Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Engines of Our Ingenuity

From the University of Houston...

No. 2229: CHILDREN AND SCIENCE by John H. Lienhard

The part that struck me was this...

"The same's true of our origins: children leap to the obvious notion that animals and humans were created in their final finished form in an instant. Here again, we must work to face the complex mechanics of biology and evolution. Once we do, the process can well become more, rather than less, miraculous. But the hurdle must be met and overcome.

The authors also watch children dealing with scientific facts in a world that sends mixed messages. One would never speak of a belief in gravity; gravity is simply the way things are. Nor would one speak of believing in a round Earth. Once digested, a round Earth is a simple fact of life. But many grownups are still stuck on their childhood view of the Creation. So children learn to see evolution as a belief instead of as a well-grounded scientific fact.

The article mentions a child's bent toward teleology -- explaining things in terms of purpose rather than cause and effect. Asked to explain clouds, a child might say they exist to make rain. Scientific literacy can follow only when that child learns to trace evaporation and condensation. It can follow only when she learns to trust the scientific process that reveals workings of the brain, of evolution, or of our lovely round planet's gravitational field."

Read the whole episode here.

The Engines of Our Ingenuity is a radio program that tells the story of how our culture is formed by human creativity. Written and hosted by John Lienhard, it is heard nationally on Public Radio and produced by KUHF-FM Houston. Among other features, this web site houses the transcripts for every episode heard since the show's inception in 1988.

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