Optimal education, love, true friendship ... can science handle the heat?

Posted by
Eudaemonic Pie on Jan 31, 2002 at 22:28
pppa3-resalecarsoncity1-1r7409.dialinx.net (

Re: ... then put your tail between your legs (Natalie L. Smith)

A good post.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that competent expertise and not the whimsy of tutees ought determine curricula.

I wouldn't mind science classes including plentiful mention how science is provisional, trial and error, scaffolded, and often a far from optimal means of learning – teaching students how to think, how to reason, how to gather information, so on.

The Channel One poll is scary. A new one to me. The poll results remind me of research into human learning as an adaptive response (and an adaptive feature) wherein one of the fastest and most relied-on learning protocol is ignorance-based decision making (see Gerd Gigerenzer's work; cf. Cosmides & Tooby on adaptive mind). This ignorance-based mode of adaptive reasoning means that there's an extremely high statistical correlation (92+%) that when faced with two options, one of which we don't know, then we choose the option we already know/believe, like choosing to eat Mom's apple pie and ice-cream versus eating a bowl of fly infested hot-steaming unidentified (unknown-ignorant) smelly liquified pelican dung. In other words, I conjecture that these Channel One students heard the creation story first off, as young learners at home or church, served up along with heart-warming family-value fireside chats with Mom's apple pie, so that the scientific account of evolution, learned much later, sorta stinks by comparison.

My big concern is that when ethology and behavioral biology advance so as to include more and more a biological explanation of the origins of virtue (Ridley), and to describe values like love and true friendship, then we're going to have another and greater controversy with the creationists on our hands. Biology will come directly to address values! So, if we think that asking the students what they want to learn is risky right now, then just wait ‘till their parents get a whiff of ethology and behavioral biology explanations of values in the upcoming years!

Do you think biology can handle that particular controversy?

Should biology skirt it?

I dunno. I don't have any optimal strategy.

I do agree with your points. Heck, maybe we ought hire more home-ec apple pie bakers to teach biology? – you know, to sweeten the palate? – start with god ‘ole memories?

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