Thanks. On that point – whether people are taught that “science has all the answers” – I guess I would say that while many people at times THINK that science has all the answers, it’s not so much that they are TAUGHT that.
But science education has been changing. When I last took a biology class, Jimmy Carter was president. I think that in those days we tended to get taught a lot of the “conclusions” of science as opposed to the methods, and it might be that that style of instruction does indeed leave a lot of people thinking science has all the answers. It didn’t leave me thinking that, though, and while it marks me as an old git, the fact is that I think there was a lot to be said for that style of teaching.
In particular, what I got from my high school biology class was simply a breathtaking overview of the diversity of life. I had no idea how many ways there were to be a living thing, but we went on a sort of phylum-of-the-week plan all year. I think we barely talked about evolution – I’m not sure I can recall us actually talking about it at all, but we may have – but I think that this sense of the diversity and complexity of life was the most powerful lesson I ever learned about evolution: that life exists in a vast array of forms and that simply classifying them, as Linnaeus did, begins to reveal an underlying order which must flow from nature itself. My sense, in speaking to people about biology, is that most people either never learned this stuff or have forgotten all of it.
I do recall inquiring where the mammals came from, and being told something vague about “mammal-like reptiles,” as they were usually called then (and still are today, but with a bit of a sense that saying these words is cladistically naughty), so I suppose evolution formed some part of the subtext of it all, but we didn’t talk about evolutionary processes and things of that sort much, if at all.
These days there is a more experiential, process-oriented style of teaching. What this gains is a better understanding of the role of science as an inquisitive, investigative process; what it loses is classroom hours that might have been devoted to some of the truly wonderful facts about living things. As a curmudgeon, though I can see the upside, I also wonder if the downside – at least, at the high school level – is not greater than the upside.
At any rate: I don’t think I ever had the sense that I’d been taught that science had all the answers. I was very curious about human evolution and in later years would read things like Donald Johanson’s books, and in those books it became quite evident that we did NOT have all the answers, but that our answers were becoming better refined and focused with the improvement in the evidence itself from new discoveries and with the improvement in methods of analysis.
Creationism was something which I thought had been dead, effectively, for decades, with the Scopes trial being a kind of last hoorah. I was horrified when a girl at school turned up with a copy of some book – it might have been Henry Morris, or something else – about creationist geology, as I had imagined that this was not the kind of battle for the soul of civilization with which I would ever have to trouble myself.