses and then those theories are tested again and again. The difference between opinion and science is that science is open to changing how they think based on new information.

Math is your friend

We need math for every area of our life. The common myth is that we never use higher maths like algebra or geometry except for in high school. Truth is, we use math every single day. From parking your car and grocery shopping, you are using math skills. Math concepts such as the transitive property (if a=b and b=c then a=c), are used without regard to their origins. Oh, and as long as we are talking about facts, math phobias are not a real thing. You are not pathologically afraid of math. It is less of a fear, and more of a belief in your own incompetency due to a previous life experience.

Good Science vs Opinion and Fake Science

When we are reading about a new tech or concept, should we automatically believe what we read? Anyone can have a website and the intention for disseminating information may or may not be pure. Biased information is clogging the world wide web and people need to become more discerning on what is read and shared. The Librarians at Chico State University in California developed the CRAAP test. CRAAP stands for:

  • Currency ? This refers to the timeliness of the information. (When was it posted?)
  • Relevance- This refers to importance of the information. (What are they reporting and is it pertinent to your research.)
  • Authority- This refers to the authors. (Who wrote this?)
  • Accuracy- This refers to reliability and validity of the information. (Peer review? Spelling?)
  • Purpose- The reason the information is there. (Did the author have a bias?)

Whether it is the flat earthers or someone with a political agenda, the lack of scientific literacy is the death knell of progress. Do your part and become a consumer of good science. Ask questions! Form hypotheses! Do research! Encourage your family and friends to do the same.

If you come up with a cool idea for some research in the area of space lifestyle, leave a comment. Who knows? It may lead to a scientific breakthrough!

 

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