These are the section headings in the article:
- Selfish scientists?
- Little room for curiosity
- Shattered ideals?
- The values of science
- Mad scientists
- Simple analysis generates simple solutions
- Major Swedish initiative
- Broadening the perspective
- Ways forward
- Culture and democracy
He says this of pupils who are attracted to the natural sciences:School science is overloaded with theory and 'correct answers' to questions that children never ask. The science presented in schools and tertiary institutions seldom encourages students to be critical and to challenge authority. Rather -- they are conditioning the learner to be uncritical and to accept authority. There is seldom room for independent investigations, critical thinking and scepticism. In most science teaching, philosophical implications and historical examples are at best anecdotal ornamentation -- at worst considered undesired and irrelevant babble. Students with an attraction to these aspects of science are likely to be frustrated with the science they encounter in schools and higher education.
He says the ideals of science imply that it is impersonal and objective, that the researchers maintain a distance from what they study, that they remain cold and rational, and that this is how science is communicated in textbooks:These pupils may be attracted by the historical accounts of how the daring thoughts of scientists challenged power and authority, secular as well as religious. They have heard about scientists who had to suffer for their heretical ideas. They have also read about scientists who obtained knowledge that was used to improve people's life. But alas, although this image of science may have been a defendable at earlier times in history, it is hardly a proper image of current science! Science has lost its innocence and its glory long ago, first in Hiroshima, later on various battlefields as well as in everyday life.
Today, the image is close to the opposite:
Almost all the suffering in the world is blamed on science and technology. Rightly or wrongly. Pollution, the ruthless exploitation of natural resources, the abuse of the environment. And the persons involved in science are not seen as anti-authoritarian heroes any longer. Scientists are seen to be in the pocket of industry, the state or the military. They are no longer considered brave and independent, but rather to be obedient servants for who-ever pays them. Perhaps not only a misunderstanding?
He noted how children describe their image of scientists through responses to questionnaires:As we can see, emotions, personal involvement and subjectivity have little place in the emerging image of science. If this ethos is seen to characterize not only science as an activity, but also scientists as persons, we are in trouble. If this happens, the battle to catch the souls and the minds of young people is lost -- very few would like to acquire the personal traits of this 'typical' scientist.
He believes the way scientific institutions (not necessarily every individual scientist) try to convey the value of science is patronising:Scientists are assigned 'positive' traits such as being intelligent, accurate and hard working. What is worse is that they are regarded as selfish, boring, unimaginative and authoritarian, particularly the physicists and engineers.
This is what he sees as the obstacle to improving the situation:They often believe the causes to be intellectual laziness, ignorance or lack of information. The solution becomes as simple as the analysis: We, the scientists, have to "enlighten" the unenlightened, make the blind see. We also have to become better at communicating our knowledge and our research. The task then becomes the creation of campaigns, which can get people to realise their ignorance and understand that scepticism and doubt are only based on ignorance and misunderstandings. With this sort of basis you are doomed to fail.
He notes that the cultural, philosophical, social and humanistic qualities of natural sciences are hardly mentioned in school textbooks. He says the answer may be to rewrite the curricula for Science & Technology. His concultion?In arguing for science as part of education, we have focussed on practical utility of science knowledge, and we have tried to transfer as much as possible of this knowledge to the reluctant student. This has been justified by
emphasising the practical value of this knowledge. But this argument does not hold water. In everyday life, we hardly make use of knowledge about fermions, genes or covalent bonds. It is almost impudent to claim that pure knowledge of the natural sciences will help people in everyday modern life. Nowadays 10-year-olds who do not know any science theory quickly learn to use personal computers, remote controls and mobile telephones -- while scientists may fumble...
*Mojo*Above all, any improvement requires that S&T professionals and academics accept that the problem is their own problem...