MISCONCEPTION: Scientists’ observations directly tell them how things work (i.e., knowledge is “read off” nature, not built).
CORRECTION: Because science relies on observation and because the process of science is unfamiliar to many, it may seem as though scientists build knowledge directly through observation. Observation is critical in science, but scientists often make inferences about what those observations mean. Observations are part of a complex process that involves coming up with ideas about how the natural world works and seeing if observations back those explanations up. Learning about the inner workings of the natural world is less like reading a book and more like writing a non-fiction book — trying out different ideas, rephrasing, running drafts by other people, and modifying text in order to present the clearest and most accurate explanations for what we observe in the natural world.
Archive for June 22nd, 2012