“The future depends on what we do in the present.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The future will ultimately reveal if the United States continues to innovate and discover new scientific breakthroughs. Yet, how the future potentially unfolds is up to those of us who are here and now in the present. What approach to knowledge and the discovery of how things work has brought mankind measured prosperity? If we study the innovators that have ushered in waves of technological breakthrough, what would we learn? To be prepared for the future, we have to place a high value on science, empirical methodology, and teach successive generations to do the same.
No matter what Americans believe when it comes to the origin of life’s biodiversity, most of us can be in hopeful agreement that a bright future is what we desire for this country. The United States has not only been at the forefront of many industries, but has actually realized their inception. We have been steadily opening new doors that have fostered new ideas in the minds of each generation. Any technological greatness this country has come to savor is due to the focus of time, energy, and funding we have shown each successive generation in the area of scientific progress and innovation. Dr. Michio Kaku is a renowned author, television personality, and Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of New York. He has clearly communicated that science is the “engine of prosperity” and the wealth of civilizations today has come from scientific discoveries. Therefore, if we are to truly embrace what we have learned from our past and continue to be a society that is driven by prosperity, we must stay ever mindful of how and with what we are shaping the minds of the generation that will follow us.
The question of what should be taught in the public science classroom must be posed. How do we shape the minds of each successive generation in order to prepare them for scientific progress, innovation, and breakthrough? What would the future look like if we asked each successive generation to focus on the reality of issues facing mankind today? What if real questions were asked of science students, ones that would ask how to address hunger, gridlock, energy sustainability, waste, medicine, water scarcity, and terrorism to name a few? Is learning how to satisfy a pondering or an inquisitive itch the same as learning how to quench one’s thirst with clean abundant water, offer speedy and efficient transportation, or end the pangs of hunger with smarter ways to farm? Adopting an approach of teaching how science works is far greater than teaching how to infer conclusions from a certain view of evidence. If the youth of today are taught to face problems and are asked to address such issues in the light of scientific progress and innovation, our society would be in a position of continued and sustainable breakthrough bringing wealth and prosperity for generations to come.
So, where does this leave us when it comes to explaining the origin of species? Life’s diversity is a fact. Life’s diversity is, therefore most would agree that life had an origin. Yet, this topic has been plagued by contention for generations, and throughout this contention there has been an unhealthy and smug arrogance in believing there is a correct explanation of origins. Can we truthfully speak of how life became so diverse in any way other than by acknowledging our inability to scientifically know? Will true innovators and scientific minds of the future continue spending time and tax dollars on touting inferred conclusions to the origin of life’s diversity? Will it someday be understood that, scientifically speaking, we will never know how biodiversity came into existence?
If we desire scientific breakthrough, innovation, and prosperity we must teach true scientific “gnosis,” which is Greek for “knowledge.” To say we have gnosis, means we know. Inversely, our inability to know is called “agnosis.” When it comes to origins, what other approach is more logical and honest than to claim scientific agnosis? Our inability to know how all of the diverse species originated is not something to be ashamed of or afraid to admit. In fact, leaving the door open to other possibilities furthers scientific investigation and protects us from becoming erroneously dogmatic.
Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard P. Feynman offered a similarly elegant idea by saying, “I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.”
Curricula that engages the origin of life’s biodiversity support a fact-through-inference approach to science. We must ask if this approach produces anything close to being deemed an “engine of prosperity.” In order to maintain our scientific edge, the United States must agree to teach empirical methodology and set aside hope-filled philosophy. Do we believe our children’s precious time and tax dollars should be spent on anything other than science in our nation’s science classrooms?
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