LECTURE                                         SCIENCE IS.....

In this lecture you will learn:

Science is not a collection of facts, it is the actual process of discovering the rules that govern the physical universe. The rules of science that govern a baseball as it leaves the pitcher's hand are the same rules that apply to sending a ship out into space, the same science that applies anywhere in the universe.

WHY STUDY SCIENCE?

Science is a way of critically thinking and analysis that can be applied to every kind of decision in life.  People who are good at critical thinking don't stumble through life from one disaster to another.  Or worse yet, make important decisions affecting the rest of their life based on myth or an astrologer's advice.  People who think critically don't have to learn everything the "hard way", they learn to gather facts, sift and winnow and make logical and good decisions.  If you don't understand it, somebody else does and you may get stuck with a perpetual motion machine.

Making informed decisions is increasingly difficult for those with no scientific background or those who cannot determine if their source of information is legitimately scientific or not.   It is chilling to discover that many of our social, economic and political leaders are making decisions involving science without having studied science, without understanding what science is and they cannot actually discern when they are being fed totally bogus information dressed up as "science".

Scientists agree that knowing the processes and "why" enriches enjoyment of everyday life.

HOW DOES SCIENCE DIFFER FROM RELIGION, ART, PHILOSOPHY, PSEUDOSCIENCE, etc?

What a person believes, what they feel, what they consider  beautiful is not open to testing, it is not debatable.   Art is the expression of feelings.  Philosophy and religion deals with beliefs, with right and wrong, with ethics.

On the other hand, science deals with facts and observations which are testable and debatable.  A scientific theory starts with a question, not a conclusion.  Any scientific theory can be modified and/or proven wrong.  There is no "truth" in science, only a statistical probability that a theory correctly describes physical reality.  And that probability is never 100%.

Pseudoscience pretends to be based on some scientific principles, but fails on two counts.  First it already has a conclusion that cannot be proven wrong by definition.   Any proof that the conclusion is wrong is automatically thrown out.  There is no prediction and testing, rather the search is always on for just those facts that support the conclusion, a process called "cherry picking".  Pseudoscience often plays on people's beliefs or fears.

Junk science invariably involves separating a person from money although there might be some other agenda to be served from half baked, untested ideas based on unsubstantiated subjective observations or by those that poorly understand the scientific facts.  Diet books are an example.  Junk science often plays on people's beliefs, desires or fears.

LECTURE                                                     THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD

In this lecture you will learn:


 

1. Question
 
 
 

2.  History
 
 
 
 

3.  Hypothesis
 
 
 

4.  Experiment
 
 
 

5.  Analyze, conclude
 
 
 
 

6.  Publish

Simple Case Study in Scientific Method - Malaria

(1)  In 1897, Dr. Ronald Ross knew that 1 million people in India died every year from malaria, but the mode of transmission was unknown.

(2)    He observed that hospital field personnel were more likely to contract the disease in open wards than in wards with closed windows or screens.  He asked why.

(3)    He came up with a hypothesis, which is a testable explanation for an observation.  Ross proposed that Anopheles mosquitoes in the open wards were spreading the parasite from infected patients to non infected people.

    Ross predicted that if this were true, then mosquitoes that had bitten infected patients should contain live plasmodium parasites.

    Ross then conducted an experiment (a controlled test) to test his prediction.

(4) A controlled test always has a control group, which is an experimental group that has not been exposed to the variable in question.  It serves as the baseline for comparison.  In this case the control group consisted of mosquitoes that had fed on uninfected individuals.  He dissected both the control and experimental (fed on infected individuals) groups and discovered that only the experimental group contained plasmodium in their stomach.  This confirmed his hypothesis.

(5)   Ross then further sought to confirm the experiment by testing the prediction (what you expect to happen if a hypothesis is correct) that infected mosquitoes would have plasmodium in their salivary glands in order to transmit them through a bite.   This prediction was also confirmed.

(6) Subsequently, this theory of transmission became widely accepted and led to the highly effective strategy of combating malaria by reducing the mosquito population.

Altho a great deal of time and money has been put into research for a preventative vaccine, millions of birds were killed by DDT, and  the fact is that the most cost effective prevention continues to be NETS.  Click HERE for information on simple netting in malarial areas.  Where science, economics, social and political realities converge.
 


Dr. Ingrid Buxton