Help me teach my son the value of science...

Sapient's picture

My son just had his current grades sent home, and he's doing amazing as always.  He's got straight A's with the exception of one B.  The B is in science.  When I heard the grades, I smiled, told him how proud I was, and how he was doing great.  But then I told him how it's a bit ironic that science was my favorite subject, it's my best subject, and if he were to excel in one specific course I'd love it if it were science. 

As I was sitting there contemplating how I could convey to him how science is used in essentially everything we do, and in almost every action we make, he says "I don't think I'm gonna use science when I grow up."  Aside from my heart sinking, I realized his lack of fundamental understanding as to how science is applied and it's common use.   So I spent the last 30 minutes giving him fun examples of how he constantly uses science.  For example he presses the power button on a computer to turn it on, rather than tap the sides of the computer with a stick.  When he plays his Lord of the Rings game he uses weapons on certain enemies he deems appropriate based on past experiences.  He doesn't use weapons that he has knowledge will fail and expect a positive result.  We went through a ton of fun examples on practical usage of science, and he gets it, but I'd like to build some interest as opposed to just "getting it." 

Anyway... I was snooping youtube trying to find a very basic video on how science is important to just about everything we do and I couldn't find one.  So I was wondering if any of you either know of a good video (or three) or would want to search for one.  I figure whatever is found and posted could be a good reference point for Christians who like to discount science whenever it suits their religious arguments.  Ideally I'm looking for that video that makes you realize how prehistoric we'd be without science, and it's application.

So feel free to post your videos explaining the importance of science, preferably in terms that a 12 year old could understand (not for my son... for the theists).

 

Thanks for the help in advance,

Brian

P.S. Yes I know this was just a cheeky way to brag about his good grades.

 

- Brian Sapient


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darth_josh's picture

I don't have videos, but a

I don't have videos, but a few ideas.

Chemistry = Vinegar + Baking soda + balloon + bottle = potentially messy fun time explaining reactions

 

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Answers in Gene Simmons's picture

Hey Brian. I can dig for

Hey Brian. I can dig for videos if you really want to but I like the idea of doing some stuff hands on as well. One thing that comes to mind is to ask him what he wants to be when he grows up. At any age, most boys will have some type of answer. Then you can show him hands on how science will help him with whatever he wants to be.

 

Of course, most every field one can go into can put some science to use. Heck, if you can find a way to show him the 3-4-5 triangle, that can show him how to set up a grid or a basic right angle. Once you have that much down, have him tie a ribbon on a branch when he climbs a tree and you can show him how to use simple geometry to find out how high he climbed (wow! You went up 35 feet. That is six time more than dad is tall!)

 

Of course the lessons depend on his age and how ready he is to take on this stuff but you get the general idea.

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Sapient's picture

Answers in Gene Simmons

Answers in Gene Simmons wrote:

One thing that comes to mind is to ask him what he wants to be when he grows up. At any age, most boys will have some type of answer. Then you can show him hands on how science will help him with whatever he wants to be.

I asked and he had nothing this time.  In the past he's said a video game company owner, last year he said a lawyer.  I obviously can come up with tons of science examples in both of them, but I chose to go with the specific activities he had performed in the previous hour.  

 

I think he got the jist, and at this point the videos would be most helpful.  As I scanned the first few pages I wasn't able to find anything specific in this area, although I got an idea that maybe Bill Nye would be a good way to get him excited about science.  Additionally I was hoping to come out of this with a good video for Christians to understand the importance of science.

 

As for age, he's almost 13.

 

- Brian Sapient


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Vastet's picture

I remember having my

I remember having my interest in science exponentially increased by a summer camp at Edmonton's Space & Science Centre. We got to do fun stuff with dry ice and throwing eggs off the top of a stairwell with the intent of them surviving, as well as having access to one of only two Imax theatres in Canada at the time. Also met new friends. I'd recommend it for any kid.
That said, you may have a writer on your hands Brian. He did get an A in English. Sticking out tongue

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Brian37's picture

Brian. I hated science. I am

Brian. I hated science. I am no expert in science. I can't even do a fraction right now. BUT, the thing that DID sink in long before I even got on line to find atheists, I knew that METHOD worked.

I knew that when things were taken step by step, and you followed those steps, you got the answer right, when you didn't you did not get the answer right. That part, no matter how bad at times or how good at times I was at it, always stuck with me.

He is still an individual and he may not take to the same things in life you did. Science certainly is important but not everyone can be a neurologist, or physicist.

But YOU CAN explain to him that the things he does like ARE based on science. His video games are based on it, the car you drive is based on it. The TV he watches is based on it. Even sports has science in it.

The helmets NFL players wear are designed by a combination of chemists who make the plastics, to the doctors they consult who advise on the padding inside and the shape of the helmet. To the paint chemistry used to color the face mask.

You could explain to him outside at night at the full moon, point at it and say men have stood on that moon and it was because of science that we got there.

When you talk to him on the phone, it is based on science. THERE is not one aspect of life that is not touched by science. But always remember that he may figure out something in life that he wants to do for himself, later on.

I think you understand that. But I also know that you would not want him to poo poo science and get suckered into theism. In the end however when he grows up he needs to be himself. Grades are important and you do want a good future for him, but he also needs to be himself.

There is no manual for being a parent. Just encourage him to do the best he can and be involved in his schoolwork and play as well.

Find what he likes and relate it to science. I think that is what you said in your post. I think you are on the right track. You certainly are a better parent than many who simply baby sit their kids and brainwash them with myth.

 

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Sapient's picture

Vastet wrote:We got to do

Vastet wrote:
We got to do fun stuff with dry ice and throwing eggs off the top of a stairwell with the intent of them surviving

He did that recently in class.  The experiment where you get straws, popsicle sticks, paper, string, tape, etc... and then build a pod for the egg to break it's fall.  I helped him design a parachute method at home which he then recreated in the class.  

 

Quote:
one of only two Imax theatres in Canada at the time.

He falls asleep when I take him to cool science based imax movies, and we go to the circular-dome style imax too!  

 

 

Quote:
That said, you may have a writer on your hands Brian. He did get an A in English. :P

This along with the sentiments from Brian make me feel compelled to point out... I'm not trying to force the kid to be a scientist of some type.  Shit I'm not even trying to suggest it.  All I'm trying to do is hand down my love of science.  What he chooses to do with that love is unimportant to me, I would just be thrilled if he embraced it, willingly. This might take some patient convincing, and I happen to feel a few videos expressing the importance of science and it's everyday usage will help a little.  Mostly I found it ironic that his worst subject was my best subject.  

 

 

- Brian Sapient


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Vastet's picture

"He falls asleep when I take

"He falls asleep when I take him to cool science based imax movies, and we go to the circular-dome style imax too!"

Those ones where you're practically lying down?

Btw, I wasn't trying to imply anything. I think it's good you're trying to connect, and broaden his horizons at the same time. I just figured he might be more receptive to literature.

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.

Brian wrote:Help me teach my Son Science

   I'm not sure if this is what your looking for,but Richard Dawkins has some very good DVD about Science,Reason and Logic . 

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Wonderist's picture

I second Dawkins, especially

I second Dawkins, especially the one where he lets the bowling ball pendulum swing away and back toward his face again, without flinching.

Also, even moreso, I recommend Carl Sagan's Cosmos, which is a thorough treatise on why science is so important for everyone. However, it's several episodes, so it may be worth watching over time, like once a week or something. Let the ideas seep in. Make it fun.

As for quick YT vids: I did a scan of some of my favourite YouTubers, and I would recommend, in general, videos by: ThunderF00t, AndromedasWake, cdk007, etc. You can also check out the League of Reason, which was started to bring these like-minded YT users together. You might find some good vides by digging around in that group of users' collective videos.

Specifically, I would recommend scanning the vids of QualiaSoup and Nykytyne2, as they are quite good at explaining concepts, and I believe they probably have videos directly related to promoting a scientific worldview. However, I didn't have time to scan them myself.

One user in particular I think has some very moving videos. He's one of the old school YT atheists (old-school in YT being about 2-3 years ago Eye-wink ). He is philhellenes. Here are two vids which I think are good solid arguments for scientific thinking:

And:

Also, I usually try to promote science-thinking-related videos by adding them to my Favourites (see my channel). I don't have time to watch it, but here's one vid I found by scanning my Favs. I imagine if I Fav'ed it, it's probably half decent. I know the author is a pretty smart guy, though I haven't seen him make a vid in a while:

This topic you bring up (inspiring people to be interested in scientific thinking) is of particular interest to me. I think I'll have to make a video myself on it, when I get the chance. Right now I'm a bit busy at work, but your post is sparking some ideas. I'll have to work on it.

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Wonderist's picture

By the way, it would be

By the way, it would be fascinating to learn from you son two things:

1) What were his experiences and thought processes which led him to devalue science in the first place? Was it his classmates? Something on TV? A particularly boring science class/teacher/curriculum? Was it a series of things which, connected together, made him think science was boring? Was it our tendency to portray science as 'a bunch of facts' rather than 'a way of thinking and learning'?

And 2) (Assuming you're able to inspire some wonder of science back in him) What videos, ideas, experiences, etc., were effective in turning on the light-bulb, so to speak? Was it a story of a scientist? A story about a non-scientist? A story/explanation about the universe? An epiphany at how he sees the universe? A particular metaphor? Some fun physical experiment? Some interesting thought experiment? Etc.

Just like it is important to hear atheist de-conversion stories, to more deeply understand the effects of religion, and how to help people break out of it, I think it is probably also important to hear such 'science conversion' stories to understand how to get more people interested in science, where our current school systems seem to fail so miserably at it.

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Wonderist's picture

Contemplating this is

Contemplating this is bringing back memories. There are a series of experiences which I can remember which inspired my fascination with science. Here are a couple:

- I remember reading a kids' book about Louis Pasteur. It was an illustrated story-book, about a kid who gets bit by a dog, and the dog has Rabies, and the kid gets real sick and is going to die. Then it talks about Louis Pasteur and how he developed a vaccine for Rabies, after developing the Germ Theory of disease. There was a whole thing about how people didn't believe in his germ theory, but Pasteur gave the kid his vaccine, and the kid got better, proving the theory worked. Or so I remember. I could be getting some details wrong (like can a Rabies vaccine actually work after you're already sick? I don't think so...). But that was the gist of it. I think I was 7 or 8 or so.

I remember thinking something along the lines of: Well, if your ideas work, then it doesn't matter if people don't believe you, it just shows they are ignorant jerks. When I later connected the dots with the name Pasteur and pasteurized milk, I thought, Wow, he gets a whole process named after him! It somehow made the kids' book story more real, i.e. connected to my actual experiences of the real world.

- One of the biggest and most important epiphanies I had about science was the idea of enzymes. I was about 12 or maybe 13. I had kept seeing this word 'enzyme' here and there. I already had some basic interest in science, so the things I read were more likely to use words like 'enzyme' than the stuff other kids read. However, for the life of me, I couldn't just figure out from the context what an 'enzyme' was. The word had no obvious Greek or Latin root, which was how I usually was able to figure out big/sciency words from context. What the hell is an enzyme?! I kept wondering. Even the dictionary wasn't much help.

So, one day I was in the public library, and I was bored, and I thought, What the hell, I'm bored, I'm going to look up 'enzyme' in the encyclopedia. (In *my* day, we didn't have no fancy 'inter-net' to look stuff up with. We had dusty old libraries with dusty old books you had to find on dusty old shelves. And we liked it!) So there I was, standing in the aisle, reading the entry for 'enzyme' in an old, heavy book. As I recall, I was most interested in 'pepsin', which is a particular enzyme in your stomach.

So the book starts telling me that enzymes are proteins (I barely understood what those were either, but at least it was a more familiar word), and they are catalysts (another unfamiliar word, but fairly easy to understand from a dictionary definition: it helps chemical reactions to go faster). I was trying to imagine how a protein (which I imagined as a spongy material, like muscles, which are mostly protein) could also be a catalyst in the stomach.

Furthermore, I learned that pepsin is an enzyme (a protein, remember) which catalyzes the breakdown of *other proteins*. Weird. How is that possible? Wouldn't it break itself down? How could all this have come about? A non-muscular protein, dissolved in stomach acid, but still somehow able to break apart proteins, but not itself, even though it is also a protein. Very puzzling stuff.

And *then* I read about how enzymes/proteins are made. Suddenly, things started to click, and this one little puzzling 'fact' of biology started to turn into this immense *reality* that unfolded in my imagination.

You see, enzymes/proteins are made by a chemical process where *other* enzymes read off the DNA strand a sequence of codes, which translate the letters of DNA (via RNA) into sequences of amino acids. The amino acids join together, and that is what a protein is, a string of amino acids.

But the properties of the enzyme depend on the shape the protein folds into, and different amino acids fold in different ways (like different shaped Legos or Erector Set pieces), and so the *sequence* of the DNA *directly* determines the shape, and therefore properties, of the enzyme it encodes. And since enzymes are catalysts, that means that different sequences of DNA produce different kinds of catalysts, some better and some worse.

Suddenly I could see how a mere sequence of letters in DNA could have direct consequences on the real world. When I eat a piece of chicken, a certain sequence of letters of DNA is directly responsible for me being able to digest that chicken protein with pepsin.

Evolution was no longer an abstract concept to me after this. There was a direct connection from DNA to my physical abilities. It was not just a meaningless series of letters anymore. It produced a protein, and the protein could catalyze some chemistry, and that chemistry could do real things in the real world. Enzymes are a key to the whole process of life itself. All life, everywhere.

There were two concrete effects that this realization had on me:

1) After understanding 'enzymes', biology became *easy*. In highschool, I aced it. While other kids were worried about memorizing the structures of the cell, I understood how they worked, and what role they played in the process of DNA-to-protein synthesis. I did not just memorize names: Mitochondria, ribosome, nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, vacuole. No. Mitochondria were power stations, where metabolic enzymes did lots of catalyzing to generate energy for the cell. Ribosomes where the little factory workers which took instructions (RNA copied from the master DNA) and generated new protein/enzyme machines. The nucleus was the library where all the DNA books were stored. The endoplasmic reticulum was the factory floor, where the workers (ribosomes) worked, and where the machines (proteins/enzymes) were packaged up for transport around the cell and outside it. The vacuoles were storage bins for raw materials, or for packaged up finished goods. Etc. etc. When you understand how it all works, the names become simply labels that you attach to the parts as an afterthought. You can throw rote memorization out the window. 'Mitochondria' isn't the crucially important word to memorize in order to answer question #17 on the exam, it's just the name we attach to 'the thing that produces all the energy in the cell'. Understand the concepts, and the names just fall into place.

That one little bit of understanding was like rocket-fuel for my ability to make sense out of biology, and therefore get high marks with little effort.

2) I really began to see the world differently, and more profoundly. Science became not just a collection of facts, but a way of thinking. My interest in science began to grow bigger and bigger after this. I no longer did my learning mostly in boring school classes. I was compelled to learn more and more on my own. Reading science magazines, science books, etc. When things suddenly all start to make sense, it changes you. You begin to see connections everywhere. Things that, separately, were a big mystery, now become perfectly fitting pieces of a grand puzzle: A puzzle that makes sense; a puzzle that has solutions and answers to go along with its questions. Science no longer is a dry, boring subject that sucks the life out of you. It is, instead, the understanding of how the world *really* works, and therefore understanding reality itself, in all its wonder.

That was the beginning of my scientifically-based worldview. Too many people think science is cold, boring, and empty, devoid of a sense of wonder. Science, properly understood, doesn't kill wonder, it expands it. It is, in fact, the greatest source of wonder we have. That, I think, is the most important reason to promote an understanding of science.

All that from one simple concept, the 'enzyme', and a nagging question: What the hell is it?!

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