Science is a verb

I don’t take lightly my moniker in many social networks: MrScienceTeach.  I identify myself more as a science educator than in any other way.  While I get excited about expanding my teaching horizons, I hope to always be involved in science.

Mostly this is due to my reverence for the role of science in society.  My time in science and, later, in education has taught me to value the science literacy of a democratic citizenry.  I know that a more scientifically-aware society with be better prepared to make the tough decisions that lie ahead as new discoveries bring new dilemmas.

The importance that I see in Science Education is a big part of what drives me to be a more effective teacher.  I constantly drill my students to understand the dual nature of science as a collection of knowledge about our natural world, and as a rational process for answering questions.  My students have grown tired of hearing me say, “We’re not just learning science, we’re doing science.”

And, that is a big part of why I enjoyed Cara Santa Maria’s recent piece in the Huffington Post about Martin Luther King’s attitude toward science.  Using quotes from Dr. King, she explored the importance of religion as a counter-balance to science, reinforcing the idea that science is not inherently evil or amoral, despite its goal of being objective.  At one point, she very eloquently presents the notion of science as a process:

“But, science is a verb, an activity. Being so, it is carried out by people. It does not–it cannot–exist in a vacuum. And hard as we may try, human beings are simply incapable of any behavior that carries no bias, no moral or political persuasion.”

This point is so fine and so clear that I find myself thinking that I must have heard it in my mind for years.  Science reaches for objectivity, but falls short because it is a human enterprise. This doesn’t mean that we should give up on our goal of unbiased discovery, but rather that we as a society must provide the checks and balances that will render future scientific findings valuable and relevant.

Of course, I am aware that King’s holiday is held in January each year, but I don’t think that it’s fair to recognize this great man on a single day.  And, I can think of no better way to celebrate the impact of Dr. King than to strive every day to simultaneously build integrity and curiosity in the young minds of my students.

Can you see the value of seeing science in this light?

 

photo credit: WilliamMarlow via photopin cc