This Is Why We Need Better Science Education

Sometimes you come acros something that just makes you ask “is this for real?”

This time it was a letter sent to the Sydney Morning Herald that made me ask this question:

stick with facts, not sci-fiI do wish that the Herald editorial team would stop presenting Carl Sagan science fiction gibberish dressed up as if it were fact (‘‘The little spacecraft that could’’, September 14-15). It occurred over the weekend, when we were fed a far-fetched story about a space vehicle named Voyager and interstellar exploration.

This is the same type of pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo that exploiters of the public purse have been doing with climate change over many years. It is arrant nonsense and has to stop right here and now. The Herald does itself no favours by printing it, pretending that the sci-fi exaggerations are factual.

Bill Thomas, Cabramatta

As this letter mentions it is a response to the article “The little spacecraft that could“, which is an article telling readers that Voyager 1 has left our solar system. A very important moment in our history as it is a first for mankind.

The article also gives some historical background, challenges the missions faces, and tells about how excited scientists are. After all, this is an opportunity to gather data we normally can’t collect and most likely wont be able to collect for a long time when the two Voyager spacecraft stop working.

It’s nothing fancy, it’s accurate, but maybe a bit too much focus on the human element for my taste. Although that is appropriate for the intended audience and a nice article to read. After all, it is intended as some light reading.

This is why the response from this particular reader baffles me. It just makes no sense to call this article “Carl Sagan science fiction gibberish dressed up as if it were fact.” It’s not a flight of fancy, it happened, it’s important…

That response, coupled with referring to climate change with “pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo”, tells me that this is a person who doesn’t understand science. Why this might be I have no idea, but my suspicion is that somewhere there was a science education failure.

The denial of anthropogenic global warming, the attacks on the theory of evolution, the fear of vaccines, GMOs, or the above example of calling Voyager 1 “science fiction gibberish” are signs of that. Science isn’t political or has an agenda, science just deals with the nature of our world. Us trying to understand how our world works has given us so much that this distrusts of science and scientists is just saddening.

Good science education will make people curious, it makes you appreciate our world, and aware of all the things we have scientific research to thank for. It’s scientists that can help us create a science education that is both accurate and interesting. Especially if you can include the passion scientists have for what they do. Give students the chance to get a taste of that in their lessons, let them experience it for themselves.

It’s all of the above that made me so curious about scientific subjects and aware of what science does for us.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.