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RE: Science education

I think that many animals have what may be considered some degree of
scientific thinking -- such as the ability to observe cause and effect, and
to make predictions based upon one's observations and experiences.  This is
often a matter of survival.

Of course, I think that the ability to think as a scientist and the
propensity to make use of this facility are particularly pronounced in our
species.  That is the basis of our technological progress over all these
years.  It's in our nature to be curious about ourselves and the world we

As for US citizens in particular, on the whole I don't think that we lack an
interest in science, as the popularity of science and science fiction in a
variety of media show no signs of abating so far as I am aware.  The
popularity of CSI shows certainly is related to public interest in both
state-of-the-art technological advances and the use of evidence and logic to
solve mysteries.  

On the other hand, high profile American political figures have gone on
record discrediting scientific research and have promoted policies that I
feel are not in our mutual best interests (as in matters related to global
warming and conservation issues, for example).  I feel that certain
religious, political, and business interests have damaged our reputation
internationally in this regard and have also influenced attitudes
domestically.  In part this is the fault of the commercial news media which
are not required to provide objectivity, balance or accuracy.  But I would
like to think that in terms of public attitudes regarding the value of
science in the USA the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way, and
that better times lie ahead.

Of course, if you crunch the numbers you can see that education hasn't been
at the top of our national list of priorities, and the economic downturn is
proving to make things worse both for school funding and for future
graduates' job prospects.  I really don't think that there is a lack of
interest in science in the US, but rather that our society hasn't supported
science education sufficiently.  I also think that the frequent emphasis on
rote memorization turns many students off to science.

Dino Guy Ralph
Docent at the California Academy of Sciences
Dinosaur and Fossil Education
Member of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology