Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Not a good reason to learn science....

There are few good reasons to learn science, but if you want to know the universe outside the nutty human sphere wrapped around most of us in this part of the world, that should be reason enough.

I hear a lot of educated people give inane reasons for learning science. No, you do not need to know science in order to get through life--plenty on folks keep themselves and their bank accounts quite full knowing nothing about the natural world, and a few of them are running for President. (Anyone who advocates sustained economic "growth" needs to stick their head in the sand and get reacquainted with the Earth....)

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, however, offers up one of the lamest (and, alas, most common) reasons why children should study science--jobs.

The sad fact is, most new jobs being generated now require little more than a passing acquaintance with a keyboard, and evolving voice technologies will make even that minimal requirement obsolete within a decade.

If more parents had access to real jobs that provide living wages and enough spare time to spend time with their families, time to learn more about the world outside electronic screens, we would create a more scientifically literate culture.

If we ever did manage to do that, the economy as we know it, an economy that depends on churning consumption feeding insatiable desires, would collapse. Every minute a child spends at the edge of a pond watching a wriggler wend it way through its wet universe is a minute that contributes nothing to the gross domestic product.

That's fine with me. Not sure it's what Dr. Tyson had in mind.

Sustained exponential growth is simply not physically possible.
Anyone with an 8th grade knowledge of arithmetic can figure out that much....


Doug Noon said...

And when all the decent-paying jobs are shipped overseas or automated, there won't be any reason to learn anything, and teachers will need to motivate students with meaningless incentives like grades, tests, and certificates (and punishment, when those don't work) .... What? Yeah, this is progress. Was childhood ever worth anything in its own right? Maybe, at some point it was, but the more I teach, the less certain I am that it is now.

doyle said...

Dear Doug,

I get uncertain about just about everything by the time the sun decides to stop its southern slide. I have no idea how you survive without the light.

I have faith that if we remind kids of the world outside their immediate culture, help them learn how to think, to allow them to see beauty, we'll be alright.

Not going to happen n our generation, true, but i still plant trees.