Every Child Is Born a Scientist

“Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.” —Carl Sagan

Do you agree that children start out as scientists?

  • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

    Well, if you consider science as being fundamentally about asking, “Why?” Then… yes, pretty much.

    If you want a specific methodology aimed at reaching repeatable results through testing and refining one’s conclusions, then no, not so much.

    • dmantis

      There’s a great book called “The Scientist in the Crib” about childhood development that would disagree with your comment, Michael.

      • http://nagamakironin.blogspot.com/ Michael Mock

        Well, okay, that looks really interesting. I may have to reconsider.

  • D’n

    Human beings are naturally horrible at science. Confirmation bias, stereotyping, anchoring, availability heuristic, etc. If we were all born being really good at it then we would have developed things like the scientific method long ago. The scientific method, and what separates science from mere curiosity and conjecture, is the systematic approach to eliminating our human tendencies to misinterpret data. That’s why we need things such as double blind studies. Even scientists who have been at it their whole adult life can be rather bad at it if they aren’t careful.

  • Nerrin

    This is only an anecdote for obvious reasons, but my brother’s girlfriend has a 6-year-old who is the most inquisitive person I’ve probably ever met. He loves to test things – mostly his mother’s limits – but the constant desire to know more, to understand, and to poke at the world to find out how it reacts… All that is definitely there, and has been since I first met him more than three years ago. The kid is obviously not strictly speaking a scientist, but the spirit is present in him, at least. Sagan would have been right about him, and our whole family (there may not be a blood or legal relation, but he’s family) hopes to help him be one of those precious few who get to adulthood with that spirit of inquiry intact.

  • http://www.expatpaul.eu/ ExpatPaul

    I completely agree with the quote. When I look at my own three kids, all of them are absolutely fascinated with the world around them – what things are, how they work, where they live, how they react, the list is endless.

    Obviously, the scientific method provides a means for rigourously testing our theories and allows us to make confident predictions based upon them. But it is the sense of wonder and enthusiasm for knowing more that inspires children to learn and adults to become scientists.

  • Mark Joseph

    Good book in which 50 scientists explain how their childhood curiosity led them to become scientists: “Curious Minds: How a Child Becomes a Scientist” edited by John Brockman.

  • http://aussieseculardad.blogspot.com/ Aussie Secular Dad

    My six year olds were so thrilled when I told them about this quote. They’ve been walking around ever since talking about how they’re scientists. We talked about how the only difference between them and grown-up scientists is that they hadn’t yet learned all of the tools that a scientist uses to distinguish truth from bias. I assured them that I’d help them learn those things.

    In addition to talking about these things at the drop of a hat during out daily lives, we also now have ‘Sunday Morning Science’ on even numbered weeks, where we do experiments. I can’t help but contrast that to what they do on Sunday mornings during the odd numbered weeks with their mother.


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