In other words, scientific information is verifiable, replicable human experience. How we know determines what we know. Science has grown exponentially since Galileo. It is built on a huge body of data. And its power shows up in technology. The principles that are used to make a light go on were learned in the same meticulous way we’ve come to understand how the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have risen over the past 100 years leading to ominous climate change.
Yet there are many who cherry pick science — only believing its findings when they agree with them. Documented proof doesn’t fare much better. In a recent post, I cited two studies that showed the effectiveness of good writing on student learning that somehow haven't found their way into data-driven instruction.
What’s going on here? Believe it or not, science has taken a look at so-called “motivated reasoning” where people rationalize evidence that is not in keeping with deeply held beliefs. Here are some of the findings:
- A large number of psychological studies have shown that people respond to scientific or technical evidence in ways that justify their preexisting beliefs.
- People rejected the validity of a scientific source because its conclusion contradicted their deeply held views — and thus, the relative risks inherent in each scenario.
- Head-on attempts to persuade can sometimes trigger a backfire effect, where people not only fail to change their minds when confronted with the facts — they may hold their wrong views more tenaciously than ever.
- The problem is arguably growing more acute, given the way we now consume information—through the Facebook links of friends, or tweets that lack nuance or context or “narrowcast” and often highly ideological media that have relatively small, like-minded audiences.
“Those basic human survival skills of ours,” says Michigan’s Arthur Lupia , are “not well-adapted to our information age.” The echo chamber is way too comfortable and we ignore new and challenging facts at our own peril.
Good scientific information comes in large part from challenges to procedures and data collection. In the soft sciences, such as those used by educational researchers, the measurement can be fuzzy and the procedures themselves can influence outcomes. Recently there are challenges to the data-driven school. Doubts are rising about the worth of all the assessment at the expense of real learning. I'm a scientist but I'm also a teacher. Art has often preceded scientific discovery.