What Does Science Offer the World?

Scientist Dennis R. Trumble believes science offers us more than just great technology and more comfortable lives: It teaches us to unshackle ourselves from preconceived notions by following the evidence and encourages us to think more critically.

Trumble believes, as many of us do, that to raise a child to be ignorant of science (a la home-schooling Creationist parents) does far more damage than we might think.

His new book exploring this issue is called The Way of Science: Finding Truth and Meaning in a Scientific Worldview (Prometheus Books, 2013):

In the excerpt below, reprinted with permission of the publishers, Trumble discusses the lessons we learn from science (Keep reading afterwards for your chance to win a copy of the book!):

As to the question of when to interject, the lessons of evolutionary psychology suggest that teachers can’t chime in too soon. Because the human brain has grown so terribly adept at seizing upon and rapidly integrating familial practices, children must be made aware of evolution and the base principles of critical thinking even at the earliest grade levels, before the carapace of inherited dogma has fused to permanency. Precisely when young minds begin to close around familial biases is difficult to say, but the sense of urgency in this regard was recently raised to new heights when sociologists at the University of Ulster found — to their surprise and dismay — that children in Northern Ireland begin to adopt parochial prejudices as early as age three.

Although it might seem naïve to suppose that kids elbow-deep in finger paints are capable of grasping a concept that has eluded so many of their parents, the first principles of evolution are actually quite simple and can be understood by any child old enough to reflect upon the erstwhile comings and goings of the dinosaurs (always a popular topic among the kindergarten set). In truth, the rudiments of evolutionary theory are no more complicated than many other scientific subjects that are commonly taught right alongside the alphabet, including gravity, basic engineering design, and energy flow through ecosystems (if you’d like to know why 100 pounds of corn can’t be converted to 100 pounds of cow, just ask a second grader). The only thing that makes evolution more difficult to learn than other grade-school subjects is the fact that it is frequently countermanded at home.

Indeed, even if evolution were taught to every student from the very get-go it would still put kids from creationist households in the awkward position of having to contend with contradictory teachings without the means to assess their relative merits. And therein lies the problem, for the reason so many irrational beliefs continue to hold sway these days stems largely from our failure as a society to broadly dispense the critical thinking skills we humans inherently lack but increasingly need. Instead, when it comes to the natural sciences, what most children receive is a long and tiresome litany of scientific facts to be memorized in preparation for the exam du jour. What is sacrificed in the bargain is effective instruction on how the scientific method actually works — arguably the single most important thing students need to learn in order to achieve intellectual independence. Contrary to proverbial wisdom, too many science students are simply being handed a boatload of fish — often far more than they can digest — when what they really need are fishing lessons.

Then again, this is nothing new. Some of history’s most celebrated scientists achieved greatness only after weathering a similar barrage of instructional tedium. Even Einstein found his formal scientific training a good deal less than inspiring, recalling that in his day to be a good science student meant that “one had to cram all this stuff into one’s mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not.” This, to Einstein’s way of thinking, was hardly the way to spark the imagination of a budding young scientist and, in fact, was more likely to achieve just the opposite. He went on to complain: “This coercion had such a deterring effect on me that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.” And if Einstein reacted this way, just imagine how his classmates must have felt.

Half a century later, a young Carl Sagan found himself in similar straits. In the preface to his book The Demon-Haunted World, he describes his experience this way:

I wish I could tell you about inspirational teachers in science from my elementary or junior high or high school days. But as I think back on it, there were none. There was rote memorization about the Periodic Table of the Elements, levers and inclined planes, green plant photosynthesis, and the difference between anthracite and bituminous coal. But there was no soaring sense of wonder, no hint of an evolutionary perspective, and nothing about mistaken ideas that everybody once believed. In high school laboratory courses, there was an answer we were supposed to get. We were marked off it we didn’t get it. There was no encouragement to pursue our own interests or hunches or conceptual mistakes. In the backs of textbooks there was material you could tell was interesting. The school year would always end before we got to it. You could find wonderful books on astronomy, say, in the libraries but not in the classroom. Long division was taught as a set of rules from a cookbook, with no explanation of how this particular sequence of short divisions, multiplications, and subtractions got you the right answer. In high school, extracting square roots was offered reverentially, as if it were a method once handed down from Mt. Sinai. It was our job merely to remember what we had been commanded. Get the right answer, and never mind that you don’t understand what you’re doing.

Thankfully, the growing need to promote critical thinking skills among the general populace has not gone unnoticed by American educators. In fact, current US standards for science education stress quite admirably the importance of teaching the scientific method from the very outset, stating that “beginning in grades K-4, teachers should build on students’ natural inclinations to ask questions and investigate their world. Groups of students can conduct investigations that begin with a question and progress toward communicating an answer to the question. For students in the early grades, teachers should emphasize the experiences of investigating and thinking about explanations and not overemphasize memorization of scientific terms and information.” The national science standard further mandates that young students “should develop inquiry skills [and] the ability to ask scientific questions, investigate aspects of the world around them, and use their observations to construct reasonable explanations for the questions posed.”

So far, so good. But while the game plan is sound enough, the skills needed to execute it are not always equal to the task. Why? Because many of today’s teachers were themselves taught to less rigorous science standards — often quite a bit less. As a consequence, primary school teachers in particular often lack the scientific understanding and critical thinking skills they are now being asked to pass on to their students.

This problem was first brought to my attention purely by happenstance. In the spring of 2001 I was invited to talk to a class of seventh-graders about my work as a biomedical engineer, designing and testing mechanical blood pumps and artificial hearts. It was not long after I met their science teacher that she confided, quite on her own, that science had always been her worst subject when she was in school and that she was not at all comfortable teaching it now. Her training had been in elementary education, but school administrators had pressed her into service despite her reservations under the supposition that grade school science can be taught by anyone who generally knows how to teach.

This seemed odd to me but not alarmingly so; if stopgap measures were needed to fill an unexpected vacancy in the science faculty, that was certainly understandable. In education, as in life, temporary solutions are rarely perfect but often necessary, and I was in no position to second-guess school administrators on this or any other point. My assumption going in was that the vast majority of science teachers in the US are well trained, share a deep, abiding passion for their subject, and are keen to convey their knowledge and enthusiasm to their students. And so, perhaps naïvely, I was prepared to believe that what I had experienced at this one suburban middle school was simply an unfortunate fluke and nothing more.

But according to David Goodstein, physics professor and contributing writer for MIT’s Technology Review, this was no fluke. As luck would have it, his essay on the state of science education in America appeared in this magazine shortly after my worrisome encounter at the middle school and so especially caught my eye as I perused its pages. Having optimistically dismissed my experience as a regrettable (but rare) aberration, I found myself reading with renewed chagrin Goodstein’s take on how the US educational system had somehow managed to produce both scientific elites and illiterates. “The problem,” he explained, “starts in grade school, where few children ever come into personal contact with a scientifically trained person — including, unfortunately, their teachers. In most of the United States the only way you can graduate from college without taking a single science course is to major in elementary education. And, it is said, many people major in elementary education for precisely that reason. Our elementary school teachers are therefore not only ignorant of science; they are hostile to science. That hostility must, inevitably, rub off on the young people they teach.”

Now to be fair, the teacher who invited me to talk to her class obviously cared a great deal about her students and was certainly far more intimidated by science than hostile toward it. She understood the importance of the subject, if not the subject itself, and was genuinely concerned that she wasn’t doing it justice. She knew that she was out of her depth and was eager to solicit all the help she could muster in order to teach her students what they needed to know about the way science works (hence my visit).

But despite her best intentions and sincerest efforts, it’s hard to imagine a teacher so uncomfortable with science doing anything but lecturing straight from the book, parsing scientific facts like so many parts of speech while draining the life out of a subject that, truth be told, lies at the very heart of education itself. After all, it is science class where students are supposed to learn how to observe and analyze, scrutinize and think — skills that can hardly be considered tangential in a nation that relies so heavily upon the good judgment of its citizenry. Indeed, to give science education such short shrift is to ultimately undermine our ability to govern ourselves in a free and democratic society. This is no hyperbole. Scientific literacy really is that important.

Thankfully, scientific illiteracy is an issue that is beginning to gain traction among federal legislators, if only in response to rising concerns over America’s ability to compete in an increasingly technological marketplace. To its credit — and despite the recent economic downturn — the US government has begun to allocate considerable resources to stem the tide of past academic practices and bring science and math teachers back up to speed. The Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education, for example, recently reported that President Obama’s Fy2011 budget included “an unprecedented investment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. The budget would grant $3.7 billion for STEM education across the federal government, including $1 billion dedicated to improving math and science achievement among K-12 students… The U.S. Department of Education’s budget totals $49.7 billion, representing an increase of 7.5% from 2010 and the Department’s largest boost in years.” Shortly thereafter, the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued a report recommending that the federal government provide funding over the next decade to recruit and train “at least” one hundred thousand new STEM teachers to instruct middle school and high school students.

And none too soon, for our failure to properly train and retain science teachers is why predigested facts about the life sciences are habitually being spoon-fed to students with little or no accounting for how this information first came to be understood. Predictably, these rote teaching methods have done little to secure the lessons of science against the onslaught of familial bias, no matter how eager the students or timely the instruction. Because a steady diet of isolated facts is hardly food for critical thought, both the scholastic menu and their academic chefs de cuisine must be fortified to make these lessons stick. The key lies in knowing how: how to research a topic, how to examine the issues surrounding a given question; and how to forge reasoned conclusions based on the preponderance of empirical evidence. In short, kids must come to understand how scientists think and, in the process, discover how to think for themselves — not just in matters of science but in all aspects of their lives.

To be sure, youngsters armed with rudimentary skills of logical induction will ply them awkwardly at first, but with practice these kids will develop both the wherewithal to think independently and the confidence to make informed choices on their own. Those whose reasoning skills are allowed to lie fallow, on the other hand, will almost certainly be left without the means to judge contentious issues for themselves and so will be destined to remain subservient to the collective will of their peers.

The Way of Science: Finding Truth and Meaning in a Scientific Worldview is now available online and in bookstores.

If you’d like to win a copy of the book, let us know in the comments about when you first fell in love with science! Just leave the hashtag #ScienceRules at the end of your comment and I’ll contact one random winner next week!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Melissa Miller

    I fell in love with science in two parts. First, by reading Sagan starting only a few years ago, I realized what science really is (growing up in Oklahoma public schools, I was never told what critical thinking is, or the meaning behind the steps in the scientific method we had to memorize before moving on to the next subject). Second, by doing science myself, as an anthropology student at university, I fell in love with it on a more personal level. Our program is excellent; in many of our classes we are encouraged to read articles with alternating viewpoints on the same topic and decide which one we agree with, and why. Many of my professors value critical thinking and evidence highly, and our Archaeological Theory course was a way for me to further define and discover how I feel about science as the primary source of knowledge in life. Thanks for this contest, it sounds like a great book. #ScienceRules

  • Gregory

    Science and I began dating in college where I learned that I was actually pretty good at struggling through and eventually understanding engineering concepts. This relationship persisted through the rest of my undergrad and through the next 10 years into my professional career — teaching people to operate nuclear submarines and teaching electrical engineering at college level. However, believe it or not, I didn’t truly “fall in love” with science, truly appreciating its power, until my deconversion where I realized that it was much more than some method of approaching problems.. As part of my final fall from religion I began to understand that this simple ‘method’ was actually bedrock of all modern knowledge and what has lifted us from the Dark Ages. #ScienceRules

  • waybeyondsoccermom

    I fell in love with science in high school because of my amazing public school teachers, Mr. Harshman, Mr. Harmon, and Mr. Stuart who taught me chemistry, anatomy, and marine biology, respectively. All of my elective hours went towards science. But, life is funny and I ended up majoring in English and getting a job as a computer programmer. However, it was my love of science that intrigued the guy I was dating. He had planned to become an astronomer but also ended up as a computer programmer. We ended up marrying, and because of our love of science, we raised our kids on that, and they both plan to pursue careers in it. So, it skipped us, and landed on them. #ScienceRules

  • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

    Excellent. I look forward to winning the book. #ScienceRules

  • http://bearlyatheist.wordpress.com/ Bear Millotts

    Don’t forget #ScienceRules at the end.

  • Dean Hiler

    I was lucky enough to get a science teacher that made science fun. In 7th grade, we did fun lab experiments and even…dare I say it…fun lectures? He was a wacky guy reminiscent of shows like Bill Nye, Beakman’s World, and “Randal Fargus” from the family guy episode. Boy they nailed the science teacher stereotype well.
    I think the other thing that made him great was once in a while, he would let someone pick a random page from the science book (the other half that we wouldn’t get to do) and talk about it. Just a quick 5 minute chat at the beginning of class. It encouraged us to at least skim through our whole science book in search of things that interested us. If I ever become a science teacher, this is a thing I would copy from him. Not every kid is a geologist or a physicist or a chemist, but each kid is a scientist with a branch of science that speaks to them. #ScienceRules

  • C Peterson

    So much truth there.

    As a middle school science teacher, I find myself among students who, largely, aren’t interested in science. Most won’t become scientists. But I try and teach the methodology of science as something applicable to every other subject, a tool they can use for everything.

    Regrettably, teachers are locked into standards that require the teaching of vast amounts of raw facts, largely at the expense of learning how to think. Hopefully that will change- there are some hints it is beginning to. As a charter school, we are seeking to exempt ourselves from certain testing requirements in order to change our science curriculum to ignore most of the minutiae in favor of focusing on just a few of the grand ideas of science (cosmology, evolution, energy, atoms, plate tectonics) in great detail. That is an approach that has been demonstrated to lead to higher interest in science, and better performance.


  • Dave G.

    Science is just one tool for understanding one part of the universe. Of course,as the old saying goes, if the only tool you insist on using is a hammer, then every problem must be a nail. There are other tools as well. Most people I know, even those rascally homeschooling creationists, don’t hate science, They may warp it terribly, but they don’t hate it. Any more than some atheists hate other subjects, even if at times they are known to warp theology, or philosophy, or history (egad, that being my subject of teaching, I’m at times shocked at the take on history some atheists lean on). I think science is invaluable. Of course science, like many things, is a discipline of intelligence, one part of being smart. There is also wisdom, which is the great balance. Because intelligence is the ability to invent a newer and better weapon of mass destruction. Wisdom, ideally, is knowing we probably shouldn’t. So everything else without science? What a miserable world that would be. Science without everything else? I need only think of gas chambers, mushroom clouds, and carbon emissions to think of what that could look like.

  • DCF

    I fell in love with science when I took astronomy in college. #ScienceRules

  • drno07

    I was sent to a Christian grade school and was taught to be careful about being “led astray” by the words of men. I avoided science as much as I could and decided to go into marriage therapy as a profession. At first I just decided to get my masters degree and just practice, but I enjoyed my training so much I decided to become a professor. My PhD was literally the first time I had any serious training in the#scientific method. Even still it was not until 4 years after I graduated that I had the courage to apply it to my everyday life. This was the beginning of my deconversion. Now I cannot believe what I have been missing out on. I watch science shows like movies. I had to grieve for what I had been keeping myself from. But better late than never. #Science Rules

  • Ibis3

    I’ve had two loves throughout my life: science and romanticism. As a little kid of 5 or 6, I had memorised the names of all the bones in the human skeleton; I had a microscope and chemistry set; I read books about dinosaurs and extinct mammals and studied the evolution of horses; when I was ten I wanted to be a chemist when I grew up. But I also believed in psychic powers, ghosts, astrology, reincarnation, thought Atlantis might be real, and loved religious ritual (well, actually ritual and ceremony of any type). Romanticism swayed me into studying history at uni, but science led me to study it with a rigorous, scholarly bent.

    Romanticism said: yes, you should read the works of Plato and Aristotle (though thankfully, it didn’t push me so far as to read them in Greek), and as I read the latter’s scientific treatises, I became curious about the state of current knowledge, so I went looking for it. My path went something like this: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson > potholer54 and other YouTubers > Phil Plait and Bad Astronomy > Carl Sagan > Pharyngula > The Atheist Experience; and by the end I had ditched the part of romanticism that had led me into error and I’ve wholeheartedly embraced science since. I’m the committed lover of Science (i.e. Truth and its discovery), and it will always come before friends with benefits Romanticism.


  • 3lemenope

    Any more than some atheists hate other subjects, even if at times they are known to warp theology, or philosophy, or history (egad, that being my subject of teaching, I’m at times shocked at the take on history some atheists lean on).

    Do you have a particularly egregious example in mind?

    I agree with you that science is one tool among many. It is a process and method that has wide applicability, but is not the hammer for every nail.

    Which is not to say that consequently all other world-views and methods instantly become valid simply because science doesn’t cover everything. They don’t. And when it comes to overlapping claims, science is the “winningest” of all competitors; that ought not be dismissed lightly.

  • Dave G.

    Just about anything Bill Maher says on a regular basis. The late Christopher Hitchens, rest in peace, was also good for tortured takes on the historical record. Or when atheists appeal to the Renaissance as some secular wonderland, or drop those medieval witch burnings (historically we have very few examples, those came later in that period known as the Renaissance and following) as proof of evil religious society, or blaming religion for any one of a thousand things that often had little to nothing to do with religion, or at best, were forces that compelled religious leaders and followers to get in line or else (Hitler the devout Catholic). I could go on, but I’m sure you’ve heard those more than once. Not all atheists do those things of course, and I didn’t mean to imply they do. But some do, and I’m often shocked at how slow other atheists are to distance themselves from such notions.

  • randomfactor

    It was my peculiar habit as a young kid to find my summer reading material sequentially on the library shelf. (One summer it was psychological warfare and guerrilla warfare books.) And one year I hit the science-fiction shelf. Alphabetic by author, so I started with A as in Asimov…hey, he writes about the stuff he puts in his stories, too? Cool!

    Of course, growing up initially in Florida during the early space program didn’t hurt any. Supposedly I learned to count five-four-three-two–


  • Kodie

    It’s nice to know I wasn’t just making it up.

  • 3lemenope

    I’d say, rather than it being a particularly atheistic sin, that many people of all walks of life are ignorant of history, much as they are ignorant of science. History errors and science errors are everywhere and infect many arguments.

    I have witnessed many of the claims you mention, and they are all varying degrees of incorrect, but it is rare that I hear atheists drop anything close to some of the complete howlers that religious folk often use when they are trying to justify their own religion or its intersection with a particular nation or event. The amount of violence that some Christians seem bent on doing to early American history, in particular, in attempts to justify the dubious contention that the US is intended as a Christian nation, really gets my goat.

  • Dawn Cadwell


    my 7th grade teacher made it all real and not like reading a history book. (no offense intended history teacher)

  • RobMcCune

    What a miserable world that would be. Science without everything else? I need only think of gas chambers, mushroom clouds, and carbon emissions to think of what that could look like.

    For someone who claims to teach history you show a surprising amount of ignorance if you think these things exist solely due to increased scientific understanding.

  • allein

    I developed a crush when we studied evolution in high school biology (this was not a controversy in my place and time). I fell in love when I started working in bookstores and seeing all these interesting books that I will never have time to read half of. Lately I find myself gravitating toward that area whenever I’m wandering the bookstore (which I can do for hours and I never know where I’ll end up) just to see if there’s anything new. I have a long list of books for “someday” and a good portion of it is on various science topics. #ScienceRules

  • EmpiricalPierce

    My story of falling in love with science is also a major part of my deconversion story. Unfortunately, I did not fall in love with science until my late teens. I was homeschooled in the deep south; to give you an idea of the kind of “education” I received, my school books came from a company called Alpha Omega Publications, which included Bible studies in the curriculum (seriously) and says on its website that “All science instruction is based on a Biblical view of creation and the origin of life.” In short, I was taught creationism in my home, church, AND school.

    I would probably still be a creationist today if not for two facts: I was raised in a family that put a strong emphasis on arguing out problems instead of letting them fester, giving me a passion for debate; and I love technology and gadgets. I got my first taste of the internet shortly before my teens, and from there I was hooked.

    Several years later I would start getting caught up in arguments with people about science. It wasn’t long before I realized that my opponents and I were taught some very different facts in school. Naturally, I assumed that my facts were right and theirs were wrong wrong wrong, which continued until someone started arguing with me about the global flood, one of the most idiotically indefensible pieces of tripe in creationism. And I finally realized it. Try as I might, I simply could not construct a logical argument for how the global flood happened without making glaringly obvious departures from reality, and the most important crack in creationist indoctrination appeared: “What if it’s my books that are wrong?”

    Once I finally opened the door to questioning my own beliefs, I was but a search engine away from learning just about anything I wanted to know about the opposing side. I spent the next few years prying out the junk that had taken root in my brain and replacing it with testable, verifiable fact, giving myself the science education I never received as a child.

    Having read the book excerpt Hemant provided, I’m wondering if, in a way, things turned out better for me because of the nature of my journey. Reeducating myself came with a sense of free form exploration, browsing the web and learning what I wanted to learn at my own pace and without the subconscious association of science with boring rote memorization. Equipped with an innate desire to discover what I had been missing and with full control over the pace and direction, I probably devoured more knowledge than I ever would have in a public school setting. #ScienceRules

  • Christina Drumm

    I started to fall in love with science when I became dissatisfied with the answers to the questions I asked of many of my religion teachers through 12 years of Catholic school. All the answers were some version of “because the bible says so” or “because that’s god’s will”. This did not jibe with my father’s encouragement to always seek out the why of things. He was the one that first got me a little microscope and a chemistry kit and set up a little space for me in our garage. My own little lab. And yet he is the one that sent me to Catholic school and with whom I had many, many discussions about the inconsistency of religious thinking and the kind of analytical thinking he’d always encouraged in me. We had some interesting discussions. :) I am proud to say I am now a high school science teacher.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    History is or at least should be a scientific subject. Science is a way of thinking that can be applied to any human activity.

  • Whitney

    Not being a teacher or a parent, much less a student anymore, my opinions on the matter are commonly ignored. I’ve thought for a number of years now that the US in general wasn’t pushing math or science anywhere near hard enough in the public school system. To remain competitive, we NEED these courses desperately, including the technology and engineering. I love science, but never managed to get enough education in it to make it a career. I suspect there is a generation just like me, and while some of it is probably my fault for not working harder, my education hasn’t done me any favors on this, either. I’ve listened several times now to mothers who home school, and I’m terrified of what they’re teaching – or rather, failing to teach – their kids. So many of these homeschool parents seem to be doing it because it’s “in” right now, it’s the latest thing. It makes me cringe and want to cry, really, that so many adults who believe they mean well have not considered what kind of damage they may do in trying to educate their own children due to their own lack of qualification. The idea seems to be that a teacher isn’t qualified to teach because they don’t know a given child before school; this is sheer lunacy.

    I’m going to stop here, as I’ll rant for quite a bit longer, given space.


  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    When I was little, my dad would buy one of those Golden Nature Guides every so often, and then we’d head out to the woods with “Trees” or “Spiders” or “Non-Flowering Plants” tucked in a pocket, and we’d see what we could find. And at night, we’d go out with his small telescope and look at Saturn or Jupiter. And we had the whole set of the Time/Life Science Library, and I spent hours poring over those.

    This was solidified in 6th grade when the class watched “The Ascent of Man” and then later it was later capped off when “Cosmos” came out.


  • 3lemenope

    I actually profoundly disagree with you on that.

    Archaeology is a science, and its findings ought to inform history, but history is much more than what archaeology can properly evaluate. Archaeology can give us a history of objects, but history properly is about building narratives of peoples. That requires (due to our unfortunate inability to travel backwards in time) evaluating accounts from times and places where we have no corroboration. Restricting history to mere archaeology would render most of history as it is presently understood inert if not completely nonsensical.

    Besides, we learn from the narratives of the peoples we study not just in what they choose to tell us that we can confirm, but also about what and how they choose to lie and embellish, their stories and myths and tall tales. It tells us more what they were like as a people and what they valued, without which history is just a catalog of the collision of objects in space.

  • Kodie

    I think also that people who excel at science are not drawn to teaching at the high school or elementary level, and teaching is not an attractive profession at all for many people for various reasons. For many, it’s the lack of respect, prestige, and money. For others, it is combining something they are good at with also an aptitude for teaching it. Teaching is different than knowing your subject. Being able to conduct lessons for children is different than running experiments in a lab with other professionals. Then, there are the red tape matters – administrative hand-tying, and parental interference. I think people are drawn to teaching who have a primary interest in the sparkling eyes and inquisitive minds of children OVER their interest in their subject and mastery therein to do other things. I kind of think the profession of teaching, itself, is a turn-off to people who have been drawn to a subject like science for its extreme potential. Guiding children is potential too, but I think people enter these fields to learn more, to go farther. What you hope for as a teacher is to send these young minds out into the world to do something great (idealistically), and kind of to do that means to make a decision to leave behind the possibility of teaching something you already know over and over again to classrooms full of young people who have not been exposed to it in the first place.

    I found school to mostly be like Trumble describes – teachers who would rather someone more competent teach certain subjects than leave it to them. I would not say (as Trumble has asserted) that elementary school teachers are hostile to science. I considered it, as I learned it, dry and difficult to grasp. I can recall my elementary school teachers and guess their preferred concentrations: mostly humanities: history, English, theater, and only one whose was “teaching”, and she was my favorite teacher. I don’t know why the author would say elementary school teachers are hostile to science, since they have to teach a variety of subjects. Junior high and high school teachers can specialize and avoid the difficult subjects of science, while elementary teachers can hardly avoid it. It just doesn’t get to the difficulty level they may have trouble with. They only have to know a little bit more than they expect their students to learn by the end of the year. Trumble’s idea to draw people who excel at science to teaching at the k-3rd grade level is ambitious to say the least.

    My junior high and high school science teachers seemed a balance of interested, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and burnt out. They knew and seemed to like their subjects, but were pretty much over it. Not too different from the art teacher who was just teaching to pay the bills and never made a career outside of it. I was also not required in my school system to take science or math after 10th grade. I was required to take English and social studies through 12th grade. I got as far as 10th grade bio and didn’t take science again until college requirements, getting two semesters out of the way freshman year. Got a D in both. I did stay in math through 12th grade, math was not less dry than science, but it made more sense. I was given problems to solve and I could understand what I had to unravel to figure it out. Science might be taught more like that than like history. History was my other weak subject, and might have been presented a lot more lively than it was also.

  • allein

    I took 3 years of high school sciences (a general science in 9th grade, biology in 10th (which I did well in and was the first time I really enjoyed a science class), and chemistry in 12th), then 2 classes in college which was all that was required (I was an English major). They were biology and cosmology. The bio class was fine but I wasn’t that invested in it since it was just a Core class requirement; the cosmology class was a 100-level class that was supposedly aimed at general students but the guy taught it like he thought we were all physics majors. I managed a D+ but since that still counted for Core I left it at that. Since I never took physics or advanced math in high school I was kind of lost (but I wasn’t the only one…I think most of us complained in the prof evaluation at the end of the semester that the class was not what it was advertised to be). But the last several years I’ve been gravitating toward non-fiction, and reading a lot of science and history.

  • Dave G.

    You’re preaching to choir on that one. Though the problem with atheists is that they put so much on particular twists and turns on history. The whole ‘religion is a force of evil’ demands some very unique interpretations of the historical data. Sure, ignorance of history is nothing that atheists can claim as their own, but many who wear the badge of ‘atheist hero’ have been known to say some pretty off the wall things. Oh, and no, the US is not a Christian nation, nor was it ever. It is a product of the 18th century Enlightenment. The thick line between the two, however, would be foreign to the 18th century thinker.

  • Dave G.

    Love your point about archaeology and its relationship to history. However, we must be cautious with the whole idea that we can presume to know what we have no evidence for based on the idea that those rascals were probably lying. Call me old timer, but I’ll take a traditional take on history until evidence can be shown that the traditional take is wrong. I can’t say ‘they were the winners, they probably lied, so I’ll bet the real story was just the opposite.’ I cringe when historians today say, “We have no evidence, but we know…” Ick. Though the fact that people of old embellished or outright lied is well established by the modern world. After all, how do we know the very historians we read today aren’t every bit the liars?

  • 3lemenope

    I think he’s arguing rather that a world-view informed only by science and nothing else would not have the capacity to restrain people from acting destructively.

    I think he’s not so much wrong about that as that the posit is nonsensical. Science is not, itself, a complete world view, and can’t act as the sole arbiter of value for acts, persons, or events, nor serve as a primary motivating impulse for most areas of action. Not *shouldn’t*, but *can’t*. Ice cream cones don’t make bad hammers so much as they aren’t hammers at all.

  • 3lemenope

    I wouldn’t say it is good historical practice to assume anything strange that is uncorroborated is a lie, by any means. More that anything uncorroborated should come with an asterisk next to it that tells us so, so we don’t hold it as tightly as we would an historical element with corroboration.

    That, of course, means quite a few asterisks. I think that alone would do a service as a corrective for perceptions of history, because many people who haven’t studied history are under the impression that we know *for sure* quite a bit more than we actually do.

  • 3lemenope

    The whole ‘religion is a force of evil’ demands some very unique interpretations of the historical data.

    That’s certainly true. I personally find the “case” on both sides tiresome, because from where I stand I can see no significant distinction between religious institutions and their actions (for good or ill) and comparable secular institutions.

    Religion is a force for ‘meh’. The times it does become baleful, it does so in fairly mundane ways. The times it helps, likewise, are pretty mundane. And on balance, there’s plenty of both to give the lie to anyone claiming that religion is altogether good or evil. It is merely a human institution, amplifying our best and worst qualities.

    Though, not for nothing, this has some unpleasant implications in itself for religious claims.

    Oh, and no, the US is not a Christian nation, nor was it ever. It is a product of the 18th century Enlightenment. The thick line between the two, however, would be foreign to the 18th century thinker.

    I think one of the things that screws up this analysis from every angle is that for the US in the Revolutionary and immediate post-Revolutionary period, our radicals were our prominent leaders (as often happens immediately following a revolution). It’s hard to know just how far Madison or Jefferson’s rather fierce views on separation were shared more broadly among the populace. Their ideas seemed to gain hearty reception in Virginia during the debates over establishment and freedom of religious conscience, but seem more muted during the Second Continental Congress period, then become more prominent again immediately following the conflict with Tripoli and the Barbary States.

    I think to say ideology is rooted in circumstance and changes with it is almost too mundane to bother, but it is the best explanation for why it is so difficult to pin down the mien of the time, much less upon any specific issue. As the revolutionary period gave way to periods of stable governance, different classes of problems erupted which required different solutions and emphases. The relative “thickness” of the separation between religion and state is a function of what role religion seeks to play in society, and no less what role the state seeks to play, and as those have changed, people’s particular concerns vis-a-vis separation have shifted too.

  • RobMcCune

    I think he’s not so much wrong about that as that the posit is nonsensical.

    That’s my take on it as well. Governments pushed for the development of poison gas, gas chambers and nuclear weapons (just look at the $2 billion Manhattan Project), to further their own agendas. The idea that science itself would lead to mass destruction if not reigned in backward, and Dave’s examples undermine his point.

  • f_galton

    “The problem starts in grade school, where few children ever come into personal contact with a scientifically trained person”

    I would like to see evidence for this.

  • Dave G.

    I missed where they were invented outside of science, Sorry, atheism tries to get mileage out of simplistic takes on history when it comes to religions and their track records. Sure, I’m willing to look at the complexities of anything. But it shows that science, in and of itself, is not some magic formula immune to many forces that have plagued such things as religion and politics.

  • 3lemenope

    Science is a means. The ends are provided elsewise.

  • Dave G.

    No, science is not a complete world view, or at least shouldn’t be. Yet it’s often surprising how many try to make it that way.

  • 3lemenope

    Yet it’s often surprising how many try to make it that way.

    Who? How? Generally people who think they’re doing this are really just positivists who don’t know it. That makes them deluded, for sure, but scientism is not science and shouldn’t be confused with it.

  • f_galton

    How much science does he expect students to know? TIMSS results indicate the US is doing a good job of science education.

  • Dave G.

    Spot on. Which is a point that would be useful in other areas of debate. I’m the first to say you can’t just blame science for how some have abused it. Though folks who only look to science devoid of anything else can be dangerous, as listening to some reasoning about where to draw the line in when we can euthanize children can remind us. Of course, the argument that you can’t just blame science for how it is abused works in other subjects as well.

  • katiehippie

    I fell in love with science reading National Geographic cover to cover every month.

  • 3lemenope

    I think it’s not so much a function of misusuing science as it is the incompleteness of reason. All three facets of the rhetorical triad are important for evaluating arguments and values, and so people who attempt to only apply one will generally fail.

  • RobMcCune

    I missed where they were invented outside of science, Sorry

    A historian who is unfamiliar with multiple causes? I pity your students. You cited examples of massive government programs directed toward a political agenda as examples of unrestrained science, and I called you out on your simplistic outlook.

    atheism tries to get mileage out of simplistic takes on history when it comes to religions and their track records.

    Tit for tat is your excuse? Really?

    But it shows that science, in and of itself, is not some magic

    And you infer this from a book excerpt discussing the poor state of science education? Seriously, you’re overreacting to preconception about a book you haven’t read. I’m not even convinced the book is eve pushing science as world view so much as complement to one.

  • Dave G.

    That’s fair enough. To be honest, when I posted this, I had in mind a talk given by none other than P.Z. Myers himself, that not too subtly suggested ‘look at how great science is, it gives us neat stuff’ with the not too difficult to miss point that religion doesn’t give us science, so it sucks. It was good for a laugh, but I was taken by how many atheists acted as if he just came down from the mount. Science is wonderful, as are other methods for understanding other areas of what is. Confusing the two, or trying to force different disciplines into areas they don’t belong, always ends up causing mischief.

  • cr0sh

    I think I was always in love with science; or technology at the very least (I know it’s not the same, but hear me out): My first day of kindergarten was memorable; I was trying to get my mother to leave me behind (she was so worried about me), while at the same time trying to console a girl my age whose mother had left. I clearly recall drawing her a picture of a machine of some sort, which made her a bit happier – I guess knowing there was someone else there for her.

    All through grade school I was studying science, technology, robots, and computing – what I could find, at least. From books, magazines, and television – I tried to absorb it all. In second grade, we studied “simple machines” – and it really fascinated me; but I went on a tangent. With the help of my father, I ended up building a “robot” with a “laser cannon” – not much in the way of “simple machines” in there, but it did get me an “A” for the class.

    In the following grades, I continued my education; my parents encouraged this as well by purchasing science encyclopedias and two sets of standard encyclopedias. I got a library card for the local library very early on; Lego and Tinkertoys were always available. I played a lot outside, always building and experimenting with things. In the 5th grade I got my first computer; in the 6th, me and a friend strung an antenna in my back yard and experimented with radio.

    Across the street from my house, where I flew a variety of things – was a cotton field. I flew model rockets constantly; the wonder of flight was something I relished as a kid (paper airplanes on summer days). I recall listening to sonic booms rattle the house when the space shuttle crossed overhead, to land at Edwards Air Force Base. In the 8th grade, I was involved in our local “Young Astronauts Program” (thanks to a wonderful teacher, Ms. Goings), when the Challenger was destroyed. The city turned my cotton field of dreams into a park named after the shuttle. It’s still there, the trees much larger now.

    In the 8th grade I also got my first modem, which opened up new vistas for me in computing. I studied and played with programming, and robotics as well. In high school, I met more teachers who encouraged me in science, math, and computing (I sadly don’t remember all their names, but there was Mr. Schwartz in Physics and Mr. Bainbridge in Programming – among several others – who stand out). There was also an educator at the local community college’s Engineering course, who, through the yearly open “engineering challenge” competition – encouraged me to build and experiment with all kinds of strange contraptions to solve problems.

    To this day I approach problems with an analytical and scientific based mindset; I owe it all to my parents, my educators, my library, my books, and myself – it has and continues to serve me well, and has only increased the wonder I’ve held about the world. I can’t say I’ve always been an atheist, but I can say that science eventually, and belatedly (through my 20s) led me there – and firmly here I shall remain. That’s why #ScienceRules

  • Kodie

    How many, then? How many more try to base their reasoning on an imaginary deity? Science is just observation of our world. Knowledge can be used for good or bad things. False religion is used as fact for good and bad things too. It is an excuse to do bad things in the name of good. You can’t say “eugenics” is a bad thing because it came out of science – it came out of (what I would call) a grave misunderstanding of science, the misunderstanding that science has a purpose, and that we should use it to commit what we assume is its purpose.

    Rather, we take what we know – for example, global warming. Denying it doesn’t get us anywhere. Acknowledging it is our only hope of getting a solution. Being in the clear studied observation is our only hope of setting out in the right direction. Science doesn’t solve problems, people use science to solve problems. Sometimes, that problem is their personal issue, like xenophobia. Just because some people use science to be more efficient at eliminating people they don’t like doesn’t make that science’s fault.

    We do have social problems in this world that don’t seem to be able to be addressed by science. Still, religion points us in the wrong direction. Why do people hate? Why are people afraid, and why do they judge? Why do some people have more charisma and power than others, and how do they use this to persuade others to follow their lead instead of think for themselves? Religions use this charisma and power all the time, so don’t blame this on science. It is very easy in this world for some people to justify hating people and to use any nearby excuse to do how they will. It is very easy, using the science of satellites and internet, to reach people to suck them in and make them paranoid. I am not even talking about religions only. I see atheists sometimes making bold rash statements that don’t seem well thought out. I see judgments of any kind on any type of forum about any subject.

    I don’t know what it is about the human condition that makes judging others so easy. I would say this is one thing that religion does attempt to address, but lately does seem to fail at highlighting. Religions do caution against judgment, but people can’t help themselves. Judging people is the first step in dehumanizing them, and dehumanizing them is the next step toward justifying an action toward them, or the very least, consuming yourself with an ugly attitude. Whether people use science or religion to justify or enact any destructive attitude toward people and gather others to join in their cause, that is the subject to study.

    What I’m saying is, you can’t simply point your finger at science without also pointing it at religion. The problem here is people using any excuse at their disposal to make their personal issues more universal and gain support – so something may be done about X group of people. Don’t blame science. You said it yourself, “it’s often surprising how many try to make it that way.” Does science differ greatly from religion in that aspect?

  • cr0sh

    He sounds like he was a wonderful educator; I was fortunate enough that I had several like this throughout my public schooling (which, if I told you where I grew up, you would really wonder how that was possible – I’m amazed myself). Not all were science teachers, though a few were. I was actually fortunate enough to have had many teachers across all subjects who encouraged critical thinking skills, and not just rote memorization (that was there as well – you have to have it, it can’t be just one or the other). I didn’t become a scientist because of all this (became a software developer, instead – somehow; I kinda dropped into it) – but the skills I did acquire, and the encouragement I received from my parents, teachers, and others – have carried through to me to this day. I try to encourage such skills in others when I can (sadly, it doesn’t always work, nor is it always well received).

  • cr0sh

    “largely at the expense of learning how to think”

    Such a tragedy, IMHO. Not only missing on learning how to think, but likely missing on learning how to learn, as well. Both are interdependent on each other; if we could only teach our children those two things along with critical thinking and analysis skills (and do it early on, perhaps K-3?) – the teaching and learning of other subjects for students would likely become easier and quicker all the way around. Plus, they would be able to continue to self-educate the rest of their lives, continuing to grow as a person and as a citizen.

  • cr0sh

    Science isn’t the tool. The “scientific method” (and critical thinking) are the tools – which can be (and should be) applied across -all- disciplines.

    Also – wisdom can’t be taught; it can only ultimately come from experience and application (whether hands-on or by example – though hands-on typically brings greater and lasting wisdom).

    Also, I don’t think wisdom is about suppressing the application of knowledge and understanding of “great power”; rather it should be about how to wield that power for the greater good. For instance, the greater good of a fusion reactor vs a hydrogen bomb; both rely on the same processes. Unfortunately, we only know how to effectively build and use the latter, and not the former (though I honestly wonder if having the amount of energy available that a fusion reactor would allow for would necessarily be a good thing – at least within our immediate limited confines here on the planet earth – but then I think about how we could use that to explore our solar system and perhaps the stars).

  • igraine91

    Like the students described in the excerpt above, I too was taught science as a list of facts to be memorized, and the majority of my science education in elementary school was done by teachers not trained in science.

    But I can offer a slightly different perspective, because after getting a Ph.D. in science, I decided to retrain and became an elementary school teacher! In fact, I am the rotary science teacher for the Grade 7 and 8 students at our school. Based on my observations, I certainly agree with many of the points in the excerpt — most classroom teacher in Grades K to 6 teach their own science, but very few have formal scientific training or understanding of the scientific method. And how can you teach what you don’t know?

    Here’s another wrinkle, though. I am a trained scientist and desperately try to convey to my students that science is an ongoing process in which we form hypotheses and then conduct experiments to test them. I often stress that getting unexpected results is not something to be upset about — this is typically what happens in science…it just means we need to re-examine the issue and then try again. But in order to teach this to students effectively, we will actually need to rework the structure of our entire educational system.

    According to the public school curriculum where I teach, I must teach students 4 strands of science per year, and for each strand, there is a LONG list of expectations (i.e., think of them like facts or bits of knowledge) that I must cover. I must assess their understanding and have concrete evidence in my marks binder to provide feedback to parents concerning their child’s learning and to back up my marks on report cards. To top it all off, the amount of time given to science is only about 100 minutes per week (some of which is lost due to announcements, snack time, assemblies, etc.). To be able to cover what I am required to cover (by law!) and to be able to gather the assessment data I am required to gather (by law!) means that I feel like I am rushing all year. It certainly doesn’t leave me enough time to cover all of the necessary concepts while illustrating the trial-and-error process of science and modelling critical thinking.

    So…I love science, and I love teaching…but sometimes it’s very difficult to do the type of job I want to do.

    p.s. For anyone interested in reading a blog about atheism and religion by a writer with a strong background and interest in science, check out:



  • cr0sh

    I don’t think religion is necessarily a “force of evil” rather than a philosophical space in which ordinary, nominally “good” people may be allowed to think and act on principles which they believe are good and just, but to an outsider look unjust, sometimes morally bankrupt, and sometimes even “evil”.

    I’m not indicting any particular religion or all religions here, but rather the philosophical mindset that lies behind much of religious thought. There are religions, and religious people throughout history who have done wonderful and humanistic things for us that reverberate through the ages; no one can realistically discount that.

    At the same time, there have been more than a few tragedies suffered at the hands of others who were either following their hearts and minds, believing they were alleviating suffering when in fact they were prolonging or instigating it (along with those who “went along to get along” as followers – not bother to stop anything – heck, we see that happen even today – how many more LGBTQ people have to die or be injured because of certain religious intolerance?) – or worse, those who hid behind a mask of piety, “godliness”, and justification of one form or another, to ultimately cause the suffering of many (Torquemada is just one example from history).

  • Jake

    Hmm…I fell in love with science when two things happened: I learned to read, and I learned to hunt. Science was something that demanded so much though that I could gleefully consume all my free time reading about it as a kid (much to my parents’ chagrin), and when I first learned to hunt and plant, science suddenly became applicable and gave me an advantage.

    Been nerdin’ it up on the trail ever since.


  • Stang

    In South Dakota many years ago, “science” and math was usually taught by coaches. Head football coach for sophomore Biology (evolution wasn’t in the book in 1963 — so I wrote a paper on it); grade school coach for freshman General Science (my last foray in that class was asking why I could see fog and steam if water vapor was invisible). Chemistry finally — a non-coach, and he also taught senior math (stopping before calculus). Mostly, my interest in science was from the home — loved stars, planets, etc., read science fiction, and things like Bertrand Russell’s ABC’s of relativity. For me, it was in spite of school, with a few exceptions, or rebellion against idiot coaches being assigned impossible intellectual tasks. Don’t know how Lawrence did it, the South Dakotan inventor of the cyclotron…. #ScienceRules

  • cr0sh

    I don’t think he expecting students to “know” science. Rather, I think he expects and wants students to be taught about the scientific method, and critical thinking. He likely wants to see this knowledge become an innate part of these student’s lives, and for them to understand how to apply it to other subjects in their ongoing, lifelong education.

  • Kodie

    I bet I could pass the test, but don’t ask me how I know any of the answers.

  • Dave G.

    Kodie, An elaborate way of saying ‘you might be right, but religion is worse.’ Which really isn’t much of a point. If your answer to any point is ‘oh yeah, oh yeah? That might be, but religion is dumb and bad!’, then it probably means more points are going to be missed.

  • Dave G.

    No, and I hardly made the point that everyone does it. It’s just a common mistake, or deliberate and willful ignorance, on the part of some who see science and use science as an alternative to religion.

  • Dave G.

    Rob, multiple causes are fine, if I had said there is only one possible thing that leads to the problem of misusing science it would almost be a valid point. And yes, tit for tat. Atheists who are suddenly rushing to the defense to say ‘hold up now Dave, let’s stop and look at the details, the complexities, the whole picture’ would see how that could change many things, like how many (not all, many) look at religion and history. As for the book, I said nothing at all, but that science is great, but there are other things worth focusing on as well, and that science in and of itself can end up a bad end. That’s all. I’m actually amazed at how many have had such a reaction to what should be an obvious point.

  • Kodie

    No, it’s more like a wordy way of saying at least science starts with facts, while religions makes them up. People are still fallible. Science doesn’t address that, religion tries to with chastity belts.

  • Northstar

    Wonderful excerpt, I hope I win the book. I fell in love with science just running wild as a kid in Florida, catching lizards and snakes, playing in the creek and studying my back-porch collection of jumping spiders in jars. I loved leafing through the books on the human body we had, looking at the clear acetate overlays of all the body’s organs and structures. When we were allowed to take home a book at the end of the year in early grade school, instead of a Golden Book I chose one on the human body — and prized it.

    Now as a homeschool mom, I love sharing my love of science with my girls. My eldest has been able to read widely on fascinating subjects — neurology, anatomy, evolutionary biology, physics, etc. etc., and discover the grand scope of science deeply and personally. Must have worked, despite my lack of qualifications — she made a near perfect score on the science subset of the SAT. My youngest has her own lab in the kitchen with microscopes, beakers, test tubes and the whole nine yards — my philosophy is, especially if it blows up or burns, it’s a science project we’ve gotta do! Just spent a nice Sunday over at the grandparents imploding a pop can and demonstrating a stomp rocket… (So c’mon folks, you don’t need to hate on us homeschoolers! Sometimes what we do is in _answer_ to some of the problems presented in the excerpt!)

    I love science. Love love love love it. #ScienceRules

  • Kodie

    I just got a 71% on an 11th grade science test from Maine in 2012.


  • Kodie

    How come there was a contest to win this book and the math book but not the one with the death counts from the bible? That’s a book I want.

  • Mario Strada

    Since my daughter is currently teaching in a private school while she is putting together a plan for her PHd, this is a subject pretty close to me. She is a music graduate, but she has had to teach a variety of other subjects as well.

    Fortunately, she is fairly bright and skeptical, not to mention dedicated and she has always made it a point to catch up on what she was teaching. I remember helping her with History, not so much the actual history but the way it is taught in the US (which is another tragedy as it seems much of US history was rewritten by hollywood screenwriters in between projects, with Washington as some sort of superhero and the other founding father the paragon of perfection and justice. America always wins in our classrooms).

    Reading this excerpt made me think that there may be an opening for someone to write a book, or maybe a series, for science teachers that have had no science training at all. Basically the idea would be to instill in them the wonder and the importance of science. Show them how discussing levers in the classroom by reciting the book pales compared with having a simple piece of wood and a few heavy things to lift.

    If I were tasked with teaching science and I was completely ignorant of the matter, at the very least I would use the many science videos on youtube for inspiration on how to teach things.

    Since we are not going to solve the issue of teachers ignorant of science, maybe we can make a dent by inspiring the teachers and through them reach the students.


  • C Peterson

    How we teach science is a holdover from the days when you really could teach just about everything we knew. But those days are long past. Most raw information now is only known to specialists. There’s not much point in teaching so many fine points of science if you can instead teach how to find that information out (which is usually easy, if you simply have the basic vocabulary of science, and a broad view of the different branches of knowledge).

  • Bob Carlson

    I checked the Amazon site and see that the book hasn’t yet been reviewed there. The Kindle version of the book is priced at $8.39, so I’ll probably grab it after I finish reading the similarly priced Surely Your Joking, Mr. Feynman (Adventures of a Curious Character). Incidentally, the chapter I just finished included Feynman’s critique of the teaching methods he had encountered in Brazil. Lots of rote memorization that provided no understanding of the concepts being taught.

  • hotshoe

    I literally slept through biology in high school. (I wish I could find my teacher and apologize to her: I wasn’t sleeping because class was boring, not at all. I’m sorry now that I realize my behavior must have hurt her feelings then.) Everything must have been sinking in while I dozed, because I got fine grades, and that was the year when I decided to become an ecologist. I realized I wanted to study the characteristics and relationships of all the living creatures in our area, and use that knowledge to protect them. Of course I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be – high school science was way too easy to give me a realistic perspective on “grown-up” science – but high school biology is what gave me the taste for science which I still have.


  • Rationalist1

    I fell in love with science with the moon missions. I was too young to remember science, remember Gemini and was enthralled with Apollo. I remember Christmas 2008 and going outside to look at the moon and thinking there were three humans orbiting the moon. I work in computers now, but share my love of science and especially astronomy with my son and my Scout troop (I’m in Canada and they have no problem with an non believer being a Scout leader).

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    I think it’s a matter of degree. Historical evidence is often very incomplete but that does not preclude applying the scientific method to what is available. Arguement to the best explanation for example really comes down to the application of formal logic and Bayes theorem to whatever we can infer from all we can know at a given time. To me this is science, or rather the scientific method. Hypotheses about historical events can also be predictive about what other evidence should be seen. Although the criteria for falsification are necessarily weaker than for , say physics, or even archeology, it is still a scientific mind set that will get your narrative closer to some kind of objective truth.

  • Oranje

    Oof: Age 3 for beginning to form sectarian biases? Yikes.

    For me, science came in so strongly because everything on television would stop when it was time to launch the space shuttle. I was a young child in the early 80′s, and I remember how exciting it was that we could do this, even if I wasn’t old enough to grasp the difficulties involved or the magnitude of the accomplishment.

    Science had already taken hold for me by 1986. When the Challenger exploded, it wasn’t turning away from science. At the age of 8, my mentality was, I hope they figure out what went wrong so we can keep doing it better.

  • Discordia

    While I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy books I never threw myself into science in school. In fact, I disliked school because of all the rote Memorize This without any real need for the application of the information I was having to memorize. Half the stuff I memorized for a test I could not recall a month later. I knew that wasn’t a real education. I was never made aware of all the myriad career possibilities in science. All I really knew about was chemistry (mad scientists), biology (high school teacher), medicine (nurses, doctors, surgeons, dentists) and rocket scientists. We didn’t really go over much else in school, at least, not that I remember. Science was boring, nothing but formulas and periodic tables and memorization. Science was kind of fun but nothing I took seriously. It wasn’t really explained as delightfully as Hawkins and Asimov explain it. If it had been, I am pretty sure my life would have taken a far, far different path.

    It wasn’t until I went back to school some twenty years after I had graduated high school that I really found out how much damned FUN science is. I took a lot of earth sciences and aced every class. Ecology was absolutely delightful, as was soil science and limnology. I really got into nonfiction books and bought several that supplemented my education. It was also around this time that I began to deconvert from Christianity. Most of that was personal (five years of “Please God, soften my (ex)husbands heart so he will stop abusing me”) but everything else that I was learning was knocking the foundation from under my faith. I think the psychology, philosophy and *.ology classes really did it for me. None of religion’s claims could stand up against the simple facts and reason in science.

    Religion says that people who murder others will go to hell, but science showed that some people are born with screwed up brain chemistry and have no moral qualms about killing other people. Are they going to hell because God made them with a screwed-up brain and allowed them to kill other people?

    Religion says that humans are made in God’s image, but why do we breathe and eat through the same tube? Why do we get cancer and other diseases? Why aren’t our eyes as awesome as those of the mantis shrimp? Why can’t we change color like the cuttlefish? Why can’t smell as well as a grizzly bear? Shouldn’t humans have better senses than all these so-called “lower animals” since we are God’s most favoritest specials of them all?

    Evolution is both mind boggling and terribly simple. It is so much more wondrous and intriguing than “god did it.” It is much more real and much less cruel than mass drownings brought on by a case of divine puerile pique. It is the ultimate example of trial and error… and look at all the magnificent diversity of those trials working together in the huge web of life that is our planet.

    If I absolutely had to worship something, then it would be Science, for Science demands questions and exploration. It isn’t satisfied with pat, dumbed-down, sugar-coated answers. It seeks understanding and demands that we push our limits, not only with the one sacred question of “Why?” but with the one holy answer of “I don’t know, but let’s find out!”

    What does science have to offer? Science has given me more wonder and boundless delight in the world and universe around me that religion ever has or ever could.


  • Bob Carlson

    Finally grabbed the book, but after I finished the Feynman book I read Hemant’s book, The Young Atheists Survival Guide, which I immensely enjoyed even though I am far from being young. This gave time for there now to be one review of the Trumble book on Amazon. I haven’t gotten very far, but it is a good book, and it is simply astonishing that it could be so neglected while tripe like Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven has gotten 5,386 reviews on Amazon!

  • Vivek Raykar

    I fell in love with science through two loves of mine-science fiction and rationalism.Isaac Asimov and Bertrand Russell were two outstanding writers who inculcated in me love of science Later on there was Martin Gardner,Carl Sagan
    Richard Dawkins and many others.But I cannot ignore Darwin,Einstein ,Feynman
    many other scientists.Bless popular science books!It is one of the most exciting time to be living as so many books are coming out explaining the wonders of universe and life,brain and mind.Now science appears more exciting than science fiction #Science Rules