Science dull and hard

I realise I shouldn’t post when I’m hot and bothered but apparently science is dull and hard, according to pupils, according to the scientifically lightweight BBC.

Boys and girls, thinking is hard! You might be able to avoid it but if you have an insatiable curiosity about life, the universe and everything then science has all the trump cards. I can sadly believe that school teaching of science wrings the interest out of it, reducing it to formulae, laws and names. This is depressing and I can only suggest good popular-science reading as a remedy.

Many of the comments bemoan a relatively lowly salary for professional scientists. They suggest picking a more well-paid career, perhaps law. Here’s another tip: If you freely select an occupation based solely on the money then you will be unhappy. You will also probably fail to achieve your capabilities. It implies you find all options as dull as each other with none sparking any kind of interest. If you don’t have any interests that could be related to some occupation (even as general as dealing with people or computers) then I’d suggest you are not a very interesting person, or maybe you are lacking imagination.

This comment stands out:

Are the happiest societies in the world the ones that are most scientifically advanced? I doubt it… The things that bring joy to me personally are the subtleties of a great novel, the intricacies of a masterful musical composition, or the imagination behind an inspired work of art. It’s appreciation of these things that I would rather see focused on in our schools – I applaud the 16% of our kids that would choose not to do any science!

It would be easy to slip into a false counter-argument that technology keeps us alive, informed and entertained. No technology, no media reproduction, wealth, etc.

However, this not the central point. Science is not technology, and it is science that is being devalued here. Science is neither a necessary evil nor a dry examination of the universal machinery. Choosing to be ignorant of science is choosing to close your eyes to the elegance of the natural world at so many levels. It is choosing the warm, fug of mystery over the dazzling light of explanation. Science does not strip away wonder; It widens the scope beyond the appreciative minds of aethestes to the full diversity of nature. It challenges our capacity to imagine whilst simultaneously stretching our ability to reason to its limits.

I find the notion that the only wonder to be found in a grey, dull universe is in the works of a few talented humans to be profoundly depressing. I also find it utterly unsupportable. The issue is not whether nature is worth knowing but how much of its beauty our limited minds are capable of appreciating.

2 thoughts on “Science dull and hard

  1. I agree with you in part on this. However, I think the point is not that science itself is dull, but that “taught science” can be dull.

    I’m afraid I don’t really have the necessary personal experience to comment on this. At school I did four science subjects: Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Technology (or CDT as it’s sometimes called). Each subject was taught separately, rather than with the popular “combined science” practice that is popular today.

    Any successful teaching programme needs a cohesive structure, interest value and appreciable useful outcomes. Without these it can be difficult to engage students’ attention and/or enthusiasm. In the case of science (and also mathematics) it is perhaps not obvious how to achieve these points, and if you fail you get a course that can be constrewn as “dull” or muddled.

    Once you start down the path to dullness, of course, it’s only a short step to hardness as students put in less attention and effort than they need to.

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