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Shining a Light on Science Misconceptions

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The Scientific American Journal News this month talks about seven misused science words that include Hypothesis, Theory, Model, Skeptic, Nature vs. Nurture, Significant, and Natural.
Words like these are frequently misunderstood by students in middle school and high school who are learning them incorrectly. Knowing these words is the difference between knowing what is an absolute truth and what is a lie. According to science, words are an evolutionary continuum and scientists are continually building their understanding with each new invention or experiment.

According to Kat Friedrich of Boston, “Correcting science misconceptions requires a sophisticated understanding of both communication and science. Investing more resources in science education can help improve public science literacy. But scientists may also need to consider using alternate words for concepts that most people misunderstand.”


Scientific American
CITRL Network

Kat Friedrich

When scientists describe how non-specialists misunderstand their language, there’s often a note of sadness in the discussion. If only the United States public was more enlightened than it is today, some bloggers say, then people would understand the language of science. 

A recent Scientific American blog post described how non-scientists in the United States misunderstand the scientific meanings of words like “theory,” “significant,” “hypothesis” and “natural.” A post on the Science 2.0 website provides a longer list of words that are often misunderstood.

What’s wrong with hoping the public will understand scientific language someday? Nothing. But we live in a society where scientists are a specialized group, often socially distant from many of the people who misunderstand them. If scientists want to eradicate misunderstandings and strengthen public awareness of the value of science, better communication and more social interaction is the best solution.

There are tips available online for…

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