Unit 1 - What is science? It is the most successful way...

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What is science? It is the most successful way humans have developed to learn how things work, and how to use that knowledge to predict things. Unit 1 1. Textbook: Science, Geology, and National Parks We hope that the brief introduction to Science, Geology, and National Parks in the previous section left you hungry for more. Here, we explore these ideas a little more, because these “big-picture” questions are probably more important than anything else covered in this class. Humans have always had a love-hate relationship with our “tools”. Cars are great, but getting run over by one isn’t. Televisions are great, until you really want to have a heart- to-heart discussion with someone who is deeply engrossed in a playoff game. Science, as we noted last time and discuss more here, may be humanity’s greatest tool. By collecting the wisdom of the world’s peoples, their experiences and insights, and then testing that wisdom repeatedly, revising and improving, humans gain the knowledge that lets us do things we want. Sometimes, a person becomes unhappy when their idea loses to a better one. In the early 1600s, when Galileo advocated the idea that the Earth orbits the sun, Pope Urban VIII saw conflict with certain verses in the Bible (e.g., Psalm 93, “The world will surely stand in place, never to be moved”, or Psalm 104, “You fixed the earth on its foundation, never to be moved”; both quoted here from the New American Bible, although Urban VIII would have read them in Latin.) Some religious authorities of the time did not see any necessary conflict between these verses and Galileo’s ideas, and the Pope initially had been at least somewhat open to Galileo’s ideas. But, the Pope eventually turned Galileo over to the Inquisition over his supposed heresy, and the Inquisition forced Galileo to recant, sentenced him to house arrest, and banned his book and future publications. (Whether the problem was really Galileo’s sun-centered view, or whether the Pope got mad because his views ended up being spoken by the “loser” in the dialogue in Galileo’s book, is an interesting question.) The papacy subsequently decided that the reality of the Earth orbiting the sun did not undermine scripture, and astronomers could do their job while the religious leaders did theirs. Indeed, rather interesting scientific discussions have been hosted by subsequent popes. It remains that sometimes conflict arises between some members of some religious or other groups and some aspects of science. In 2005, for example, the state school board in Kansas changed their definition of science, apparently to enable teaching in science classes of ideas that repeatedly have been rejected as being nonscientific by courts and scientific organizations. (After another election that changed membership, in 2007 the
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board restored to their definition that science is a search for natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us. We will have a chance to discuss these ideas later in
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Unit 1 - What is science? It is the most successful way...

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