One of the first things students notice as they walk into Room B362 is a huge "WHY?" sign on the wall facing them, in bright pink letters, in an odd font designed by the man who cut out the letters. (OK, I was in a rush when I did it...)
It has sparked some debate with the only true professional scientist in the building. He's a large man with a wonderful mane of hair and a leonine voice to go with it:
"Mike...There is no why in science."
So now there's an equally huge sign, also in an original font, in his room, B361: "HOW?"
Dr. Jeff Goldstein is a rock star in science education, the Center Director for our National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, and the guy in this inspirational video:
I know Dr. Goldstein is wild about science and about education--he's one of the good guys.
Twitter is a hard place to exchange ideas, and the blurb above is out of context. Dr. Goldstein took the time to respond to me, and for that I am grateful.
I have a fundamental question about the philosophy of science, one I have been wrestling with ever since the "WHY?" vs. "HOW?" Battle of the Banners at BHS a couple of years ago, one that changed the focus of science education in my classroom.
Is there a point where we have to accept that the observable universe is what it is "Just because..."?
I am not referring to a lame response to a two-year-old child after the 239th question she asked in a short car ride. The answer then is rude, unsatisfactory, and does its intended job, clams the child up (and is harmful in the long run).
Dr. Goldstein was right to take issue with the question in the staccato nature of Twitter discussion--and I suspect we were talking past each other.
Is there a place in science where the answer "just because" makes sense, where it becomes as important as "we do not know"? Is it scientifically possible to find the root causes of the basic laws of the universe?
Or is it just more turtles standing on turtles?