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18-Oct-2011

Please teach basic Science in school

My grandad smoked 50 a day

... and lived to 90.

Or the equivalent nonsense piece of reasoning.

Clearly journalists are not going to pick up and criticise peoples' stupid remarks, so we're going to have to drum it into our kids in school.

In all seriousness, scientific reasoning seems to be getting a back seat compared to passing tests.

We could at least teach the difference properly between a coincidence (my grandad) and a significant correlation (proper statistically analysed data that indicates a real link).

We also need to distinguish between a correlation, which is basically adding to a weight of evidence and a cause, which is a direct effect.

Climate Change

This illustrates the point quite well. Lots of people are convinced that we've caused it.

BUT, we can never actually do the experiment to PROVE that we have caused climate change, but we can gather data that shows a correlation between our activities and climate change. ie. they both happened at the same time.

However, that doesn't rule out some other factor at work.

It could be that events in the universe, outside our control have caused a big proportion of climate change and our observation of a correlation just happens to coincide with the larger effect from outside.

OK, this is just to illustrate the point and in some ways the actual argument is academic.

We shouldn't really have to prove that we've caused climate change before we all agree not to rubbish the planet or waste its resources.

Please don't confuse cause with correlation

So many times we hear of things that have happened at the same time and are superficially treated as cause and effect, when they are actually just correlated or coincidences.

Lets keep our civilisation progressing and show our children that they don't have to go along with convenient conclusions from dodgy observations.

Its not difficult to teach.

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