Re: [unrev-II] Science Education Paradox

From: Garold (Gary) L. Johnson (
Date: Sat Aug 25 2001 - 09:00:06 PDT

  • Next message: Garold (Gary) L. Johnson: "Re: [unrev-II] Re: Maleable Archives"

    As a teenager, I thought that the problem that congress and other
    legislators faced was information overload -- just too many bills, too many
    pages, too many implications to be able to cover it all even at the lowest

    Later I concluded that some of the bills were so clearly flawed that the
    problem just had to be stupidity. Listening to any call in program will
    reinforce that.

    I went through inability to reason, lack of scientific knowledge, evil
    people, evil ideas, graft, the corruption of power, and probably several
    others searching for the nature of the difficulty.

    Whatever the problem is, I can tell you definitely that it is a systems
    problem with a large number of interacting variables rather than anything
    admitting of a "single point" solution (fix this and it will all get

    There are always individuals in a large enough group that exhibit nearly any
    of a wide range of the problems above, but the question I am working on now
    boils down to "how does it happen that a group can make decisions that are
    worse than the decisions that would be made by nearly anyone in the group?"
    Clearly simple diversity causes some of the problem -- enough different
    approaches that the ones that show a lot of support are often not the best,
    but there is more.

    Deming claimed that more then 85% of the output of an organization was due
    to the structure of the organization rather than to the expertise or lack of
    it of the people. That certainly appears to fit with my recent observations.

    The apparent paradox of having some of the best scientists and a general
    population that is scientifically ignorant has several features.

    In a book called "Innumeracy" John Allen Paulos points out that the best
    scientists of, say, Belgium, may be as good as those anywhere else, but that
    since the United States, with a far larger population, creates so many more
    scientists than the smaller country, there will be more U.S. scientists than
    Belgian ones. He sees at least a part of the issues as a lack of
    understanding of the statistics of the problem.

    While I also decry the level of ignorance in this country, are there any
    studies showing that it is better in the rest of the world? Science, indeed,
    thinking in any form has always been the province of a rather small
    percentage of a population. As society allows for more and more people to
    spend time that is not just trying to stay alive, the percentage of the
    population that have the time to spend thinking about anything increases,
    but once those with the inclination to think have been accommodated, the
    increase in the number who do think drops off dramatically.

    The discrepancy between our college system and our primary education is
    amazing and nearly inexplicable. It appears that primary schooling
    throughout Europe is superior to ours, and yet some of our universities rank
    among the best in the world.

    Clearly, improving the ability of the electorate to think about and reason
    about issues and to obtain information readily is a valuable effort. Even
    with the internet in increasingly wide use, it is still difficult to get raw
    information on any topic of social debete. Once a discussion polarizes, it
    is nearly impossible to be heard unless you are arguing for one of the
    extreme positions. If you try to determine what the facts are, you will be
    attacked by all the polarized factions who will try to beat you into
    submission with their conclusions.

    Polarization happens in populations and in many people. I don't know how to
    approach that except through better education ... and that topic has been
    polarized so that it is difficult to find the truth of what really works.


    Garold (Gary) L. Johnson
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Grant Bowman" <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Friday, August 24, 2001 4:37 PM
    Subject: Re: [unrev-II] Science Education Paradox

    > * Jack Park <> [010824 10:47]:
    > >
    > > [...]
    > > The electorate. Now, there's an OHS/DKR usecase if there ever was
    > Yes, I agree! Allowing the storage of scientific knowledge and facts to
    > be used by the electorate is increasingly important as the rate and speed
    > of information needed to solve a "wicked" problem increases.
    > Thanks for brining this forward, Jack.
    > --
    > -- Grant Bowman <>
    > Community email addresses:
    > Post message:
    > Subscribe:
    > Unsubscribe:
    > List owner:
    > Shortcut URL to this page:
    > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to

    ------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor ---------------------~-->
    Secure your servers with 128-bit SSL encryption! Grab your copy of VeriSign's FREE Guide, "Securing Your Web
    site for Business" and learn all about serious security. Get it Now!

    Community email addresses:
      Post message:
      List owner:

    Shortcut URL to this page:

    Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0.0 : Sat Aug 25 2001 - 08:47:51 PDT