How Quickly a Science Education Become Out-Dated…

So my general biology (EBIO 1220) prof, just a few days ago, was telling us about the “Great Dying” of 250 million years ago, and now I find this article that gives completely different reasons for this mass extinction than I was just taught.What she told us (and our rather new textbook agrees) is that the “Great Dying” was probably due to continental drift and the formation of Pangea, and more recently people think it’s due to repeated impacts from meteors, similar to the extinction of the dinosaurs. But, now this article (as linked first above) says it’s volcanic activity that did it.

I was just wondering… how often do other people in the science field feel a bit frustrated by how quickly their education is out-dated, that it’s an old even while you’re learning it? I realize that this is part of being in the sciences, but sometimes I wish that classes could give you more updated information, such as current news stories like the one I found above, instead of going mainly off of the textbook (but then again, what should I expect from a lower-division, general biology class?).

3 Responses to “How Quickly a Science Education Become Out-Dated…”

I know tremendously little on the subject, but I heard (twice) a blurb on NPR yesterday. The gist of what they had to say is that, yes, there’s another article continuing the debate on what caused the Great Die-off. I also thought it was interesting that one of the commentators considered it likely that a combination of factors was likely at work to cause such a phenomenon. I guess I might comment more after Science gets here with the article.

That said I also remember being frustrated by similar things. Worst were the teachers who just weren’t keeping up with their reading very well, but at my level I didn’t notice many of those. But I guess I was enough of a slacker that I was also sometime somewhat put off when professors were trying to be too current and say “learn it this way but that’s probably wrong and you’ll have to re-learn it later.” (Ten whips with a wet noodle.)

laura - January 21st, 2005 at 12:23 pm

I have nothing great and substantial to offer about the topic (which I loved– nice links and content), but I wanted to say a quick welcome back to Laura– nice to see you posting. 🙂

Paradoxdruid - January 24th, 2005 at 1:17 am

This topic caught my eye because in the astronomy class that I am TAing for (called the Violent Universe) we talked for a while about how meteor impacts can cause mass exctinctions, including the possibility that this was the cause for the “Great Dying.” I believe the instructor handled it in an excelent way. He discussed the evidence that it may have been due to an impact, the evidence that significant volcanism occured at that time, and made a clear distinction between what we know for sure (such as the existence of huge lava flows etc.) and what we are still uncertain about. I think the biggest problem with a lot of education is that it is easier to teach students a series of facts and ask them to reguritate them as opposed to teaching them how science is done. My own theory is that this gets at the heart of why some people have such a problem with evolution. They were taught that evolution happened in way X, which was probably a simplification and undoubtably has some flaws. If they then hear something that contradicts part of what they were taught they have no choice but to throw away the entire theory as they memorized it a single theory not as a puzzle with many pieces that need to be put together and just because one piece was put in the wrong place doesn’t mean the whole picture was bad.

With that said… that is certainly not what happens. It is easier for teachers to regurigate the information given to them which makes students believe science is a static subject, or worse, if they gather that scientists do change their minds they may think it is an arbitrary and capricious subject run by ego driven elitist scientists.

Laika - February 11th, 2005 at 1:55 pm

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