Dogmatism Vs Criticality Essay

1694 words - 7 pages

I remember being in eleventh grade physics class paired up with my best friend for a graded, in-class lab experiment. We had to use some physics equations in order to determine the trajectory of a ball going down a slide that sloped up at the end, and place a target a certain distance from that slide so that the ball would land in the center of the target (see image to the left). Basically, you got 20 points for it getting in the center of the target, 15 in the next ring, etc., and missing the target meant failing the lab. My friend and I plugged numbers in these equations, but got outrageous numbers that basically suggested our ball would be going through the ceiling. The teacher went around asking other groups, who were certain they had done their math perfectly, to demonstrate their calculations by dropping the ball. Not a single group got that perfect 20 score, even though they were sure of their calculations. Right before the teacher came to us, my friend and I guesstimated where we thought it may land, and we took a leap of faith by dropping that ball. When the ball hit right in the middle of the target, my friend and I actually yelled in excitement and then played it off as if we planned it.
Those who had done the procedures thoroughly, attempted to do the calculations correctly, and put their hypotheses to the test had essentially failed and my friend and I, who guessed, had succeeded. The failure of the students to get the predicted results had no one in my class screaming, “We did everything correct, so there must be something wrong with these widely accepted physics equations!” but instead the finger was pointed back on them – the ill-trained students trying to do science with little facilitated direction. Does my anecdote prove that science failed? There is a lot of “empirical data” coming from high school science labs suggesting alternate results to the most widely accepted scientific theories, but it is dismissed because we, as students, did not know how to do science well enough. Theories tend to hold true despite some teenagers’ errors, but at what point does a critical attitude switch into a dogmatic attitude? Karl Popper, a prominent twentieth century philosopher, talks about the difference between a dogmatic attitude and a critical attitude in Science: Conjectures and Refutations. according to Popper, humans have a cognitive bias toward dogmatism that constantly searches to verify a theory and ignore evidence that goes against our first impressions (Pojman, 492). He argues in favor of a critical attitude, which he essentially says is synonymous to the scientific method. Usually, religion is considered dogmatic and science is considered critical, but I will critique Popper by arguing that scientists have often displayed dogmatic attitudes and present a brief argument for a healthier relationship between science and religion.
Imre Lakatos, another twentieth century philosopher, talks about the paradigm shifts in science that...

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