Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Einstein, Darwin & the 21st Century...

MSNBC: Technology and Science

I own copies of "Ideas and Opinions" by Einstein and "Origins of the Species" by Darwin.

Having just moved from Austin, Texas, I was first drawn to an article titled: "Texans forge compromise on evolution." The compromise, from the article "no longer requires educators to teach the weaknesses of all scientific theories."

I never got that the biology teachers I knew taught the "weaknesses" of either evolution or creationism/intelligent design. I gathered like me, they had a limited time for political concerns.

A typical Monday - Friday schoolday is either based on hourly or block schedule. If it's hourly, you have about 50 minutes: 5 minute warm-up/"hook", followed by 10-15 minutes of lecture with 5 minutes of built-in review to check for understanding before you move on. Block is based on about ~ 70 minutes in class; expand the outline stated; see your students every other day.

That is of course, if you have the time based on classroom management issues: an argument that originated on Facebook the night before between teenage ladies that insist on resolving it instead of a lab on series and parallel circuits; the phone you have to take while ephithets are hurled at you (and if you respond in kind, to quote a certain reality show: "you're fired").

Texas is a significant school book market that affects the nation in what they purchase and how they approach politically sensitive hot-button issues like teaching evolution in the classroom. Many in the nation follow Texas' lead based on the shear size of the state.

There's also the usage of the phrase "theory," which he points out is different from the usage of the word "law" (Newton's Laws of Motion, Law of Gravity, etc.).



The caption link for the photo is from an interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson and the exhibit at the Hayden Planetarium - "Einstein, Darwin: A tale of 2 theories." Dr. Tyson compares the impact of how one scientist is lauded (Einstein), and the other is attacked (Darwin). Dr. Tyson points out that Einstein was very active in the social and political issues of his day, while there's no evidence that Darwin ever was. A short essay in "Ideas and Opinions" on minorities (italics for comparison mine):

"It seems to be a universal fact that minorities--especially when the individuals composing them can be recognized by physical characteristics--are treated by the majorities among whom they live as an inferior order of beings. The tragedy of such a fate lies not merely in the unfair treatment to which these minorities are automatically subjected in social and economic matters, but also in the fact that under the suggestive influence of the majority most of the victims themselves succumb to the same prejudice and regard their kind as inferior beings. This second and greater part of the evil can be overcome by closer association and by deliberate education of the minority, whose spiritual liberation can thus be accomplished.

"The resolute efforts of the American Negroes in this direction deserve approval and assistance."

Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlog, 1934, pp 117-118.

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"If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one."


Dr. Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negro

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We fought for Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Women's Rights in the 20th Century. We put a man in orbit, man on the moon several times; introduced the integrated circuit and the personal computer.

We started the 21st Century with an questioned election, and the attack on 9/11/2001.

As a nation, we have to increase our acumen in science and technology. My fear is with the successful deconstruction of old barriers, we're determined to erect new walls of ignorance for largely political gains. There's been a rift from Copernicus to the present between what science discovers and reveals and what religion believes.

Although this is a blog that discusses physics and science, I would not have had Albert Einstein lead a bus boycott, or a March on Washington. I could not see Darwin arguing the case of Brown vs. Board of Education before the Supreme Court.

Each takes different skillsets, and each were necessary to get more into the opportunities afforded by pursuing personal advancement in science.

There was a brief moment in the previous century, where a descent living could be made with very few technological skills.

It's not just electronics: it's nanotechnology and biotechnology, and where those industries will be located will determine the prosperity of the nation they dwell in.

This nation can't afford for us to succumb to the wills of others and consider ourselves inferior beings.

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