Department Of Giving One’s Imagination An Exhaustive Workout
Monday morning, in my New York Times app’s “Top Stories,” I spy with my little eye an article with the following headline:
Next challenge, please.
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Department Of The Wild Wacky ® Streets Of Hillsboro, Oregon
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Department Of Things That Make Them Look Across The Table At Me And Say,
“Stop. Just Stop.”
Dateline: a week ago Friday, dinner time. I told MH and son K that I was considering ending my fiction writing sabbatical – I had an idea for a series of historical novels! The protagonists will be a poor but loving and close-knit, 19th century pioneer family, struggling to carve out a life as fruit farmers in the Oregon wilderness as they confront a recurring plague of small, parasitic insects which threaten to decimate their currant crop. I’m going to call it, “Little Louse on the Berry.”
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Department Of The Argument For Acquiring A Basic Scientific Literacy
You may be saying to yourself, I didn’t know there was an argument *against* having a basic scientific literacy.  Aside from the mission statements and curriculum listings I’ve encountered on the websites of fundamentalist religious “educational” institutions, I’m not sure that there is such an overt argument. Nevertheless,  all you have to do is wade through a few Facebook shares (sadly, often from people who Should Know Better ® ) to realize that an appreciation for scientific thinking – that is, a basic understanding and application of critical inquiry and “factual claims” analysis – is sorely lacking in our culture.
There are soooooooooooo many reasons why we should all be on a lifelong quest to “think like a scientist” – but you really need just one: thinking like a scientist will give you a lifelong, reliable ca-ca detector.
It’s not that having a basic knowledge of science and/or the scientific method will give you all the answers  – it’s that if you have the former, you don’t need the latter. You don’t need to know all the answers when you know the kind of questions to ask of those who allege to have The Answers.
All claims, from supernatural (“The stories in the Christian scriptures are true but those in the Muslim scriptures are false”) to economic (“Anarchocommunism is the most efficient political/economic form of socialism“) to medical (“The Chiropractic theory of subluxation is a valid diagnostic tool for identifying and treating human diseas “) to historical (“The moon landings were staged on a movie backlot by NASA”), can be understood and/or evaluated if you have a basic grasp of scientific thinking. Doesn’t even matter if it’s the first time you’ve heard of the “healing crystals” your friend is touting – you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to take your friend’s enthusiasm at face value.
That ambassador of science literacy himself, American astrophysicist and author, Neil deGrasse Tyson, puts it this way (my emphases):
To be scientifically literate is to empower yourself to know
when someone else is full of shit…
You have an understanding of the properties of the laws of physics, so when someone comes up to you to sell you crystals and they say, “Rub these together and you’ll be healed,” you say, “Well, what are they made out of? And how many people have they healed? And what aliments do they heal? And what’s the mechanism? How much do they cost? And where are they from? And what’s their molecular structure?…and the person runs away in tears.
Science literacy is not knowing the answer – you might know the answer, but that’s not what’s fundamental. What’s fundamental is the capacity to inquire about what is true and what is not in this world. And that is the empowerment. The power of inquiry.
( Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Nerdist Podcast)
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Department Of But It Might Have Made The Checkout Clerk’s Day
Entering the grocery store, I counted my freshly-laundered, reusable produce sacks, which I’d grabbed fresh from the dryer before leaving for the store. Fortunately, I found the “hitchhiker” before I absent-mindedly used it to bag the kiwi….
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May you always check for hitchhikers;
May you realize why knowing some of the questions
is better than thinking you have all of the answers;
May you, at least once in your life, place something in your front yard to make your neighbors smile;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 Maybe you should stop talking to yourself.
 Why does no one ever say, Neverthemore….
 And, of course, there is no All The Answers.