This TED Talk is appropriate for the start of a new school year. Naomi Oreskes breaks down the traditional concept of the scientific method and explains some of the realities of how scientific thinking has shaped our world in the past and present. It’s worth a watch, especially if you know climate-change deniers, creationists, or other people who don’t understand the many beautiful ways our Universe works because they don’t understand the scientific mindset. Here’s the video:
This article from the New York Times is important for a couple of reasons. First, it describes the latest discovery in the long history of evidence supporting the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection, which is possibly the most thoroughly researched idea in science.
“Baffling 400,000-year-old Clue to Human Origins”
The second – and maybe more significant – reason this article is important is because it outlines the process by which new discoveries interplay with existing scientific ideas. No hypothesis or theory is sacred. As soon as objective evidence is unearthed, which undermines or challenges previously-held ideas, what we consider the ‘truth’ changes in response.
Non-scientists mistakenly think of this shift as somehow moving the goalposts or not actually believing in anything. I would argue that this model actually strengthens science’s claim to the ‘truth’ of human understanding because it demonstrates a faith in the process, rather than a specific set of ideas or dogma. Scientific ideas can – and should! – change as we learn more and more about the world around us. But the process of discovery, questioning, and realignment, which we call the Scientific Method, is unchanging and continues to lead to a deeper and more complete understanding of the forces which shape our world. Richard Feynman discusses this very idea in the video embedded below.