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Inductive and deductive approaches to science literacy

December 4, 2013

induction-deduction

My last post discussed why I care so much about creationists, and how my friendships with religious Christians have affected my thinking. It’s hard for me to attack creationists across the board when I’ve personally known so many who are smart and successful. I wonder why scientists rarely never consider these people when it comes to science literacy.

I like to think of it as the inductive approach to science literacy. Instead of abstract models of science literacy, we can start with actual human beings as they navigate their daily lives. This idea should be familiar to all scientists. We know that sometimes you need to develop hypotheses and theories from first principles (deduction). But at others you start with the data and then derive the general principles (induction). Both approaches are widely used in science.

When it comes to science literacy–and specifically creationists–we’re way too biased towards deduction. Our grand theories insist that you must be scientifically literate to be a successful, useful member of society, and that rejecting evolution alone makes you scientifically illiterate. But the existing evidence suggests otherwise. It is possible to reject evolution and succeed in life. So why not start with individual examples and derive the general principles of science literacy? People’s lives do count as evidence.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Victor permalink
    December 4, 2013 5:32 pm

    Nice post and an interesting way to think about it.

  2. December 5, 2013 5:46 am

    This should be useful in approaching those cases where people appear to be scientifically literate about some things and not others.

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