Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 23, 2013

We the People: Method, not madness

By Mary deWolf
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — We know that the sun is not a blazing chariot ridden through the sky by Apollo. We know that Norse god Thor doesn’t strike his anvil when we hear thunder.  We know that the earth is not flat. Thanks to scientific investigation and experimentation, we know these old notions are just baseless fairy tales. 

Science has created a better understanding of phenomenon. That understanding leads to further insight and discovery, ultimately bringing us longer, richer and healthier lives. The scientific method is sound and proven. (If you need a refresher on the scientific method, be sure to read to the end.) Add good practices such as blind experiments and replication, and scientific study serves us well.

Yet...

Parents have refused to vaccinate their children against preventable childhood diseases, thanks to a thoroughly debunked and flawed study linking vaccinations to autism. As a result, California saw an outbreak of whooping cough, or pertussis, in 2010, infecting more than 9,000 children. 

A North Carolina government official claimed that birth control pills cause prostate cancer. Some members of Congress have argued that Plan B, the “morning after” pill causes abortions. It doesn’t. They are confusing it with RU-486.

Right-leaning Americans have a love affair with abstinence education, despite the fact that the results of studying data from 48 state programs show it fails to prevent teenage pregnancy and may actually contribute to it.

Then there’s the earth. Louisiana and Texas are willing to spend tax dollars to fund teaching creationism in schools, which has been illegal since 1987. Scientific consensus finds creation “science” unscientific in both conception and methodology. By the way, there has never been a single scientific paper discrediting evolution.

Young earth believers maintain the earth was created around 6,000 years ago, despite 68 national and international science academies citing evidence-based fact derived from observations and experiments in multiple scientific disciplines that the universe has existed for around 13.8 billion years and that the Earth was formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

It would be tempting to blame only conservatives for ignoring science.  After all, some of the biggest offenders are fundamentalists and big oil supporters, most of them Republicans. But Democrats have their issues. People spend lots of money thinking organic food is healthier.  Current scientific evidence does not support this view. 

Fifty-five percent of Republicans and forty-four percnet of Democrats believe that video games cause gun violence. Do they know that as video games have become more popular and violent, youth violence has declined?

What about fracking, biofuels, genetically engineered food, nuclear options and climate change? Too many people make judgments on these issues based on their particular morality and politics, not careful science.

School children in good schools learn and practice the scientific method at an early age. There’s a little song some sing to help them remember what quality science practice looks like:

First you make an observation of the world around.

Take notes and record all the things that you found .

Then you ask a simple question - something that you want to learn.

Then you form a hypothesis to explain what you observed

Then you make a prediction about how it’s gonna go.

Do a test with a control and variable

Then you analyze the data and draw a conclusion

Do the scientific method to avoid all confusion.

Everybody sing!

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This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at jwund@frontiernet.net.