Misperceptions about science: Reasoning

I hear the phrase “scientific reasoning” a lot and it makes me grind my teeth.  There is no separate line of logic and reasoning used by scientists; they use the same methods of proposing answers to questions and testing those answers that you would use to purchase a used car or determine if that cute boy in your second period class said hello to you because he likes you.  Any gear-head with a used car who has tried to figure out what is causing their ride to sputter a bit coming out of second gear has used “scientific reasoning”.  Anyone who has changed a recipe in the kitchen with an expectation that the outcome might taste better has used “scientific reasoning”.  Using the term “scientific reasoning” only strengthens a prevalent misperception that scientists are an elite group of people who, for the most part, think differently than everyone else (which I don’t totally disagree with).  It contributes to the bogus ideas that science is limited to laboratories and that problems have only one “correct” solution (the “scientific” one).

Not that I would expect much to happen if the phrase were extinguished and not that it isn’t useful in certain situations, but I spend a fair amount of time trying to help students see that they probably use science all the time, they just don’t call it that.  If we expect to get more students turned on to science, showing them the ways in which they already use science seems like a good first step.

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About SubOptimist

I am an Associate Professor in the Science Department at Georgia Perimeter College, Clarkston. I teach introductory biology courses at both the majors and non-majors level in addition to microbiology. Previous to that I spent 7 years as a postdoctoral researcher on different viruses. While I don't miss being on the "grant treadmill", I think better when I write and miss writing up data for papers and grants; this blog helps me with that a little. And sometimes my kids' insanely funny and cute antics need to be shared with the world. Any view expressed in this blog is that of me personally and not Georgia Perimeter College or the GPC Clarkston Science Department.
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