Grad Studies/Postdoctoral Training Available

COLLEEN M. SPECHT v102nq9f at ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu
Tue May 16 10:30:11 EST 1995


In article <800384099snz at longley.demon.co.uk>, David Longley <David at longley.demon.co.uk> writes:
>In article <3p087j$i8c at steele.ohsu.EDU> jonesmat at ohsu.edu "Matt Jones" writes:
>
><snip>
> 
>> The notion that scientists are able to understand *anything* that lay
>> people *can not* is not an indictment of lay people's lack of
>> understanding, but rather of scientists' poor teaching. The whole purpose
>> of science is to teach people things. That's why we have journals and
>> newsgroups. I suggest that if we want the luxury of doing the science
>> that *we* find most rewarding and interesting and important, then we will
>> have to become better at teaching the public why they should pay so many
>> of us to do it.
><snip>
>
>I just want to comment on this point for now. The thrust of my posting was that
>science is expressed in its own language, ideally mathematics. It  *cannot*  be
>translated into natural  language  most of the time because natural language is 
>not truth-functional. At best you can give another story. And that's where  the
>problem lies to a large part. Because of the 'indeterminacy of translation' see
>Quine (1960, 'Word and Object, ch 2), the layman will run off more  often  than
>not, with a completely different story than the one you told. We see  that  all
>the time in the popular press, and many of us resent those who make a few quick
>bucks selling the real work short.
>
>You  *cannot* educate  laymen  about  science  without  training  them   to  be 
>scientists!
>

hi you guys,

i want to remind all interested in this thread that it originated with a
question regarding how one might go about educating the lay public about
science.

i did not mean in that post that we had to teach people *how* to be
scientists, or teach them what scientists *do*.  rather i refer to how we can
educate nonscientists a bit about the value of science, and perhaps somewhat of
the process.

for example, i doubt many of us know what exactly a lawyer does on any given
day, or an accountant, or a banker, au pair, or tradesman.  however, there is a
general acceptance of these kinds of careers as *necessary*.  i think that this
is a *basic* element that science in general *needs* but *lacks* (if we are to
survive).  good god you guys, if washington doesn't get it, shouldn't we at
least *try* something?  or, since only very very few of us can understand the
intricacies of a Ph.D. 'area', would it be better to simply throw our arms up
and hide in our labs?

>Anyone who hs tried to talk to  intelligent,  educated friends about their PhD
>area *knows* this is (painfully) true.

dr. longley, believe it or not, i have had great luck explaining science to
people with only bachelor's degrees.  in fact, i can recall some semblance of
understanding from my grandmother (degree-less) once when she asked me what i
did every day.  i cannot believe that a carefully thought out response to this
question from *anybody* could not be useful.

i also have some friends in education who have invited me to give talks to
their classes, which i have found to be surprisingly well-received.  my
youngest audience was a group of third graders.  my my, did they impress *me*!

if it is not *us* who educate, who will do it for us?

(also, i am wondering if you might suggest for me (in case you are right about
the futility of any efforts to educate the lay public) another avenue to
explore.  i don't think the lack of understanding among the general public is
something that science can afford much longer, do you?

if i have misunderstood you, please let me know,

colleen specht



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