Thursday, September 2nd 2010

Around the web: Scientific method, science as a way of knowing

The “Around the Web” series highlights informative websites, and also targeted blog posts and news articles, relevant to the courses I teach. This semester I teach Anth 143: Biology of Human Behavior, an introductory-level course that covers the basics of evolution, behavioral biology, and the interaction of biology and culture. My hope is that these posts are useful not only for my current students, but other people hoping to gain background or insight into these topics.

In Anthropology 143: Biology of human behavior, we have covered the scientific method and, briefly, the field of behavioral ecology. I thought I would share a few relevant links for those of you (in the class and outside of it!) who want to further your understanding or surf around the interwebz. Feel free to comment here with your thoughts. This post will cover the science as a way of knowing things material; a future post will cover behavioral ecology.

What is science? (Method, communication, understanding)

First, I wanted to share a neat primer on the scientific method. There’s even a whole website devoted to it. They aren’t news stories or blog posts like the rest of the links, but are still useful resources.

An important story from the Guardian on problems in science communication, and how that relates to scientific knowledge. The author suggests that the way scientists communicate among themselves and to the public may contribute to the number of people who are un-persuadable on scientific knowledge that, to scientists, is irrefutable (in particular, he uses climate change as an extended example). He also critiques cultural understandings of science and scientists, and provides some information on the science of belief and persuasion (the short version: if someone really wants to believe in something, factual information that goes against it will actually make their belief stronger).

On that note, Steven Hill has seven steps to restore trust in science. What do you think?

And here’s an article about journalism and bias that I think is really important to how we communicate science to the public.

Finally, a vet offers up a nice matrix to help us understand what scientists mean when they say certain things.

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