Science As Story Telling Forum


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greetings ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-03-03 13:52:41
Link to this Comment: 13382

Welcome to the on-line forum for Science as Story Telling and Story Revision. Like all Serendip forums, this is a place for public informal conversation. Its a place to put thoughts-in-progress that might be useful to other people, and to find thoughts-in-progress of others that might be useful to you.

My immediate reason for starting this forum was to provide a place where people could respond to ideas presented in Revisiting Science in Culture: Science as Story Telling and Story Revising, and I'm certainly looking forward to hearing what people thought of those and seeing what more might be made using them. Part of the point of the article though was to emphasize the value of their being multiple "stories" of science, so I hope people won't feel bound by the article. It is intended as no more than a take-off point for conversation here, a conversation in which multiple perspectives on science are allowed to rub against one another, each altering and being altered by the others in the process.

Looking forward to seeing what new understandings and stories we generate together. You can easily keep up with the conversation by registering using this forum's Keep Me Posted feature which will send you an email on any day when a new posting has appeared here. And if you would like to make available longer materials in a different format, email me and will work out an arrangement for doing so.


and beyond ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-05-17 08:15:25
Link to this Comment: 15201

Colleagues from Building the Scientific Mind ...

Unidirectional exchange is not my favorite kind, and I'm sorry I could not be with you in person to listen as well as talk, to engage in the story exchange and revision that I think is the most important part of building the scientific mind/brain. So here, for the moment, the next best thing, a place for thoughts/exchange not only about my talk on The Emerging Scientific Brain/Mind but any/all of the issues and concerns that derive from it and from our shared commitment to a broader and richer engagement by and for all humans with science as exploration/creation/story telling.

A principle concern of my talk was to make the point that the basic wherewithal for doing science as both observation and story telling is a deep seated commonality in all humans. In another venue (or with more time in this one), I would certainly have made the point that all brains are different in a variety of other, equally important, ways, and, even more importantly, that these differences are an essential component of the ongoing explorations that science encourages and on which it depends. So I'm very glad to have had this point raised at the end of my talk.

Very much looking forward to hearing your further evolving thoughts, both here and as they emerge in other venues from the Colloquium, and to finding more ways to work together ...


response to article
Name: Kate Shine
Date: 2005-06-14 11:14:34
Link to this Comment: 15340

I agree that the scientific and cultural communities would both benefit from the scientific contributions of those who do not fit the current stereotypical mold of the scientist. In the book Life of Pi by Yann Martel the main character describes scientists as a "friendly, atheistic, hard-working, beer-drinking lot whose minds are preoccupied with sex, chess, and baseball when they are not preoccupied with science.” As ridiculous as this description seems, it is an expression of one current story about what arbitrary attributes a person needs to possess if he or she (most likely he) hopes to become a scientist.

For those who do not fit these descriptions, science can seem overwhelming, irrelevant, or threatening. But approaching science as a method of story telling and story revising as presented in this article may go a long way toward welcoming those outside the community into the discussion. I see it as doing this in two ways. First of all, broadening our ideas of the types of observations considered scientific, i.e. not focusing solely on quantitative calculations in the classroom or requiring everyone to memorize lists of information, could inspire more people to engage in science who otherwise would not feel competent doing so. I love the idea that babies come into the world as curious scientists. We should find more ways to nurture this spark. Secondly, non-atheists may be less wary of science if they understand that the scientific story can never hope to rise to the level of "Truth" or of validating or invalidating "universal claims."

However, I still see some roadblocks for these communities in the version of the scientific story presented in this article, primarily for the second group (non-atheists). Although I do see the benefits of broadening the types of observations considered scientific to a certain degree, I do not really agree that “we do no one any good…by pretending that some things are outside science.” Perhaps in principle no things are outside science, but the foundation of science is “open and public evaluation” of the observations and summaries of observations put forth by any scientist. Types of observations that are by their nature personal or spiritual cannot be fairly evaluated by science. Any person may include them in their own particular summary, and this is outside the realm of judgment of other scientists. Of course we can study emotion and spiritual phenomena, but experiencing such things is very different from noting the physiological changes that occur when they happen. For scientists to realize that certain personal experiences may be outside the realm of science may actually do an enormous amount of good in allowing a great many more people in our society not to feel threatened by science.


another respond to the article
Name: Yaena Park
Date: 2005-06-15 14:35:43
Link to this Comment: 15347

Reading the article, Revisiting Science in Cultured: Science as Story Telling and Story Revising, I realized that I had misconceptions about science. Whenever I studied science, I tried to find the right answer believing that was the truth. When approaching science problems, I took only one way that I learned in class. I think the concept that science is about getting the right answer scares many people and takes a part in widening the gap between scientists and non-scientists.

In the educational institutes where science is taught as “getting things right”, people are afraid of being wrong and that results in less engagement in learning science. Approaching science as a story telling and revising can break down these fears, because it assures people that science is not about being right or wrong, but about creating their own versions of stories. Realizing that there is no absolute truth in science and that “there is no conclusion in science; it is a continual and recursive process of story telling” makes the learning science process more interesting and engaging, because people can actually participate in creating stories and revising them.


New challenges
Name: Rebekah Ba
Date: 2005-06-17 15:06:41
Link to this Comment: 15350

This paper describes what i find to be an extremely exciting vision of science, one incalculably useful for individuals of all disciplines, backgrounds, and interests. I feel that the paper itself may also prove a source of insight and confidence for individuals like those quoted at the beginning of the paper, non-scientists unsure about what science is and how it might be useful to them and apprehensive about learning more. Its approachable and non-technical tone and style make it an ideal starting point for non-scientifically inclined adults to begin to think about science in ways that will enable them to participate and find uses in it. However if we’re to make science a more inclusive, cooperative process involving both traditionally trained scientists and interested folks from other backgrounds, it’s imperative that existing, more traditionally-minded scientists begin to recognize the benefits of science as storytelling and story revising too. It's not going to help matters much if people begin getting more interested in participating in science, if the scientific research community is not also committed to integrating science and the rest of society. The primary concern I came away from this paper with was, “does this paper take into account the concerns many traditional scientists may have with this philosophy, and does it make strong arguments to dispel them?” As a general introduction to the idea of science as storytelling, this paper succeeds beautifully, but now I feel a detailed consideration of the issues at stake for the existing scientific community must be considered.

Here is a list of other ideas that I feel the scientific community will need to be strongly convinced of before the science/storytelling idea will be deemed sound and beneficial to them:

*interdisciplinary is not an impossible dream, a waste of time, or a dumbing-down of legitimate disciplines
*making science more interesting and accessible to the general population is useful to the field
-relatedly, devising ways to make even very cutting-edge, complex, or technical research understandable to non-scientists on some level is important and worthwhile
*keeping a broad perspective by making connections between scientific developments and larger questions and ideas beyond the realm of science is worthwhile and useful to the field
*thinking about and striving for science as not detached from, but actively present within culture, is worthwhile and useful for the field


Likewise, the other major challenge I feel is presented by this paper is, “how can we make sure that future participants in society don’t suffer from the science-phobias and misconceptions that so many people experience today?” How do we “teach” science to the next generation in accordance with the science-as-storytelling/revising philosophy?
As pointed out in the paper, the fundamental qualities from which scientific inquiry emerges—skepticism and curiosity—appear to be inherent in humans, coming abundantly pre-packaged in every newborn child. In generals, these qualities do not show any signs of diminishing until children enter traditional schooling and are trained to adopt new, external motivations and rules to govern their exploration and learning, after which many children exhibit less unbridled enthusiasm about exploring the universe. The qualities needed to participate effectively in science are already in place, ready to be nurtured and encouraged by pedagogical systems that will emphasize the approachability and usefulness of science by allowing people to pursue scientific questions relevant and useful to their lives.
Nevertheless, seeking new pedagogical styles in keeping with this personal, open-ended, exploratory approach to science will undoubtedly be in up-hill battle, in a nation where science is generally regarded as best learned through rote memorization and where standardized testing of general factual knowledge is considered a legitimate test of learning and understanding.

I'd be interested in getting a conversation started on different creative approaches to both of these challenges--how can science as storytelling be deemed useful by the larger, traditional, specialized scientific community, and how can science as storytelling be widely integrated into educational programs?



traditional approach vs. storytelling approach to
Name: Yaena Park
Date: 2005-06-28 09:41:48
Link to this Comment: 15364

On my previous comment, I mentioned the "misconceptions" about science I used to have. I would like to mend it to a "different way of viewing science" rather than using the word "misconceptions". The way I used to approach to science, which I developed under a very traditional way of learning science, lies on the opposite end of spectrum when compared to the approach to science as storytelling and revising, considering the method, emphasis, and evaluation process of education. It is also the way that is still employed by many schools and many advanced nations. Although many educational institutions in the states are more geared toward the constructive way of learning as opposed to the traditional way of learning, schools that firmly believe in a traditional education style are often found. Reading the article, Revisiting Science in Cultured: Science as Story Telling and Story Revising, I clearly understand the benefits of approaching science as storytelling and revising. However, there should be motives and advantages of choosing the traditional way of learning science, considering the number of national and international-wide supporters of the system.

Upon my limited knowledge, I found three reasons why the traditional way of learning science is pervasively practiced in many different cultures whereas we are trying to transform our education system into the heuristic approach to learning:

-Different goals of education
-Relationship between teachers and students
-Evaluation tools

The traditional way of approaching science is about “getting things right”, as mentioned in the article. The traditional way of describing the “scientific method”, which follows the steps of 1) hypothesis, 2) experiment, 3) conclusion that decides whether the hypothesis is true or false, also shows that it defines science as discovering “the ultimate truth”. In a traditional educational setting, I was expected to memorize the scientific facts and was tested and graded based on the knowledge that I memorized. There was not much of my own thinking involved, but it definitely required the understanding and absorption of the scientific concepts. I am not here to say that was a wrong way to learn science nor am I here to disparage the traditional way of education; I am trying to get to the point that the traditional education has different goal in education than the constructive education. The traditional education is a knowledge-based education that helps students to absorb a quantity of knowledge to build upon and think in certain ways that many people believes to be true.

If one is most interested in impacting declarative knowledge (facts, concepts, principles, etc. that are stored in semantic and episodic memory), the most appropriate teaching method is probably some form of didactic, explicit, or direct instruction (Huitt, W. (1998). Critical thinking: An overview. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date] from, http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/cogsys/critthnk.html).

For people who believe in obtaining the “declarative knowledge” in science, the traditional approach to science would be the proper way.

The article proposes the approach to science as storytelling and revising, because it considers science as a “continual and recursive process of story testing” that does not have a “true” conclusion. For this definition, what science learners need is the ability to think critically and creatively. Since it believes that it is necessary to build a community members who can “think for themselves”, it chooses science as storytelling and revising as a better way to approach science.

The movement to the information age has focused attention on good thinking as an important element of life success (Huitt, 1993; Thomas & Smoot, 1994). These changing conditions require new outcomes, such as critical thinking, to be included as a focus of schooling. Old standards of simply being able to score well on a standardized test of basic skills, though still appropriate, cannot be the sole means by which we judge the academic success or failure of our students (Huitt, W. (1998). Critical thinking: An overview. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date] from, http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/cogsys/critthnk.html).

The quote raises the importance of educating students to be critical thinkers. In this competitive age, our society seeks for creative individuals who think for themselves and approaching science as storytelling can help people develop the ability.

As far as the relationship between teachers and students, I am speaking from my own experience in traditional educational setting. In the traditional educational setting, the teacher has an absolute authority, whereas in science as storytelling setting, the teacher is more likely to be one who takes part in class and assists students in creating their own stories and revising them rather than being an authority figure. In my culture, the latter one would not be accepted. Teachers have been revered upon throughout the history in a great degree. Kids grow up hearing that they have to respect their teachers from their parents, and they are not allowed to talk back to teachers. The classroom setting for approaching science as storytelling and revising, teachers interact with students and help students think. In the traditional setting, teachers deliver knowledge they have, and when that role is taken away, the teachers, parents and students as a whole is going to have a very negative reaction to it.

Another wall that divides the traditional educational system and the constructive educational system is evaluation tool. Many nations and ourselves as well use standardized tests as an evaluation tool. Although waves of opposition to the standardized tests rise here and there, we still have so many different standardized tests that are being used. There are still people, in fact, many, who believe that standardized test is a fair and objective way to test knowledge and evaluate students’ intellectual ability.
The article argues that there is no one right answer in science. There is a general consensus but is no “true” or “right” answer. In standardized tests, students have to answer the same way, which is not how science should be approached according to the article. So people who believe in standardized tests would not agree with approaching science as storytelling and revising.

Considering the pros and cons of both traditional and constructive, especially approach to science as storytelling and revising, education system, it is very difficult to say which method is better. I personally believe we need to encourage people to think critically and creatively through science education, since our society is in demand of critical and powerful thinkers. But it would be a big challenge to overcome the cultural differences and change the fixed definition about science and a strongly established evaluation tool that has been around for decades.


Summer Institute Colleag
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-07-09 09:34:55
Link to this Comment:
15376

Welcome to this on-line forum, and to ongoing discussion of how to think/teach about science. Don't feel intimidated by what has (or has not) been posted here so far. This is a place for anyone (and everyone) who has some experience (or interest) in science education to weigh in with their own experiences/stories/thoughts. Its a place not for final thoughts but for "thoughts in progress", of whatever length and in whatever style you're comfortable with. Whatever you're thinking may be helpful to someone else, just as whatever they're thinking may be helpful to you. So join in, and let's see what we can together make of what science is/ought to be, and how it is/ought to be taught.


Science as Story Telling
Name: Judith Odo
Date: 2005-07-11 07:39:28
Link to this Comment: 15378

I enjoyed reading the article presented by Dr. Grobstein. It stirred up questions about how people are really influenced by their surroundings and how teachers can influence how their students perceive science. I think story telling is an effective way to get scienctific principles across to students. Television shows like CSI use a story telling method to get people hooked. I use this method in my science classes. I am very interested in learning more. J. Odom


Science as Story Telling...
Name: mrobb
Date: 2005-07-11 13:31:14
Link to this Comment: 15416

This is my first read and I'm not uet done...
First impresions-
If the goal is to democratize science, should the story be told in elementary language so more readers can grasp the ideas?

I like the idea not leaving science to the scientists, like not leaving war to the generals. But...sometimes the generals are right, witness Iraq.


Science As Story Telling in Action
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-08-11 15:58:15
Link to this Comment: 15878

SENCER colleagues (and others) -

Welcome to this on-line forum area for conversation about how to make science more "a nexus point that encourages and supports the evolution of shared human stories of exploration and growth, an evolution in which all human beings are involved and take pride". Please join in and share your thoughts, whatever they might be, and let's see what we can make together.

Some relevant Serendip resources (both link to the forum)

Looking forward to continuing conversation and creation.


is this science
Name: joseph bac
Date: 2005-08-19 11:23:06
Link to this Comment: 15900

When each human is born she get a book of little stories titled "How to be a Human being".

When each horse is born she gets a book of little stories titled "How to be a Horse".

The first story in "How to be a Human being" is: start breathing now! Start breathing and never stop!!

The first story in "How to be a Horse" is exactly the same.

The second story in "How to be a Human being" is: find the place where you can suck and swallow, you will feel very good when you suck and swallow.

The second story in "How to be a Horse" however is: you must stand up! stand up now!! keep trying until you are standing up!!! here are some things to try... . .

The third story in "How to be a Horse" is the same as the second story in "How to be a Human being"

I would like to wonder down a quaint lane in a place with an unpronounced name and find a used story book store that had copies of each of these books. Are they set in the same type font? Is the style of the illustrations the same? How many of the little stories are the same? Are there blanks, smudges, notes in the margin? What became of the original owners that their copy ended in a used story book store in a place with an unpronounced name?


little books of ... ?
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-08-19 16:03:59
Link to this Comment: 15907

Wonderful stories. And nice question. So we're back perhaps to trees, horses, and people? There's probably ANOTHER "book" in that used bookstore called "How to be a Tree" that starts out "Wait until its warm and wet and then SPROUT". But - and this is an important but - they probably aren't any of them "books" in the normal sense of the word, something separate from the tree/horse/person that the tree/horse/person can look at (or not look at) and read (or not read). They are instead part of the tree/horse/person, who does those things because they are organized the way they are and so doesn't need a separate book. And so, intriguing poetry notwithstanding, I'd be inclined not to use the word "stories" here either, prefering to reserve that word for .... what humans (and perhaps horses?) do that allows them to conceive of ways of being other than and distinct from what they are (and so potentially to themselves change what they are). A subtlety, perhaps painfully close to hair-splitting, but maybe a useful one?


probably not stories
Name: joseph bac
Date: 2005-08-19 19:16:40
Link to this Comment: 15909

Well I agree with you I misused the story metaphor. I am thinking about mind as a 'story teller' the conscious aware directing part served by unseen/heard agents and how it all gets started. I have two girls both grown. In the barn right now there is a 3 1/2 year old mare and a 2 !/2 year old gelding. I have been with both of the horses every day of their lives, but 10.

Both of my daughters did the same things/'went through the same changes' at very close to the same ages. The same with the horses but vastly speeded up. Many of the changes seem quite similar to changes the horses went through.

From minuet 1 they had an addenda. For the human babies its try to nurse, if that doesn't right away raise a fuss and try again. The horses have to stand up, there is nothing they can nurse on on the ground.

OK its instinct. But what is instinct, is it like pre installed memories "old stories" so we are remembering something that we never actually did? is somehow contained in the structure of the brain and nervous system? Maybe a program/algorithm that waits for certain things to happen and then starts prodding the story teller and agents toward the next goal? If that is it where is the program stored?

I don't know any experment I could do so I am trying to corelate everything I have observed to see if there are any hints indicating what is actualy happening.


Science as "storytelling" or "story telling"
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2005-12-06 17:56:28
Link to this Comment: 17326

Welcome to visitors from Science as Storytelling and/or Science as Storytelling or Story Telling? A Conversation About Science Education ... and Science. Your thoughts about either are warmly welcomed here, as contributions to helping everyone think more about what science is, and ought to be. You can easily contribute by going to the end and clicking on the "Post A Comment" button.

This forum was originally opened for discussion of Revisiting Science in Culture: Science as Story Telling and Story Revising. To see earlier comments (with this and following ones at the end), click here. As it says at the beginning of the forum:

Like all Serendip forums, this is a place for public informal conversation. Its a place to put thoughts-in-progress that might be useful to other people, and to find thoughts-in-progress of others that might be useful to you ... You can easily keep up with the conversation by registering using this forum's Keep Me Posted feature which will send you an email on any day when a new posting has appeared here. And if you would like to make available longer materials in a different format, email me and will work out an arrangement for doing so. For previous participants in this forum, consider this an announcement of some interesting new materials for and participants in our conversation. Looking forward to seeing what new understandings and stories we generate together.


easy sell, hard question
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2005-12-08 11:33:52
Link to this Comment: 17351

I write as one for whom "the story of science as story" was an easy sell.

I have felt disengaged from science for as long as I can remember, and "opted out" of (what I thought of as) science long ago. And yet, for me, the life of faith was always a life of doubt; I was one for whom the process of constantly "testing" in a social context, against what others know, what one knows oneself, against new experience and new information were activities that I practiced in both the religious and the intellectual realms without the least sense of dissonance.

So of course I find myself particularly interested in the most recent addition to Serendip's rich array of exhibits about Science as Storytelling, one aimed at the very particular audience of religious students who "don't like science very much." What strikes me in the essay by Bickmore and Grandy is their attempt to broker a peace between religion and science: to offer a "realistic understanding of the nature of science" that will not make their students "feel that their religious beliefs are under attack." Their way of doing so involves, to my mind, three essential steps:

So why keep him? If the criteria for evaluating this approach include not manipulating or cornering or shaking religious foundations, then it also needs to include a rationale for the value of not doing so. Why preserve a faith in that which doesn't generate new understandings of the world as we are coming to know it?


Why God?
Name: Barry Bick
Date: 2005-12-08 13:19:13
Link to this Comment: 17352

Hi Anne,

The other reason we stated for "leaving God out of the explanatory picture" is that in an era of big-money, publicly funded science, allowing religion into the world of scientific explanation would cause a number of social problems. Can you imagine the headaches if scientists/institutions felt the National Science Foundation discriminated against them because of the particular religious orientation of their science? The fact is that religious claims sometimes do yield testable predictions, but they are left out of science to "simplify the problem" both intellectually and socially.

So why bother with God? Was Laplace right that God is not a "necessary hypothesis"? My only answer to that question lies in personal religious experience. If I have had personal experiences that convince me that God is real, and that God interferes with the normal order of things once in a while, then I can't seriously treat the assumptions of Naturalism and Uniformitarianism as "The Truth." However, I can easily (and with a clear conscience) treat them as "simplifying assumptions," as long as I can accept that God has things working in a regular manner most of the time.

After I explained this idea to him, a physicist friend of mine gave me an excellent illustration. He said that if he were going to calculate the trajectory of a baseball hit by a bat, he would use the equations of Newtonian Mechanics. On the other hand, he would never bother trying to calculate such a thing using the equations of Quantum Mechanics, even though he knows very well that quantum mechanics is a more fundamental theory. That is, Newtonian Mechanics is supposed to be derivable from Quantum Mechanics, but not the other way around. Why not? Because Quantum Mechanical calculations are extremely complicated, and calculations involving a few hundred atoms easily strain the capabilities of modern supercomputers. Therefore, even though Newtonian Mechanics cannot, and will never be able to, explain or predict certain phenomena, my friend uses it anyway, because it is well suited for solving certain types of problems.

This is what science is for me--a simplified method that is well-suited for solving certain types of problems.


keeping the conversation going
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-01-08 20:47:32
Link to this Comment: 17565

Hi back, Barry.

I've been thinking, off and on through the winter break, about your comments. Here's where I've gotten so far...

In Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell uses the work of an improvisation comedy troupe as a great illustration of the kind of thinking that Blink is about: "It involves people making very sophisticated decisions on the spur of the moment, without the benefit of any kind of script or plot...One of the important rules that make improv possible..is the idea of agreement, the notion that a very simple way to create a story--or humor--is to have characters accept everything that happens to them....Bad improvisers block action...Good improvisers develop action....Good improvisers...accept all offers made--which is something no 'normal' person would do."...[and so they] create the conditions for successful spontaneity" (114-117, my emphasis).

What has emerged as key for me, out of this long interchange, is less the various binaries both you and Paul have tried out--"science vs. religion," "skepticism vs. faith," "doubt vs. belief," "dismissing vs. believing" stories, "less-wrongness vs. more-rightness"--than your openness to keeping the conversation going, your willingness not to have to have the "last word." What I admire about what's been said here, so far, is the willingness of both you and Paul to keep on talking, to throw balls back and forth that don't quite fit comfortably in either of your hands, but to...

keep on playing. What really, really interests me here--and what operates as a genuine model, I think, of productive public thinking-out-loud together--is the ability of you both to walk this very fine line between "profound skepticism" (saying "no" so decisively that the conversation stops) and "affirmation" (saying "yes" so decisively that the conversation stops).

So (keeping it going):
how open are you to the possibility that your "experiences that God is real" are...

not?


Am I skeptical of my faith?
Name: Barry Bick
Date: 2006-01-09 18:42:24
Link to this Comment: 17579

Hi Anne,

You asked, "how open are you to the possibility that your "'experiences that God is real' are...not?" The answer is, "Yes." In fact, I consider that possibility pretty much every day. A recent forum speaker at my university put the problem in an interesting light when he said that people who have faith have reasons to believe and reasons to doubt, but they CHOOSE belief. I choose faith because I have reasons for it that I feel are more significant than my reasons to doubt, and because my faith seems to be leading somewhere--more experiences, more reasons to believe. Sometimes my reasons for doubting have turned into reasons for belief when I was able to look at the problems with an enlarged perspective--i.e., I put the problems on the shelf, and looked at them later when I was not quite as young and ignorant. So I tend to agree with your perspective that the life of faith is not without doubt. In fact, doubts are catalysts for a more mature faith.

On this topic, there is one other thing I think I need to clarify. You said,

"If the criteria for evaluating this approach include not manipulating or cornering or shaking religious foundations, then it also needs to include a rationale for the value of not doing so. Why preserve a faith in that which doesn't generate new understandings of the world as we are coming to know it?"

When I asked my students last semester whether they had learned anything useful about handling science/religion conflicts, a few of them said things like, "I learned that science and religion always agree." I found these responses disheartening because, of course, I said the exact opposite in class. I have to make allowances for the fact that most of my students are still teenagers, but this kind of rosy confidence that everything they learn will fit into nice, neat little blocks that fit together perfectly is exactly the kind of thing I want to combat. This is the kind of faith that you mention--one that "doesn't generate new understandings of the world as we are coming to know it"--and I have no interest whatsoever in "preserving" such a thing. New understandings are generated precisely when we recognize tension between the different stories we adopt, and try to reconcile them, somehow.

What should I do to combat immature, "black and white" perspectives in my classroom? Teaching science as "The Facts" would certainly lead some of my students to question the objects of their faith, but this would just be substituting one kind of fundamentalism for another. What I have tried to do instead is to clarify for my students the "rules" scientists (in general) actually do use when making up their stories. Scientists really do assume the supernatural out of the picture, and they have certain practical reasons for it. Having let that cat out of the bag, my students are now free to reject any scientific story that conflicts with their religious beliefs that involve supernatural forces. They have an "out." But is this the same as "preserving" a naive kind of faith? I say it isn't. It's just telling the truth about how scientists go about their business.

In our approach, I believe that my students are challenged in a different way. For example, if they can see that evolutionary theory does an exceptionally good job of explaining data without any recourse to the supernatural, that might well trouble students who hold to a Young-Earth Creationist perspective. It makes them confront the idea that maybe the assumptions scientists use for practical reasons might, in fact, be generally correct. Scientific stories might be "better" than those that appeal to the supernatural, in that they are "less wrong," "more useful," or whatever. This could be very disturbing to think about, but when students are given an "out" (that is no more than an honest appraisal of how scientists really work--not an attempt to coddle them,) I believe it gives them the freedom to relax and actually think about such disturbing things instead of putting up mental barriers.

Ciao,

Barry


update
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-13 08:39:24
Link to this Comment: 17608

See latest in "Science As Storytelling or Story Telling". Including thoughts on "religious students" as a special case of a more general set of issues.


doubt and belief
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-01-14 18:28:13
Link to this Comment: 17618

Barry--

one reason this conversation about science as storytelling, and your most recent addition to it, are so interesting to me is that I come to this busy crossroads from a very different direction than you and Paul: from the humanities, rather than the science, side of the landscape. Over here, the presumption for decades has been that "everything is story," so for a long time the question has been how to find some rationale for selecting/valuing one story over another (I'm coming to realize that this is also a concern for the generation of our students; see, as evidence, both Revisions in Literature and the Modern World and Story Evolution).

In that context, I'm quite struck by your own attempts to allow religious students in your science classes "the freedom to relax and actually think about...disturbing things instead of putting up mental barriers," not rushing to declaim answers, but allowing room for doubt. The political philosopher/psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek calls this "suspended cognition," and says it is practiced by humanists, "relativists" who know they can only speak of epistemology, in contrast to "cognitively engaged," "truth-centered" scientists, realists who believe they can speak of ontology. Zizek develops this comparison as part of his complaint about the "spiritualization of scientific knowledge, the elevation of scientists to the privileged seat of 'public intellectuals' and the concomitant reduction...of culture into phenomena that do not 'count' unless they can be 'defined and measured' using scientific means" (I take this account from Elizabeth Hart, "The Epistemology of Cognitive Literary Studies," Philosophy and Literature 25, 2, 2001: 314-334).

In this context, it looks to me that what you are doing (is this accurate?) is trying to create a space for both scientific and spiritual doubting, @ a time in history when science has come to replace religion as the ground for certainty.

Is there anything you are certain of?
Anything you can claim with unalloyed assurance?


demarcation
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-20 09:21:12
Link to this Comment: 17697

Interesting article in the New York Times yesterday that is I think directly relevant to some of our conversation here. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, whose earlier op ed piece in the NY Times raised some interesting questions about the Catholic Church's position on evolution (see Intelligent Design and the Story of Evolution: No Need for Drawing Lines in the Sand), is reported as having clarified his remarks in October: "I see no difficulty in joining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution, but under the prerequisite that the borders of scientific theory are maintained".

My sense is that Schönborn (perhaps other quoted in the article as well?) has some sense of the "borders" of science not unlike those that Barry has in mind: the borders are inherent in an understanding of science as a particular kind of inquiry into the restricted domain of "natural" processes, with an emphasis on the "restricted domain". Since I don't think the "restricted domain" argument can be sustained, I'm inclined instead to focus on the "particular kind of inquiry" feature as a more appropriate grounds for demarcation

"What moves things outside the sphere of science (for better or for worse) is not "personal experiences" but convictions based on them (or anything else) that one chooses not to subject to the possibility of further revision." Science, as a ongoing and always revisable summary of observations, cannot disprove the existence of a "Creator", and so there is indeed "no difficulty in joining belief in the creator with the theory of evolution" (or any other scientific story, for that matter). What makes this possible isn't, however, that observations and summaries of them are not relevant for thinking about the character of a "Creator" (people interested in creators have found them to be in the past and are likely to continue to do so) but rather that scientific stories are always challengeable and therefore cannot be regarded as competitors for the status of "eternal truths".

One can readily be interested in and engaged by both evolution (or any other scientific story) AND by a concern for "eternal truth", and many people are. What's different in the two engagements is not the domain of interest but rather the objective: to do the best one can at the time, on the one hand, and to try and connect with the "eternal" on the other. There is no need in general to choose one engagement over the other, and there have been and are likely to continue to be, for many people, benefits in working back and forth between the two.


some more perspectives
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-01-22 19:06:44
Link to this Comment: 17737

Not unreasonably, some of the science/religion issues under discussion here are arising as well in a course on brain and behavior that I am currently teaching. For some relevant thoughts of students in that course see the on line forum, and particularly "descartes and dualism", "what came first, the brain or the environment?", and "dualism/monism".

And a student in a philosophy of science course I'm co-teaching has some interesting thoughts about the storytelling/story telling distinction.


evolution-ism
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-01-28 00:01:48
Link to this Comment: 17827

A year or so ago, I accused a colleague on our campus of using "scientism" as a stand in/straw man for "science." In the 1/23/06 NYTimes Book Review I noticed a similar distinction--between "evolution" and "evolutionism"--which I found clarifying for the conversation ongoing here. "When Cosmologies Collide" describes Michael Ruse's new book on The Evolution-Creation Struggle as taking creationism seriously as a culturally meaningful phenomon-- "a peculiarly American objection to the way elites talk about evolution."

Ruse accomplishes this by distinguishing between "the science of evolution" and "evolutionism": "Evolutionism addresses questions of origins, the meaning of life, morality, the future and our role in it. In other words, it does all the work of a religion....What gets billed as war between hard science and mushy theology should rather be understood..as 'a clash between two rival metaphysical world pictures.'" Ruse characterizes the evolutionists as "latter-day postmillennialists," as a way of highlighting their " conviction that evolution explains life's meaning and tells us how to deal with the future."

A conventional distinction between science and the humanities is that the humanities keep many stories in play, while science, in replacing one story with another, is more "linear" and "progressive." In accord with this distinction, evolution"ists" keep trying to replace the God story with the evolutionary one, rather than acknowledging (as was suggested above), the "benefits in working back and forth between the two."


certainty
Name: Barry Bick
Date: 2006-02-01 18:32:28
Link to this Comment: 17916

Hi Anne,

I don't see myself as trying to make room for religious belief. Rather, I think of myself as trying to give an accurate and understandable picture of what science is, and what scientists do. If science simply isn't fitted for handling certain types of questions or incorporating certain types of data, then it follows easily that these questions/data might be approached via some other avenue. So am I telling a "true story" about what science is and what scientists do? That's the pertinent question for me.

You also asked, "Is there anything you are certain of? Anything you can claim with unalloyed assurance?"

I am positive that I exist. ;-) I think Paul doesn't like Descartes as much as me, but I thought his, "I think, therefore I am" was pretty clever. (His logic went to pot after that, though.) I could possibly entertain the notion that the "Lounge Wizard" reclining camp chair I'm sitting in as I type on my laptop is some sort of hologram, but I'm not really capable of doubting that I exist in some fashion.

After that, we get into the area of "things I am pretty damned sure of, and would chew off my own leg before giving them up." (How's that for using imagery in my storytelling?)

Ciao,

Barry


uncertain (about chewing off my leg, among other t
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-02-07 17:53:54
Link to this Comment: 18010

I was so surprised to hear Barry say that he follows clever Descartes in being "positive"--in not really being "capable of doubting"--that he exists. Because that's the one thing I doubt the most (not Barry's existence, my own).

A couple of summers ago, Paul jump-started a huge website called Writing Descartes. I was one of many who wrote there, and what I wrote about, primarily, was my own felt sense of depression as profound doubt about the certainty and validity of my own existence.

Maybe--along this line--folks thinking here about ways of teaching that will either help students understand that their religious beliefs are not under attack (Barry) or that they are not being manipulated into adopting any particular point of view (Paul) would be interested in a meditation just written by one of my students, which claims that "teaching is not protecting. It has to be about...trusting the motion of life."


more on story telling and storytelling
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-08 20:34:27
Link to this Comment: 18026

Some further thoughts of Barry's, and mine on what science is/isn't/sort of is/might be, and the implications of that for science classrooms (and science).

Not bearing, I think on Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" but perhaps related to "I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am".


non-being
Name: Barry Bick
Date: 2006-02-17 16:23:06
Link to this Comment: 18179

Hi Anne,

Can you explain more how you can doubt your own existence? I read your comments from the "Writing Descartes" site, but I still don't quite get it. I can imagine that I don't really have free will. I can imagine that my physical existence is merely some kind of hologram or dream. I can imagine that I am really a sentient computer program in some giant, cosmic mainframe. I can imagine that I am really a sentient pimple on the behind of some monstrous alien, dreaming I am typing on my keyboard. But whatever I am, I am sentient, and to my mind that pretty much clinches the "bare existence" issue. How can I possibly think about whether I exist, unless I exist?

And that's fine, as far as it goes, but where does that get me? Descartes tried to use his existence as the basis for quite a mass of very convoluted deductive reasoning (proving that God exists, and so forth,) but of course, he sneaked in a number of extra axioms through the back door, if I remember correctly. As far as I can tell, I can't use the fact of my own existence as the "sure foundation" of anything in particular, because I need more axioms (that would undoubtedly not be so self-evident) to get anywhere with it.

So my version of Descartes' famous proof might be, "I think, therefore I am. So what?"


Getting back to storytelling and science
Name: Lil
Date: 2006-02-18 20:56:11
Link to this Comment: 18194

I was overjoyed to see a site for storytelling and science. I'm relieved to see other educators are interested in this subject. I'm planning a masters thesis about storytelling and science. I want to hear from other educators about their thoughts regarding standardized assessments, and if storytelling could be developed into a teaching method. My major is in science education, and I teach in Los Angeles, Title 1 school and the majority of students are ELD(English Language Development). All we teach are standard based science, and the curriculum is research based, and the assessment are standardized. Currently I am teaching first grade, however, last year I was teaching fourth grade. Is it possible to develop storytelling methods to teach standard based science? If a teacher teaches science the correct way, the students may mark their answers incorrectly. The questions on the assessments are not created by teachers, they are formed by professional question writers(in fact, math assessment questions are formed similarly).
The majority of the students are not English speaking and the text books are full of pictures and a small amount of reading, some of the teachers use science kits, most of the teachers know hands-on teaching. The teachers try to be very concrete when teaching abstract concepts The students enjoy stories and comprehend most of what they listen to, and expository reading is difficult for them.
One of the problems is--the students have a difficult time remembering the facts and details for the assessment. The fifth grade science is based on 40% of fourth grade science standards.
Am I chasing windmills? I know students remember stories and quirky movements or sayings, do you think storytelling will help? Do you think storytelling can be a method to teach science lessons?
What do you think? Are there articles and book I can read, groups to join or email, any ideas????


Story telling and K-12 education
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-19 18:56:34
Link to this Comment: 18209

No, I don't think you are chasing windmills or, more accurately perhaps, if you are than so am I. Yes, I do think science as story telling or science as storytelling or both is a good way to go not only for college science education but for K-12 education as well.

I've been working with middle and high school teachers for a while along these lines (see materials for summer institutes) and have just this year been developing a collaboration with a local elementary school that I'm quite excited about (see Elementary Education: The Brain As Scientist and Science as Story Telling, and Thinking About an Elementary Science Curriculum). The idea basically is to create a curriculum around the primary objective of helping students become better observers/story tellers, and assure that standards/content are met by creating environments in which to explore that expose students effectively to the materials/ideas mandated by the standards.

My bet is that such a curriculum can not only better engage students but also assure that they perform well on standardized tests. In the long run though, the effort would really require a modification of assessment methods. What one really wants to know is not whether students have assimilated a particular body of observations/perspectives but whether their ability to make observations and tell productive stories about them has been enhanced.

I'm very glad you're thinking along these lines, and would be delighted to talk more about the possibilities and problems, as well as to hear more about your own experiences and how they have inclined you to think in this direction.



Name: Lil
Date: 2006-02-19 23:22:10
Link to this Comment: 18214

Wow! Such a quick response! I am interested in storytelling because of my own experience with my students who are English Language Leaners(ELL). I have another reason too, last spring I had a class called The Nature of Science which is apart of my graduate classes. In that class, my professor read a story about a little girl and her scientist father. In that story was the explanation of what scientist do, how they work and that they do not have wild hair, wear white lab coats, and use pocket protectors. She used case studies which opened a new world to me. Many questions came to my mind. Wouldn't storytelling be better understood and cause my students to wonder and think? Instead of reading dry expository reading, wouldn't my students be more engaged in a mystery or intriguing story that had a problem to be solved? Wouldn't my students be engaged if they had to listen for clues and followed by a copy of the story? Wouldn't they "look" for evidence and have a interest in reading the materials? Why not storytelling? The students are experienced with storytelling in the form of cartoons, movies, television, the church, parents and other relatives. The television commericals speak of "millions of viewer watch the number one show!" Why? It's good storytellers! If millions of students would tune in to the "Daily School Show," wouldn't that make a major difference?
I want to start to learn about how to turn storytelling into lesson plans for science. I am a novice! I started to research the National Storytellers Network, I registered for a short term class at UCLA beginning in March, "Voices and Rhythms From Many Cultures: Storytelling in the Classroom." Soon UCLA will have their "Book Festival,"and I plan to observe storytellers and once a month, the Los Angeles Community Storyteller have a meeting that I plan to attend. Any other suggestions? I plan to write to you often, am I on the right pathway? Awaiting breathlessly! Lil


For Lil
Name: Barry Bick
Date: 2006-02-21 15:08:26
Link to this Comment: 18276

Hi Lil,

I teach an earth science class for Elementary Ed. majors, and we have been having them write storybooks to explain science principles. At first, we hired Visual Arts majors to illustrate the books, but lately we have been having them do multimedia storybooks in Powerpoint. We had an artist create a cast of clip-art characters, sort of like the Magic Schoolbus gang, for my students to put into the Powerpoint slides. The multimedia storybooks are supposed to be aligned to particular Utah Core Curriculum standards, and I bet the standards in your state are similar, so you might find them useful. Some are better quality than others, of course.

Anyway, you can view the storybooks at the following web site:

https://blackboard.byu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp

We have also written a paper for the Journal of Geoscience Education on the original, illustrated storybook project, which you can download here:

http://www.nagt.org/files/nagt/jge/abstracts/lusk-v54n1.pdf

Let me know if you would like to work with our group in some way when you do your M.S. thesis. This is an ongoing project for us, funded by the National Science Foundation.

Barry


wrong link
Name: Barry Bick
Date: 2006-02-21 15:12:46
Link to this Comment: 18277

Sorry, the link to the storybooks should be:

http://www.geology.byu.edu/essp.htm

Barry


squeezing the sentient pimple
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-02-22 16:55:39
Link to this Comment: 18286

Amid all the recent refinements and elaborations made, in this space, on the differences between "storytelling" and "story telling," we haven't really gotten around to talking about the sorts of questions Lil has just begun to ask: ways of
developing styles and methods for telling science stories:

That's the trick, isn't it? To master the art of telling stories that are compelling--> yet not SO compelling that they can't be altered in response to new information, that actually invite alteration. Once we've shaped a story so that it works/adheres in the minds (and hearts?) of its hearers/is vivid...

we become attached. It's can very hard for us to let go of our creation.

So--as initial contributions to this particular (peculiar?) line of exploration--the crafting of stories that are good because they insist on being revised--I offer two-and-a-quarter examples.

A year ago, as a final project for a biology/English course here on The Story of Evolution, one of my students wrote a children's story about evolution called My Great-Grandaddy was a Monkey.

A month ago, as part of a series here on Re-thinking Science Education, I experimented with writing my first poem; fittingly (for this discussion) called Let Me: Revise.

And now, in response to Barry's asking me to "explain more how I can doubt my own existence"--I'm trying to imagine how I could tell that story, in language that might actually be understandable to someone with the chutzpah to say he can "imagine that he is really a sentient pimple on the behind of some monstrous alien." I know that it will take the form of a dream, in which I will be assuming a number of different roles.

To be continued....



Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-02-22 17:30:16
Link to this Comment: 18290

"Instead of reading dry expository reading, wouldn't my students be more engaged in a mystery or intriguing story that had a problem to be solved?"

Indeed I think they would. Let me though emphasize "problem to be solved". And work with that a bit to call attention both to some real strengths of a story telling approach and some of the downsides if it isn't fully implemented. The task, it seems to me, is not only to make the results of scientific activities palatable and even appealing. The harder but more important part of the task is to help students become themselves more skillful "scientists"/inquirers/story tellers, to empower them in that way for whatever purposes they might want to put it to.

Along these lines, what's important about "good" stories is not only that they have a "problem to be solved" but that they have a degree of open-endedness to them. Stories constructed to get students to a particular place, ie stories with a single moral, may work for a while but in the longer run students will get impatient with them and they will not only fail to achieve the more important purpose but actually work against it. If the whole point of the story is the point it eventually gets to, why spend time getting there? And what other than the point, already discovered by someone else, has been learned?

I'm even more of a novice than you all with things like story books to explain scientific principles and the National Story Teller's Network, and am looking forward to learning from your experiences. It does seem to me though that, for the purposes we're talking about here, the best story tellers are those who treat their audiences not as listeners but as participants, who bring their audiences into the process of story creation and hence help them become better problem solvers/story tellers themselves.

There may well be differently effective story telling styles in different contexts. In this one, it seems to me, we need to be sure the story teller is not only able and willing but actively inclined to allow others to play a role in the developing story, to have it go in directions that derive in part from perspectives/interests/concerns of audience participants rather than needing it to absolutely follow a predetermined trajectory to a known end. Otherwise, we may be engaging student interest but failing to help them develop their own skills not only at solving problems but at conceiving themselves problems to be solved.


sinews...and a sword?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-02-24 06:34:59
Link to this Comment: 18323

In the course I'm teaching right now about emotion, we've just arrived @ the work of Paul Lauter, who said, famously, that literary critics spending their time analyzing the "style" of a text are being trained to disassociate the "ways it is put together from what it is about, how it affects us, and how we might USE it." The phrase of his that has stuck w/ me for years is


"Talk to the Hand," @ Hi-ReS! Feed

"We attend to the shape, sinew, texture of a hand,
not whether it offers us peace or a sword."

I thought of this again when Paul said, above, that he wanted to emphasize not "mystery or intrigue" but "problem to be solved." Not the style but the substance, not the way stories are told but the point of the storytelling.


"Life is but a walking shadow"
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-02-26 08:46:38
Link to this Comment: 18344

Can you explain more how you can doubt your own existence?

Imagine yourself--instead of as "a sentient pimple on the behind of some monstrous alien"--as a thought in the mind of God (or the universe). Even as thoughts without a thinker. As a cloud, coalesced, but about to precipitate. As a sequence of desires, reflections, actions, that arise...and then dissipate. That's how I experience--and understand--my existence.

When I was a child, I often had out-of-body experiences. I would wake in the night with a very clear sense of having traveled out of this world, beyond this galaxy, and then returning, somewhat confused and bemused, to my bedroom. I lived far more vividly in the world of books than in the everyday world; the characters in novels were much more real to me than were my family and friends, schoolmates and townspeople I encountered in the flesh. I read before going to sleep, dreamt revisions of the stories I was reading, and woke up to go on living them. It was life (as most people understand life) which was the dream. And I myself wasn't even the dreamer--just a collection of dust, a temporary "gathering," a busy crossroads, easily dislodged.

I still think that I am making myself up, moment by moment. There's a physical being, held together by (increasingly breaking down via!) skin and bone, muscles and nerves, and my "job," I think, is to stay awake, to attend, to respond to what is going on around me--but it is a discipline, to be present in this way. Because really?

I'm not here.


broadening the conversation ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-02 09:27:46
Link to this Comment: 18433

Toni Weller, a doctoral student working on the history of information science, has recently published a paper suggesting that some of the story telling ideas we're playing with here are quite relevant in thinking not only about science (and self) but also about history and beyond. "It has been argued here that the concept of human culture as an ongoing process of story telling and story revising is one that makes particular sense in the twenty-first century, as traditional geographic, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries grow weaker. While recognising that science and history are not the same, and necessarily so, there is much to be said for a common ideology of sharing and revising knowledge in order to support the evolution of a richer, and more diverse, human culture and understanding about ourselves. The theory of story telling and story revising, whether scientific or historical, seems a positive step in this direction" .... Journal of Research Practice, Volume 2, Issue 1, Article M3, 2006. Maybe there's more at stake here than just "science" (see Theory and Practice of Non-Normal Inquiry)? Very much looking forward to seeing how the story evolves as additional perspectives are added to and transform it.


update
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-07 09:11:57
Link to this Comment: 18465

More from Barry on his sense of the storytelling/story telling distinction in science (and in history?). Including "With higher-order processes, one cannot always reduce them to "natural laws," but we assume that we could do so if we were smart enough, sneaky enough, had powerful enough computers, could see how the whole system works together, etc. In other words, the adoption of such assumptions as a guide to scientific practice does not mandate a rigid reductionism in that practice."


more update
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-15 07:43:15
Link to this Comment: 18531

A brief essay by a Bryn Mawr college senior illustrates one of the ways a science as story telling approach can be productive. She writes, in part, ...

"I think I would have continued to believe in the impenetrability of the boundary between sciences and the humanities if not for a sex and gender course I attended last semester ... the class period in which we mixed a critical approach to sex and gender with an advanced discussion of biology will remain burned in my mind because this is the class during which I finally 'got it.' ... Gender, theory, literature, biology and my thoughts rolled into one ball so that I wasn't thinking about humanities in opposition to science - I was simply thinking ... As I absorbed myself in the lecture, the battle fell away, and I realized that I had left the "war" behind."


berry picking
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-03-15 16:58:46
Link to this Comment: 18540

I'm quite tickled to see Sarah's essay (which grew from a conversation I hosted) added to the rich catalogue of "theory" being assembled here to make science a common human story of exploration, discovery and creation....

And am inspired by her contribution to add one more. In the spirit of bridge-building-to-the-humanities, it takes the form of a poem, and commentary. The poem was sent to me by a good friend who, like Barry and me, seeks-and-keeps-seeing congruences between searches that are academic and those that are spiritual:

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes --
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

(from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, Book VII).

What strikes me here? Science is sitting around plucking berries; that is, making observations, gathering data, running experiments, repeating the above ad infinitum. Religion calls, instead, for stopping a moment, in acknowledgement of just how astonishing/out of the ordinary this process is. But (herewith the commentary):

taking off our shoes to acknowledge the holiness...

might well stop us from doing what we need to do to survive:
picking those berries.
(Not to mention plantin' them seeds....)


holiness in science
Name: Sharon Burgmayer
Date: 2006-03-16 20:38:11
Link to this Comment: 18562

I like very much the images in the Browning poem that contrast the actions of those aware of a burning bush and its holiness to those oblivious and othewise collecting the bounties of life.

However, BEWARE THE DUALITY MINDSET!, Cannot one pick berries while at the same time being aware—and perhaps basking in the warmth—of a nearby burning bush?

I disagree with Anne's presumption that the activities of science, that she perceives as a berry-picking, cannot be done simultaneously with an aware holiness of that on which it focuses. Indeed, I would maintain that the "ah ha!" moments while doing science are comprised of the same awareness of "just how astonishing/out of the ordinary" the observed process is. And in fact, a mindless, unaware, berry-picking attitude is likely to be quite unsuccessful in science, as it is in religion.

Or as in life, for that matter.


predictive-ness
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2006-03-16 22:20:20
Link to this Comment: 18564

I hear you, Sharon, stand corrected by what I hear, and very much like this image of an "aware berry-picking attitude."

Along these lines...?

What leapt out @ me, in Toni's piece about the relevance of storytelling to history, was her claim that the stories of history (contra those of science) do "not attempt to predict the future." I've recently been in conversation with a friend who is pursuing a course of study in spiritual direction. He brought my attention to a 1995 book by Burton Mack, called Who Wrote the New Testament? Among other things, it describes the ways in which the Bible has functioned as an "oracle," to which believers turn when they are searching for an answer for how to act. Reading the Bible comparatively is certainly the paradigmatic act of interpretation for the humanities--in which case...

"predictiveness" works no better than does the search for "truth," as an index for distinguishing the work of scientists from that of humanists. Might we be ready to acknowledge that

the answer to the question of "the difference between science and the humanities" is none. none at all?


another important perspective ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-21 16:29:55
Link to this Comment: 18638

From a student in my philosopy of science course ...

Grobstein basically wants science to be taught in a more story-like way, like English. He suggests this idea because some students are scared of science-y type words, ideas, etc. My problem is that some students are scared of story like teaching too. Some of us (yes, myself included) like the straightforward, math equation, science vocabulary kind of teaching. Why not do the opposite of what Grobstein is suggesting? Why not make English more like science for those of us scared and confused by 'frilly stories'?

Click for Corrie's complete posting, followed by a response from me.


Re: Predictiveness
Name: Barry Bick
Date: 2006-03-23 11:10:46
Link to this Comment: 18671

I'm reminded of the problem of defining biological species. In most cases, if group X and group Z cannot reproduce together, then they are not considered the same species. If they can reproduce together, then they are the same species. Simple enough, right? However, once in awhile you get a case where there is a group Y that can breed with both group X and group Z, even though X and Z cannot breed together. So if X and Y are the same species, and Y and Z are the same species, are X and Z the same species? Hard to say. To me, it seems that one moral of this tale is that nature does not always neatly fit within the boundaries we impose, but neither is it right to say that the boundaries are meaningless. There really is a difference between group X and group Z, even if the boundary is fuzzy.

I'm inclined to think that there are differences between science and the humanities, but any boundaries we try to define will likely be overgeneralizations.

Barry


A cultural evolution?
Name: Toni Welle
Date: 2006-03-24 07:59:47
Link to this Comment: 18678


As a newcomer to this particular forum, it seems to me that the question is less about whether science and humanities are the same or different (clearly there are elements of both which need to be recognised), but rather the intriguing questions that are being raised regarding the nature and provenance of knowledge, and human capacity for retrieving and disseminating its own thoughts.

Perhaps another way of looking at this debate is as part of our evolution of thought and understanding as a much broader and ongoing cultural process, irrelevant of disciplinary preference?

Toni


demarcations ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-03-26 15:28:10
Link to this Comment: 18686

From a paper by Mariya Simkova, a student majoring in religious studies currently taking my neurobiology and behavior course ... "While neurobiologists may want to brush up on theology, theologians should familiarize themselves with the progress of science ... Collaboration of theology and neurobiology may lead not only to important theoretical findings, but also help improve human psychological and physical health." From my recently posted response to Barry's earlier .... "I, like you, am inclined to suspect that "intentionality" has "some sort of physical basis" but it does not follow from that that either intentionality or phenomena in which intentionality has been a significant contributing factor reduce to a fixed set of "lower order natural laws". If one acknowledges the possibility that there is some degree of genuine indeterminacy in physical systems, then many existing phenomena may not in fact be derivable in their entirety from any fixed set of starting points. They may instead reflect as well elements of chance (cf Variability in Brain Function and Behavior) as well as of "top down" influences (cf From the Head to the Heart) by existing intentional systems, including the human brain (cf Emerging Emergence). .... Maybe "natural laws" are a useful "story" but one that one needs to take, like all other stories, with a grain of salt? So as to allow for the possibility that (as in the past) what was "supernatural" can become "natural"? As scientists (and everyone else) acquire still greater abilities to "think outside the box"? For the sake of the record, I don't think that "the difference between science and humanities is none, none at all." Nor that we would all be better off if things moved in that direction. There are, it seems to me, demonstrably important differences not only between science and the humanities but also between science and religion and between science and history (see Toni's paper), as well as between the humanities and history, history and religion, and so forth. Different traditions explore different realms in different ways and that is all to the good; it is largely from differences that new ways of making sense of things come into being.

That said, I share a sense that, irrespective of disciplinary preference, there is at issue here a hoped for "evolution of thought and understanding as a much broader and ongoing cultural process." The aim is certainly not to make all inquirers the same, but it is perhaps to develop a common understanding of all inquiry as a process of story telling and story revision, in order to facilitate not only the intellectual agenda but the well being of human culture generally as well. And it is an understanding with significant implications. As I wrote in a different but interestingly related context:

Some things do, however, need to be given up to reap the benefits of sharing stories ... One is the idea that stories are complete or eternal ... we must learn and genuinely accept that stories are always in progress, that what is important is not being "right" but rather being continuously "less wrong", noticing and correcting what the past shows not to work. We need to learn and genuinely accept that virtue is not in defending old stories but rather in modifying them based on experience .... A second thing we need to give up is the idea that for [one] story ... to be valuable, all other stories must be "wrong". We need to learn ... that, at any given time, many stories are equally "right" (and equally wrong). Different stories need to be understood not as competing with one another but rather as gifts offered by each story teller to other story tellers, candidate stories made available for all to use in the continual modifying and rewriting of their own. ... worth ... should be asserted (and measured) not in terms of ... "rightness" but rather of ... usefulness, not only to those in [one's own] tribe but to others, who evaluate it in the context of their own evolving stories. Some degree of demarcation, of reproductive isolation, has been quite significant in biological evolution, creating new niches which in turn open up new opportunities for exploring possible forms of life. One can, though, as Barry points out, overstate the boundaries and their importance. As one can (and people have) overstated the significance of competition (cf Lynn Margulis). Perhaps a common understanding of "story" can help us all accept simultaneously the value of both some necessary degree of independence and an equally esssential measure of interdependence?


Popular dissemination of knowledge
Name: Toni Welle
Date: 2006-04-11 10:28:54
Link to this Comment: 18977

As an interesting aside to the intermingling notions of science and culture, and of science and history, being discussed here, I wondered if it was worth drawing attention to the SciPer project at Leeds University in the UK: http://www.sciper.leeds.ac.uk/

Its remit is “to identify and analyse the representation of science, technology and medicine, as well as the inter-penetration of science and literature, in the general periodical press in Britain between 1800 and 1900. Employing a highly interdisciplinary approach, it addresses not only the reception of scientific ideas in the general press, but also examines the creation of non-specialist forms of scientific discourse within a periodical format, and the ways in which they interact with the miscellany of other kinds of articles found in nineteenth-century periodicals.”

I am just starting some research into the popular dissemination of knowledge and information through the C19 periodical press, and it occurred to me that this work, and the established Leeds project, raises some interesting ideas similar to the ones being discussed in this forum. That is, the ways in which science and human knowledge are irrevocably tied up with culture, and the ways in which scientific (or other) information – or ‘stories’ - are disseminated to, and by, popular audiences as opposed to specialist ones.

Forgive me if this is going off the point, but I thought it an interesting idea….

Toni


For Toni
Name: Barry Bick
Date: 2006-04-20 15:07:00
Link to this Comment: 19107

Hi Toni,

I just read a book that addresses just the questions you mentioned. Here's the reference:

John L. Casti and Anders Karlqvist, Mission to Abisko: Stories and Myths in the Creation of Scientific "Truth," (Reading, Mass.: Perseus Books, 1999).

Barry


"getting less wrong" less wrong
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-06-04 20:05:43
Link to this Comment: 19465

For more on the "getting it less wrong" aspect of science (and other things) as story telling, with significant input from the discussion here, see getting less wrong less wrong?


some additional voices ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2006-07-06 13:52:01
Link to this Comment: 19647

See recent thoughts from some high school students about science as getting it less wrong.


Teaching younger students
Name: Susan Dorf
Date: 2006-07-07 11:51:27
Link to this Comment: 19650

Comments on Grobstein article

Page 6 Hypothesis: I agree that “a hypothesis is nothing more (and nothing less) than a useful way to summarize observations” and that an experiment, “the making of a new observation…” The contemporary schematic for the scientific method on page 5 is one I would use beginning with our 11th grade Biology course but would not use, for example, in our 7th grade biology course. Twelve to thirteen year old students need more concrete words and images to begin the story of biology. Early in my experience of working with middle school students, I found that students enjoyed the experiments done in class but could not explain why they did the experiment of how or if it changed their thinking. Now, every experiment is a story. This is how we approach the scientific method and also how I tell them to review and study everything we discuss in class. I teach them that observations lead to a hypothesis, and that the hypothesis has two parts, represented by the “If” statement and the “then” statement.
Hypothesis: The hypothesis is an educated guess or a suggested solution formed after studying the problem. It comes from creative thinking. Since a hypothesis is one possible way to explain a set of observations, a hypothesis must be testable – you must be able to perform experiments to test your hypothesis.
The hypothesis should be written in the “If … then” form. The “If” part states the solution you think is possible. The “then” part states the experiment you will do to prove your solution is correct.
For example: If a radish plant needs light to survive, then a radish plant grown in the dark will die even if it has proper soil, temperature, and water.
This approach helps the younger students to break down into parts the analysis of an experiment. This discussion is preceded by a class discussion of observations about plants and their needs. Then we discuss how we could test these needs. Students offer ideas, challenged by both the teacher and other students. Eventually, we devise a plan and then perform the experiment in groups of three and four students. The multiple group approach allows a bigger sample size. The basic experiment varies from year to year depending on the suggestions offered by the students. We analyze the individual group results and also pool the results to see if sample size affects our analysis. I do ask my students to write a conclusion based on whether or not the results supported the hypothesis. At this age, it is one way to guide them back to the observations and thoughts that led to the experiment. This approach takes considerable time at the beginning of the course, but allows the growth of independent thought later in the course. The level of class discussions can begin to approach greater abstraction toward the end of the year long course. We can discuss the revisions developed starting with Aristotle to Redi to Pasteur to see the change in thought about from where living things come. The key test question I use for this age group is ‘answer and then explain your answer to the question, “is a seed a living thing.” Later in the year, we discuss the status of a virus.
Note: One of the administrators in the school in which I teach refers to the science faculty as "science types." I spend much time stessing to my students that we all live science each minute of our lives. I ask them to name professions that relate to science. They offer the usual, doctors, nurses, engineers, pilots, etc. Then I offer senator, president, governor. A lively discussion begins.




Thoughts about Science as Story Telling and Younge
Name: Gayle Whit
Date: 2006-07-09 08:40:06
Link to this Comment: 19655

The paragraph "Science is importantly a continual and recursive process of not only story testing but also story revision....An observation that is not consistent with the story falsifies the hypothesis or, in our terms, shows the summary/story to be no longer adequate and creates a requirement for a new summary/story, one that accounts the new observations as well as the previous ones" resonated.

I teach science to K-3 students, and an important component of our classes/experiments/activities is that of individual and group observations. Our pre-experiment group talks, where students use prior experience, something they have heard, or simply what they think might happen allow us (sometimes!) to make communal predictions. More often, however, my student form cohorts based on what they think will happen.

Then we do the experiment, make individual observations, and return to our circle to see how we did. Sometimes we are right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes somewhere in between. This communal sharing helps everyone to build a body of experience, or a "story" that we can continue to use and test. The emphasis is not on being right or wrong, but simply in being clear about what was observed. Sometimes individual students don't accept the story we have come to, and that's fine. Science stories, in my view, evolve at different times and levels.


science as storytelling
Name: Teresa
Date: 2006-07-09 18:19:53
Link to this Comment: 19656

When science is considered to be a deeply social activity broad opportunities for science and for all of humanity emerge. Science, when viewed as the realm and prerogative of all citizens, increases in its relevance and its contribution to humanity is vastly expanded. Dissolution of the boundaries between scientist and non-scientist elevates the individual's contributions and observations in a manner that encourages additional observations. Thus, it liberates minds for exploration, interpretation, contribution, and cooperation. In an enviroment of mutuality and respect, where people feel valued, true evolution as only humans may achieve is made possible.


science as storytelling
Name: julie
Date: 2006-07-09 19:41:03
Link to this Comment: 19657

This is an interesting topic for me- after last year's Making Sense of Change Institute, where this particular topic came up, I often found myself in my own science clasroom encouraging students to come up with there own ideas, challenging what was previously thought to be the "truth". We talked many times about how some of the greatest discoveries were made by accident or because someone didn't really think the "fact" was correct and wanted to test a couple more things. My biggest concern with science as story telling is the "story telling" part...I'm afraid that there is an attitude that goes with the words "story telling" that right away, makes people think it's time to sit back, relax, and enjoy this (probably fictitious) story that we are going to hear. Though I think there is nothing wrong with the relax and enjoy part- I wish more people, especially students and teachers, would feel that way about science- I think it is the perceived meaning of the words story telling to our culture. Will people begin to take science less seriously if we as a culture start to see it as a story? Will science start to lose its credibility? or is that the point? Maybe it should be...maybe more people would begin to explore...


Being A Horse
Name:
Date: 2006-08-25 19:35:29
Link to this Comment: 20218

I tried to attend public schools and learn, because I was told I must. My family would whisper when they thought I wasn't listening, but they certainly must have realized my senses were acute....surely !
I remember, as an elementary school student in third grade, going to an auditory exam (to determine impairment). The audiologist said something to me and asked me to repeat it. It was a peculiar sentence to me, because I thought about it. He again repeated the sentence and asked me to repeat it back. I was filtering the information, I suppose, or perhaps I was having one of my 'own world' thoughts, but I could not process the words from auditory to oral. I tried. He screamed at me the last time he attempted to make me respond and a teacher ran over to make the resue.
That little incident has awakened me years later, after much search to find out where I am, what I am, and how I am ; I am a horse with acute sensory perception. Sadly enough, I am often at the 'races', and no one has bothered to put my blinders on. There are people in the stands, screaming, and there is movement on both sides, faster and faster ......
and I just want to be in my stable .......


Non-Creative Posts or ESP ?
Name:
Date: 2006-10-12 21:22:11
Link to this Comment: 20673

The last two posting on this site have identical text, but they're posted by two separate people. Perhaps a study should be done to determine if these people have extra-sensory perception.
Ho-hum, Ho-hum.



Name:
Date: 2007-02-22 12:48:02
Link to this Comment: 21486

screw you ho


The "story"
Name: John Stanf
Date: 2007-02-24 08:39:31
Link to this Comment: 21493

I am a member of a U3A in the UK and we have recently had a pan-scientist run an Understanding Science course and a mathemetician who repeatedly runs a Cosmology course to to groups of "third agers". They both drew attention to the individuals who helped reveal science as part of the story of science.

Perhaps no-one has done it better than Bill Bryson in his "History of nearly Everything". The fact that John Dalton was teaching at 12 years of age; that Newton showed such curiosity into nature as a boy when he tried to assess the effect of gravity by throwing sticks into the wind; how Harrison strove to create a clock resistant to the influence of a rolling ship.

The essence of teaching science is to raise the curiosity of students into things about them. Unfortunately we have long had city children who do not know that milk does not come from bottles or cartons but from cows and possibly the same children who do not know that crsips (potato chips) come from potatoes. They do not think to ask. They also accept everything they are told; a difficult thing for teachers to teach and an anathema to the dogmatic!

It is also a failing of those who think their education is complete on leaving school. Kipling was aware of this when he wrote of his Six Serving Men:

I keep six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

I send them over land and sea
I send them East and West
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five
For I am busy then
As well as breakfast, lunch and tea,
For they are hungry men.

But different folk have different views.
I know a person small;
She keeps 10 million serving men
Who get no rest at all.

She sends them abroad on her own affairs
From the second she opens her eyes;
One million Hows, two million Wheres
And seven million Whys.



Name: Tjena
Date: 2007-03-29 08:15:17
Link to this Comment: 21614

I would like to tell a story of my science and my world. i didnot understand where to post it so i am posting in this group.

The story starts with a song, runs like a song....

My memory has a lot big collection of songs and these days when i started observing what my brain does most of the time and when i am idle, i found out that it picks up (may be this is what called as preoccupied) some random song from the memory collection and start playing it(sometimes the same song is repeated...repeated and repeated) and some times it picks up randomly and plays for me. I have observed that this continuous all day and by befault goeson. I tried to stop it and concentrate on other things but still the song never stops.

Now going to the past(some 12 yrs back), I was in depression. My mind was preoccupied with thoughts about things for which i felt guilty.

so i feel that Mind (may be contious and/or subcontious) is always preoccupied with something. I was preoccupied with guilty feelings and emotions when i was in depression and now with songs.

I dont know how the path(it points to the location where to access things(and Iam computer professional)) was set to songs from guilty feelings when iam out of depression.

I heard (during some NLP session) that when we give some task to subcontious mind it does whatever to realise it for us. Now i thought to change the path from songs to Chess so that my mind ( may be contious or subcontious, i dont know) works on Chess.

I have a question like can we really put mind (contious and subcontious) on work for better results?
I tried using Brian Wave Entainment techniques with audio and Visual but no results yet. Do anyone put some light on my head whether the Entainment techniques works?

My mind continuously plays some song and most of the time it picks up with the mood of the mind. So i feel there is every possibility that we can program our mind but the biggest question is How? HOw?? and HOW???



Name:
Date: 2007-04-10 22:47:21
Link to this Comment: 21663

Human beings are born storytellers, and they constantly relate their own experiences as stories, in such an interesting manner that the other person would listen to the story and then relate his own life's experiences to this storyteller. A person's experiences in his life are shaped by his basic experiences and also his culture. Every culture has its own set of stories about the past, present, and their view of the future as they assume it will be. Most of their stories and essays are about their own heroes or the periods of heroism and greatness that their country saw. These are the stories that children often hear frpm their parents and teachers, and this is what shapes their opinions about their country, as well as the world around them.



Name:
Date: 2007-06-15 08:37:06
Link to this Comment: 21764

If human beings are born story tellers, they are also born scientists as story-telling is just a statment of their observations of life, as per the previous comment. In that case, if a person listens to more people and incorporates their experiences and the way they frame their observations into his own, the next person he tells his story too will get treated to a version that is influenced by his cultural background as well as the people he has interacted with. As it passes from person to person the story would just add on more "spice".

If we treat story telling as science, would communication (i.e. interaction with other people) make science more universal or just more confused? Would improving communication make it necessary for people to know so much more about cultures and histories to understand what a scientist meant exactly? I think if people were to interpret science today, it would be in a much more impure manner.

So, is communication in the form of story-telling, a boon or a bane to our knowledge of the universe?


Thinking about Science: Fact versus Story telling
Name: ash
Date: 2007-06-26 11:53:54
Link to this Comment: 21769

Well for me i prefer the new idea of how science is about story telling. Only becuase it will not claim anything to be false unless it has been disproved. This makes personal beliefs such as the creation theory an option for me to keep believing becuase it allows it to be acceptable within the realms of science. although there isn't as much evidence to prove this to be true it still hasnt been disproven, which makes me feel comfortable with the fact that what I believe in could still be true!!!



Name: Science fo
Date: 2007-06-26 11:54:10
Link to this Comment: 21770

I have always been taught that science is a body of facts, but now that i think about it, many of the facts that i beleive i have never personally observed. I prefer the belief that science is stories and observations. How can anything be "right" if scientific facts are constantly being disproved? I agree that science should be about being less wrong.


I agree with the fact that science is story tellin
Name: Science fo
Date: 2007-06-26 11:55:16
Link to this Comment: 21771

I believe that science is a collection of stories after learning about this concept. I agree with the fact that science grows and people learn more when people are wrong instead of right. This creates a variety of observation summaries that can be followed through. I find comfort in the fact that there is always more than one summary, meaning that there is always many answers to one scientifical question. Before learning about this, I thought that science was about learning many facts and using these facts. Now I know and agree with the idea that science is objective and that a summary is chosen based on the influence of a person's background, creativity, personal choice, and characteristics. I know that this is good because it gives scientists new variety, new ideas to think about, new things to disagree with, and new paths for scientists to explore. I prefer the fact that science is proving things less wrong to create new summaries and new conclusions that can never be perfectly right. I like to think that this process was with me when I was a baby and will continue with me with or without education. I like to think that education just enhances these thoughts and builds on the thoughts of scientists.


story telling science
Name: science fo
Date: 2007-06-26 11:56:15
Link to this Comment: 21772

Over the years, I have been taught that there are certain ways to perform experiments and certain ways to think about science. I have been leading my life thinking certain things are true such as planets are round and revolve around a central star. "If the almighty men and women of the science world had established these points, they must be true," I thought. With this new way of thinking about science, however, I am able to see that a whole different way of viewing the world. It's alright to question authority now. It's alright to think differently because nothing has been proven to be completely true. It gives a new hope for the future. I kind of like that feeling. It's like this whole time I've been doubting myself because nothing was perfect, especially in my school science labs. Now, maybe it's okay to be wrong because who says who's right?



Name: science fo
Date: 2007-06-26 11:58:54
Link to this Comment: 21773

The idea of science of a group of stories rather than a body of facts is beneficial. Instead of having the restrictions involved in the body of facts controlled by an authority, one has the benefit of approaching science in a much more open-ended and loose fashion when thinking of sciences as a group of stories or observations. If one thinks of science as a group of stories, the field is much less restrictive as all observations are considered to be part of science instead of just including the conclusions of highly-trained professionals. Also, it gives the impression of science as continually growing and changing and conditions one to regard all information presented with a skeptical attitude rather than blindly swallowing information.


I agree with the fact that science is story tellin
Name: Science fo
Date: 2007-06-26 11:59:26
Link to this Comment: 21774

I believe that science is a collection of stories after learning about this concept. I agree with the fact that science grows and people learn more when people are wrong instead of right. This creates a variety of observation summaries that can be followed through. I find comfort in the fact that there is always more than one summary, meaning that there is always many answers to one scientifical question. Before learning about this, I thought that science was about learning many facts and using these facts. Now I know and agree with the idea that science is objective and that a summary is chosen based on the influence of a person's background, creativity, personal choice, and characteristics. I know that this is good because it gives scientists new variety, new ideas to think about, new things to disagree with, and new paths for scientists to explore. I prefer the fact that science is proving things less wrong to create new summaries and new conclusions that can never be perfectly right. I like to think that this process was with me when I was a baby and will continue with me with or without education. I like to think that education just enhances these thoughts and builds on the thoughts of scientists. This concept gives me new thoughts about how "right" authority is really about science. Now, this gives me motivation to think for myself, using and not totally dependent on the ideas of others. Many concepts such as the concept of the earth's shape, the earth's movement, and evolution are observedin limited areas but not sufficiently "proven" right or wrong. This gives many people choice of what they should and can believe and how their ideas could be as right as anyone else's. Because there is no evidence DISPROVING a summary, a summary could be looked at as legitimate. These concepts changed my look of science, and now I can continue the study with a new approach and a new motivation.


Science as a story...
Name: Science fo
Date: 2007-06-26 11:59:39
Link to this Comment: 21775

Having been taught the more "rigid" method of the scientific process from my early years in schooling, it was kind of shocking to learn this new "storytelling" process. It was a bit alarming to be exposed to the idea that nothing in science is EVER true. Nothing is ever true? Well, when you think about it...it makes sense. In fact, I like it. Although it's a little unsettling to think about never being able to be 100% certain that something is correct, it's also comforting to know that nothing is set in stone--that is to say, there is always opportunity for change to take place. This new method has changed the way I think about science. Instead of thinking about science as a methodic, "one-right-way" type of study, I now think about it in terms of a process of passing along a story from generation to generation--generations of scientists. Every time a new observation is made, a new observation is made on top of that, and then again, and again. Cyclical? Yes. And that's what I like about it. It makes you think, and then it makes you re-think all of the beliefs that you have held...what were they based on? And this begins the cycle--the cycle of testing and disproving or altering knowledge. This cycle never ends, you never reach a simple solution; you are never met with the right answer--a summary of observations that you prove infinetly true. I like this new (to me) way to look at science, it allows me to look at the world (and science) as an open book, one that I can read however I please.



Name:
Date: 2007-06-26 11:59:49
Link to this Comment: 21776

I agree with the idea that science is about stories and what they say. I also think that it is true that science can never really become true unless disproven, because in order for something to be true it must be proven at an infinite number of times. It is very important also, I think, that imagination is applied and then 'stories' are made from what one thinks. Imagination allows many options to be broght to the table and thought about and then therefore...more stories can be made up about what is being studied. It is a very interesting way of studying science and I agree with it.


Thinking about Science: traditional perspective vs
Name:
Date: 2007-06-26 11:59:53
Link to this Comment: 21777

I prefer the story telling method of what science is because it is more informal and gives more room for more abstract ideas to grow. The idea that it is better to be less wrong than right really surprised me but I do believe it to be true and I will try to follow it more, because it also allows ideas to change. I never really realized that science is influenced by who you are, but I can understand how. I found it very interesting that ideas such as the world is flat and the sun goes around the earth are still valid and appreciated within our range of observation. I have accepted that some of my beliefs exist because of an observation of athority, but I hope to make my own decisions from now on and make more of my own observations. By having the idea that you can't prove a hypothesis to be true, more can be discovered because it makes the scientific method a never- ending process.


Story telling vs. Facts
Name:
Date: 2007-06-26 11:59:56
Link to this Comment: 21778

I have learned that science really isn't all facts and that you can use stories to create new summaries and observations. I think that I would prefer to think in the story telling way of science because it gives you the chance to create new ideas that can spread and branch out to form new things that may be helpful in the real world. By being able to tell and hand down stories to others, you are giving them the opportunity to make a bigger picture in the world and use their own ideas to benefit the for the entire community. When you are just using facts, you aren't allowing anyone to think outside of the box and it seems as though you are restricting them from expressing their own ideas. By saying that science is just facts it seems like you are saying that people cannot use their creativity or ideas if everything else has just been set in stone through these facts.


Science as Story Telling Feedback
Name: Amy
Date: 2007-06-26 12:00:00
Link to this Comment: 21779

When I first learned about another way of using the scientific method, I was completely taken aback. It completely denounced my previous way of thinking and what most of my science teachers had taught me. But then I realized that science for me at the present, was just getting an A, which is a completely wrong way at looking at this subject. I am usually not an abstract thinker, but this method really appealed to me. It really cleared all of the problems that I had had with my science classes in the past. This method, although really different, is a much better way at discussing science. Now people can have disagreements and debates, rather than everyone constantly agreeing. And that is what science is really all about. For me, I have had a lot of disagreements with my peers over evolution verses creationism, but with this method these arguments could have never taken place. This method proves that science is not a body of facts, but possibly based on personal beliefs and understandings and previous knowledge. Now science is not just what can be read in a book, but is something more. It is more personal and based on different opinions. Although the science for story telling is drastically different than the scientific method that I was taught in school, this is much more informative and useful. It proves that one does not need to spend tons of time at school, but needs more opinions and personal experience. It is a completely different way at looking at things, but it is clearly the better way at discussing science.


Science: body of facts vs body of Stories
Name: Science fo
Date: 2007-06-26 12:00:14
Link to this Comment: 21780

This moment I am still astound by this new view of science. To be frank, at first, I had a hard time believeing this theory but as I thought about it, it became quite remarkable. Science is about being less wrong. That is somehting that I learned and makes me consider science as my focus even more. The idea that in science being wrong is better, it gives me this comfort to seek for new discoveries without the fear that I may too off. Simply with the idea that science is a body of stories is more comforting. Any observations that I make will be my story and those who choose to beleive are welcome. In fact it makes science seem easier since it allows for it to be influeced by creativity , people's personality.


Story Telling Vs. Facts
Name: Science fo
Date: 2007-06-26 12:00:21
Link to this Comment: 21781

Personally, story telling is a better way of science. It is because it is not the traditional way of learning science and this new approach expresses a deeper knowledge of science. It does so by not only forming a hypothesis, performing an experiment, and drawing a conclusion. The story telling or loopy version of the scientific method begins with a summary of observations, then a new observation is formed, and then one may draw a conclusion from the outcome. If the observations come to be true, one must continue testing the observations over and over again to an infinite amount of times. If the observations are disproved, one must go back to the beginning and change the summary of observations. From this, one learns that science does not form conclusions it merely summarizes observations. Also, from using the story telling approach to science, one could form multiple new summaries from one set of observations.


Fact vs. Story Telling
Name: Science fo
Date: 2007-06-26 12:00:21
Link to this Comment: 21782

I agree with the statement that science is story telling rather than fact. People can never be completely objective; there is always some aspect of who a person is that is evident in his/her work. Considering this, no one can ever be completely sure that what a person has said is a truthful fact, but can only accept it as a rather believable idea. Scientists are human and with human ideas comes human error.
Along with the idea of science as story telling comes the ability to change one's platform of ideas about how the world works with a greater ease. If you believe that something is fact, you will probably find it harder to believe that a new "fact" is "true" even if evidence strongly suggests so or even if the evidence suggests that what you believed to be true before is incorrect. People often have a hard time changing their core beliefs. So if people believe from the beginning that science is a series of constantly changing stories, their ideas about the world around them can be more easily modified and less wrong.


Story telling vs. Facts
Name: Caroline S
Date: 2007-06-26 12:00:30
Link to this Comment: 21783

I have learned that science really isn't all facts and that you can use stories to create new summaries and observations. I think that I would prefer to think in the story telling way of science because it gives you the chance to create new ideas that can spread and branch out to form new things that may be helpful in the real world. By being able to tell and hand down stories to others, you are giving them the opportunity to make a bigger picture in the world and use their own ideas to benefit the for the entire community. When you are just using facts, you aren't allowing anyone to think outside of the box and it seems as though you are restricting them from expressing their own ideas. By saying that science is just facts it seems like you are saying that people cannot use their creativity or ideas if everything else has just been set in stone through these facts.


Stories popping up
Name: Ron C. de
Date: 2007-06-30 07:33:24
Link to this Comment: 21786

My position is, that all stories naming objects adhere themselves to these objects as one more aspect of it. When two stories name the same objects, these receive two aspects. The 'logic' or association of each aspect, relates one object to the next, even across stories although not always, depending upon a more fundamental precept that can bring stories together. (The Book of Psalms, to my surprise, uses the word 'precept' regularly.) The more fundamental stories get, the more likely they get closer to the 'Theory of Everything', but also the greater the chance that they are blown away by falsification vis-a-vis the fundamentals of reality. Then a new theory will pop up. That is why everybody remembers Popper!


Revisiting Science
Name: Bob McCorm
Date: 2007-07-05 07:13:29
Link to this Comment: 21806

Does there come a time to state definitely that a statement, after extensive and arduous research, is the “Truth?” Are there constants in our universe that are the “Truth?” Does everything need to be a variable, are there constants that the scientific community can consider to be the “Truth” which controls our universe?

This is not to say that these “Truth” is not subjected to further skepticism and scrutiny. Decades ago in college, I learned that brain cells cannot manufacture new cells. This theory, the current “Truth” at the time, has now been soundly disproven. In fact, we know that the brain and spinal cord contain stem cells that turn into new neurons at the rate of thousands per day.

Should physicists attempt to disprove Isaac Newtown’s Theory of Relativity? Possibly mathematicians ought to attempt to search for additional corollaries or theorems to the Pythagorean Theorem or challenge the formula for the circumference of the circle? When do we reach a point in our experiment that a conclusion is a “Truth?”

In reality, I do prefer the contemporary over the traditional way of describing the “scientific method’ but what I am apprehensive about and think there should be discussion on is at what point can we say that the method still works but subjected to further assessment and evaluation, this is the “Truth.” Is there such a place in either scientific model for such a statement? I feel that there must be point where this occurs in either model because lacking this position could encumber and restrain the future of scientific discovery.


points ...
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2007-07-05 12:11:53
Link to this Comment: 21808

Its an interesting question, whether there is a "theory of everything" for things to get closer to. My own suspicion is that the answer is no, that Popper (and others) had too much confidence in falsification as a convergent process and neglected the multiple ways to make sense of any given set of observations as well as the new things created in the course of scientific (and other forms of) exploration. For more on these themes, see From Complexity to Emergence and Beyond: Towards Empirical Non-Foundationalism as a Guide to Inquiry and Paths to Story Telling as Life.


And the point about a risk that skepticism one might "encumber and restrain" future exploration (scientific and otherwise) is well taken. How about laying down skepticism at the point where one needs to act (see Writing Descartes) and then picking it up again? That seems to me preferable to looking for a criterion for deciding that something is in fact the "Truth". And more in accord with how scientists (and other explorers) actually work (see Revisiting Science in Culture: Science as Story Telling and Story Revision). Take a given story not as "Truth" but rather as a stepping stone sufficiently firm to use to get to the next story.


Looking forward to seeing what pops up next.


Science as Story Telling
Name: Joyce Ther
Date: 2007-07-07 13:50:38
Link to this Comment: 21818

Native Americans used story telling to explain observable forces such as weather for example. The stories would provide both interest and comfort to those affected by storms or drought. In addition, the stories were taught and remembered so as to help individuals with strategies that they could use when facing dangerous storms or earth events. Some of these stories can be aligned in their framework to the actual science of weather as we know today. The stories are very charming and quite engaging for children to read. We can use them in science classrooms as a basis of discussion. We can start with the question: "How do these stories relate to what we actually know about the weather?" and students of any age can analyze the truth in the readings. "What is factual and what is fantacy? What part of what we read is interesting?" Students will love the imagery, the super powers that are not actual gods but forces of nature are very engaging. Engagement helps children to remember.

Placing important information or relevent facts in a story ripe with imagery boosts retention. What is most important is that children learn to analyze and critique the tons of information that they are flooded with everyday. If it is boring or not relevent to them then it will pass by without a second thought.

Therefore wrapping science within the context of engaging stories does increaseboth interest and sometimes deeper understanding. This is most effectively used by advertisements and hideous infomercials. Cable TV is clogged with "Paid Programming" and many of these productions use fictional science to back their claims. There is one scam artist who has a criminal record for his rip-off marketing scemes and yet he is very successfully promoting his book about home cures without consequence. People believe his "scientific" stories of curing any ailment because they are wrapped around half-truths and chicken soup remedies.


Yes, I will use story-telling as a way to remember important science explanations but I will also consistently sharpen my students' ability to critique what they hear, read, or especially see on TV or the Internet.


Story telling not telling the whole story
Name: Ron C. de
Date: 2007-07-08 15:09:59
Link to this Comment: 21819

Story telling seems NOT the whole story of science, that intends to build stories, and through them models, that perfectly reflect an assumed reality out there, including its discription, explanation and prediction, in a way that brings scientists together, convinces them of the truth or falseness of the understanding at stake, and take action accordingly. There should be logical necessity in research and not just psychological or historical relativity. When we hold still after arriving at a story telling standpoint, only pluralism, multiculturalism or what French postmodern philosopher and activist Julia Kristeva calls 'rootedness in alienation', are conditioned. Solid experimental research, depending on absolutely independent confirmation or rejection, is pushed aside. We should not get it less true, but increasingly true.




correction
Name: Ron C. de
Date: 2007-07-08 15:13:08
Link to this Comment: 21820

Correction: 'We should not get it less true, but increasingly true' should read 'We should not get it less wrong, but increasingly true'.


The traditional way of approaching science
Name: simon
Date: 2007-07-26 04:01:37
Link to this Comment: 21835

The traditional way of approaching science is about “getting things right”, as mentioned in the article. The traditional way of describing the “scientific method”, which follows the steps of 1) hypothesis, 2) experiment, 3) conclusion that decides whether the hypothesis is true or false, also shows that it defines science as discovering “the ultimate truth”. In a traditional educational setting, I was expected to memorize the scientific facts and was tested and graded based on the knowledge that I memorized. There was not much of my own thinking involved, but it definitely required the understanding and absorption of the scientific concepts. I am not here to say that was a wrong way to learn science nor am I here to disparage the traditional way of education; I am trying to get to the point that the traditional education has different goal in education than the constructive education. The traditional education is a knowledge-based education that helps students to absorb a quantity of knowledge to build upon and think in certain ways that many people believes to be true. If one is most interested in impacting declarative knowledge (facts, concepts, principles, etc. that are stored in semantic and episodic memory), the most appropriate teaching method is probably some form of didactic, explicit, or direct instruction (Huitt, W. (1998). Critical thinking: An overview. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University Retrieved [date] from, http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/cogsys/critthnk.html).


Increase truth-content
Name: Ron C. de
Date: 2007-07-27 06:55:57
Link to this Comment: 21837

Simon, "If one is most interested in impacting declarative knowledge (facts, concepts, principles, etc. that are stored in semantic and episodic memory), the most appropriate teaching method is probably some form of didactic, explicit, or direct instruction (Huitt, 1998)."

I wonder if Serendip is really interested in declarative knowledge. When everything is reduced to stories and storytelling, science will no longer be a corrective force in culture and politics. Instead, it will enforce cultural and political relativism, welcomed by liberal democratic globalization and anarchism. Therefore, I would like to have "getting it less wrong" rephrased into "getting it increasingly true" or as Popper put it, answering Kuhn, "Thus the aim is the increase of the truth-content of our theories" (Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, Lakatos and Musgrave, 1965, p57).


"declarative knowledge" and science as a "correcti
Name: Paul Grobstein
Date: 2007-08-13 13:32:02
Link to this Comment: 21869

Serendip "aims at helping you to think for yourself, and in the process of discovery to formulate new questions and new explorations." All are welcome in the ongoing conversations that support that, whether interested in "declarative knowledge" or not.


For my own part, I've become convinced that "declarative knowledge" is as much a destructive as it is a "corrective force in culture and politics". The problem with "declarative knowledge" ("scientific" or otherwise) is that, not inappropriately, most humans view it as, at best, a source of presumed certainty that can be passively accepted (until, to their regret, they discover its limitations), and, at worst, as an oppressive force that denies the worth of their own efforts to make sense of the world.


The alternative is not "anarchism" but rather a recognition that "declarative knowledge" is itself, necessarily and always, a "story", a way to make sense of things that can be used and shared until something "less wrong" comes along. This is, at its core, what science is (see Fellow Travelling with Richard Rorty). And it is, to my mind, the most important thing that science has to share with the rest of humanity. To be a genuinely "corrective force" science needs to share the importance of challenging all authority, including its own.


Everyone has their own ways of making sense of the world, and that is to be valued rather than feared, so long as we all share a recognition of the "non-authoritativeness" of all understandings, including our own. We are all explorers who can always be shown the limitations of our understandings at any given time but who never have, any of us, the kind of transcendent perspective that would allow us to say what is more "true'.


I'll more than happily settle for "getting it less wrong", individually and collectively, and forego "declarative knowledge" in the interests of building a human community in which everyone shares in a continual process of making sense of the world ... and remaking it.


relativism or rocket science?
Name: Ron C. de
Date: 2007-08-15 10:59:22
Link to this Comment: 21873

Paul, "The problem with "declarative knowledge" ("scientific" or otherwise) is that, not inappropriately, most humans view it as, at best, a source of presumed certainty that can be passively accepted (until, to their regret, they discover its limitations)". -- A source of presumed certaintay that can passively accepted doesn't sound like rocket science that literally can bring us to the moon, and does so, and beyond. You need the "right stuff" for that! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Right_Stuff



Name: Sarah
Date: 2007-09-05 10:16:33
Link to this Comment: 21888

please will someone tell me two quick differences between religion and science, it'll be a great help please :)


Science and Religion
Name: Ron C. de
Date: 2007-09-05 17:55:45
Link to this Comment: 21890

Science only assumes what can be tested, religion not necessarily.
Systematically, science has doubts, while religion has faith. Put differently, science's faith in the relation between the independent and the dependent variable is only hypothetical and will be set aside when a better explanation and understanding comes along.
In science, means causally sanction the end; in religion, the end teleologically sanctifies the means, even crucifixion.

Faith and Reason



Name:
Date: 2007-09-06 03:46:40
Link to this Comment: 21892

Human beings are born storytellers, and they constantly relate their own experiences as stories, in such an interesting manner that the other person would listen to the story and then relate his own life's experiences to this storyteller. A person's experiences in his life are shaped by his basic experiences and also his culture. Every culture has its own set of stories about the past, present, and their view of the future as they assume it will be. Most of their stories are about their own heroes or the periods of heroism and greatness that their country saw. These are the stories that children often hear frpm their parents and teachers, and this is what shapes their opinions about their country, as well as the world around them.


So much for story telling
Name: Ron C. de
Date: 2007-09-06 05:36:43
Link to this Comment: 21893

I am quite uncomfortable with the term 'empirical non-foundationalism'. Experience does make things objectively true and thus foundational. A solid base can also be found in the (teleo) logic force of religion. In storytelling, however, solidity is replaced for loose sand, simple associationism. I have nothing against associations, but there SHOULD be an attempt to form a solid base, or a solid conclusion. A brain that is not organized along the lines or vision of certain patterns, preferring particular nodes and paths over others, interpreting one way or the other, must be in a vegetative state.


Confirmation instead of storytelling.
Name: Ron C. de
Date: 2007-09-06 05:51:46
Link to this Comment: 21894

When I am online taking part in a discussion, I am not telling my story over and over again, instead I am testing my current understanding of my world. When I do find an empirical base for it, either in the moment or from circumstantial evidence, I am freed from further investigations for the time being and can start my day. This often means re-interpreting my empirical sense data, messing up any 'story'. Though it does solidify understanding and explaining any (social) mechanisms at work, and enhances immediate coping ability with my environment and the people in it. NOT because we share the same 'story', but because we share experience. Independently, theirs is the same as mine (or a close enough match).


Science=Religion
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2007-09-07 23:27:47
Link to this Comment: 21895


Science only assumes what can be tested, religion not necessarily....

Systematically, science has doubts, while religion has faith....

In science, means causally sanction the end; in religion, the end teleologically sanctifies the means,


Hm...an interesting framing/intriguing opposition. I see the relation between science and religion a little differently. There's a wonderful sermon called The Life of Faith is Not a Life Without Doubt, published on Serendip a few years ago, which has become for me a touchstone in the religion-science debates. It has helped me see Religion as Testing: Another Sort of Story Revising, has helped me understand the degree to which (for instance) the exploratory seeking that Quakers call "continuing revelation," the process of constantly "testing" in a social context, against what others know, what one knows oneself, against new experience and new information...are activities that, ideally, can be practiced in both the religious and the intellectual realms.

In my experience, in other words, science and religion are essentially the same thing.

I take it, however, not in yours?


conquering death
Name: Ron C. de
Date: 2007-09-09 21:02:47
Link to this Comment: 21896

Anne, I am from a little village where once Descartes lived as well, and another very important figure for my training as a psychologist, A.D. de Groot. The latter wrote "Methodology" in '69, much as a revolt against the Hegelian atmosphere still haunting the academic scene in Holland. He described what he called "the empirical cycle": (1) observation, (2) induction, (3) deduction, (4) testing and (5) evaluation. The first and last phases are the same in the research cycle only differing in having extended the quest one step. Induction is reformulating the hypothesis or theory in the light of new information from observation or evaluation. Deduction making a prediction based on the revitalized hypothesis or theory. Sorry for this long intro to my attempt to answer your comments.. It allows me to point out why to me religion and science are close and yet so far apart. Religion starts at the theory side of the cycle, between induction and deduction. The faith, central to it, is tested and revised continually. Science starts at the practical (Paul would say: pragmatical) side of the cycle, between testing and evaluating. Empirical evidence is central to it, foundational if you will. It is evaluated, used to reshape prediction and put to the test again, also in a never ending cycle. De Groot has mentioned "the empirical cycle in reflection", by which he could mean faith. This faith is not without doubt, but it is only the kind of doubt that can always be repaired, just like the Morris "8" (reminds me of Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot - Jacques Tati). It is like Hegel's comment when his theory would not fit the facts: that is "Schade für den Sachen" - too bad for the facts. I find it very, very brave of Rev Dr Eaves to call the Supreme Being "only a theory" and strongly suspect this can not be quite representative for Quaker thought. He can only have escaped a manhunt or excommunication if all the community understood his deeper intentions as being thoroughly pragmatic, not really claiming truth (I suspect). However, that is not to say that the religious quest for truth is relatively easy. In my view, it was the hardest and most rewarding thing mankind could ever achieve in jewish-christian culture and history. Discovering what writing (and reading) can do to mankind (the Father and the Son), delivering the Testament from the prophets to have them self-fulfill by 'Anyone' understanding the importance of that cultural victory over nature. What I mean is, religion has passed the greatest test of all and in that sense has been set apart from science. Trust, instead of mistrust, in our own judgement, as the essence of truth maintenance, is like beating death versus having beaten it. Quite a divide.


Should it be?
Name:
Date: 2007-10-04 08:05:45
Link to this Comment: 21993

Science seems to be afraid of storytelling, perhaps because it associates narrative with long, untestable yarns. Stories are perceived as "just" literature. Worse, stories are not reducible to mathematics, so they are unlikely to impress our peers.

This fear is misplaced for two reasons. First, in paradigmatic science, hypotheses have to be crafted. What are alternative hypotheses but competing narratives? Invent them as fancifully as you can.

Sure, they ought to avoid explicit violations of reality (such as light acting like a particle when everyone knows it's a wave?), but censor those stories lightly. There is time for experiment—by you or others—to discover which story holds up better.



Name:
Date: 2007-10-07 01:40:16
Link to this Comment: 21995

"
Science seems to be afraid of storytelling, perhaps because it associates narrative with long, untestable yarns. Stories are perceived as "just" literature. Worse, stories are not reducible to mathematics, so they are unlikely to impress our peers.



This fear is misplaced for two reasons. First, in paradigmatic science, hypotheses have to be crafted. What are alternative hypotheses but competing narratives? Invent them as fancifully as you can.


Sure, they ought to avoid explicit violations of reality (such as light acting like a particle when everyone knows it's a wave? ), but censor those stories lightly. There is time for experiment— by you or others—to discover which story holds up better."



I have to agree with your statement, Science has always been afraid of story telling for hundreds and thousands of years, since most stories are far fetched and exclude reality. The role of science in the last century has always been to Test most of the stories and myths that have been told for thousands of years.








Great Articles I liked :
Faith and Reason. Revisiting Science in Culture: Science as Story Telling and Story Revision.
The Life of Faith is Not a Life Without Doubt


Forum Archived
Name: Webmaster
Date: 2007-10-18 12:55:37
Link to this Comment: 22065

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