By Eric Jacobson

1) SCALE–an important part of every science unit. We use simulations, models, metaphors to illustrate both cosmic scale and micro-scale. Scale is about trying to understand size, time, distance, and numbers related to the topic that is being studied. For example, while studying the Solar System, children can be shown this fact: if the earth were the size of a small marble, the solar system would be 7 miles across https://www.theverge.com/2015/9/19/9357293/scale-model-of-the-solar-system. Here’s another example, in studying the rock cycle we need to grasp the speed of geologic time as it relates to the human sense of time passage. Imagine you are a Mayfly with a 24-hour lifespan. You land on a sleeping person, a third of your life passes and the person hasn’t moved! You probably think people never change, and only move once in a while in very slow motion. It’s even more exaggerated for the Earth who sees us as just a blip in time.

2) SYSTEMIC NATURE–Instead of just learning isolated facts about a particular topic, we should come to understand that there is a system for everything in the universe. While studying any part or aspect of the universe in science, we should understand that the topic being studied is a part of a larger system, and that that system is in turn connected to other systems. The topic also has micro-systems operating within it! Ultimately, we can learn to understand where and how all these systems fit together within the cosmological system. For example, a shark lives in the ocean and is part of a larger ecosystem. That ecosystem is part of a larger system that includes ocean currents which are in turn a part of the larger systems of water density, weather, and gravity. These in turn are connected to the very rotation of the earth and the movement of its magnetic core, and so on.

3) PERSPECTIVE–cultivate the habit of looking at a topic from the perspective of the topic being studied, not always just from our human perspective. Any study of the Earth, for example, requires us to look at the world from the perspective of Geologic time – everything is constantly changing on earth, mountains go under water, continents move, but at a pace we deem slow due to the length of one human lifespan and the perspective on time it imparts; in geologic time the earth is warming at a breakneck pace, like a car going 500 miles per hour. To the earth India just crashed into Asia and hasn’t stopped moving yet.

A study of any animal means to look at the facts from the animal’s point of view. This embeds into PERSPECTIVE, and into all science instruction, a subtle Neohumanist ideal–the right to live. Beings have existential value to themselves and others. Studying from only a human perspective, we tend to judge everything ONLY according to its utilitarian value. Not only is this unfair, it is arrogant, as our minds and knowledge are not broad enough to judge the value, the extent of wholistic interactions, or the necessity of other beings. One of the best ways to introduce PERSPECTIVE is to engage the students in service revolving around the topic being studied. Service to the bat population, for example, immediately puts the student’s mind into the perspective of seeing the world from a bat’s point of view.

4) CONNECTION–everything is connected, we are literally made of stardust, no one thing stands above or outside the whole. Case in point: the evolution of hawks and rabbits are connected and codependent in absolute balance. Look for connections in a topic of study–going beyond the human connection to the topic. Examples: Marine Mammals–how are they connected to pigs, cows, hippos? Trees–how are they connected to each other and related through fungus to the Wood Wide Web. Genetics–how does embryo development show common descent of all living things, with modification.

5) EXPLORING PERFECTION – the problem of perfection is everywhere in science, things must be exactly right for life and systems to function, it can’t be random or accidental; case in point: the Big Bang had exactly enough energy to allow the universe to coalesce – without it collapsing or expanding into nothingness. That balance between the force of expansion in the Universe, and the total mass of all things is mathematically perfect and impossibly unlikely. It would be like you guessing a 7-digit number in my head three times in a row exactly right, and then flipping a coin 16 times and calling it correctly each time. It just isn’t possible and implies there’s a good reason why perfection exists in the universe right from the start.

6) DOGMA WATCH – there is a religious belief that permeates most science material–it comes in the guise of scientific thinking, but it isn’t scientific because it embraces a world view, WITHOUT PROOF, that everything is random, accidental, mechanical, or only true if it can be physically proven. It accepts theories consistent with this view and rejects outright those not consistent with this view even if proven though rigorous existing standards of scientific method. Case in point from a science textbook: “It is a wonderful accident that we had just the right minerals for plants to produce photosynthesis. Unknowingly, fungi prepared the path for life on earth by breaking down the needed minerals from rocks.” Is that really the most feasible explanation? Or does it just fit into a hidden religious perspective masquerading as science? A part of the Dogma Watch is to examine and validate other forms of knowing that are not based solely on the very limited knowledge that comes from sensory observation of the material world. These include, experiential, indigenous, ancestral, spiritual, and natural knowledge.

7) ETHICS – A close examination of ethics and moral implications needs to be incorporated into all science units. The ethics of scientific exploration and uses of scientific discoveries require discussion. How our actions are impacting all living and non-livings beings should be evaluated routinely. How our knowledge is applied for the Good of All should be a primary concern, not a secondary one. The lack of morality has caused excessive misapplication of science, arguably enough to end the Cenozoic Era and bring the natural world to the point of destruction.

Here are some examples of the dangers of unethical science. There is currently an explosion of availability of AI applications before we have even considered the ethical implications. This results in unrestrained use of a new superpower for good or evil or just out of ignorance. The same has already happened with digital recordings—as a result we can no longer tell whether any video we see is a true representation of an event. Have you seen Deepfake of Zelenskyy Tells Ukrainian Troops to ‘Surrender? We must, as a prerequisite for action, consider the ramifications of all our actions, be it burning fossil fuels, manufacturing cell phones, or manipulating genetics. Another example is that we know that carpets contain many carcinogens. Yet, we know how to make carpets without them! Why can’t we simply identify and ban all carcinogenic chemicals from manufacturing? Where is our collective will to take these actions? Just because we have figured out how to do something or make something easily and quickly doesn’t mean we should. Knowing mathematical laws operating in the Universe doesn’t automatically mean that anyone with access to that knowledge should use it to “make things better.” Ethics and morality force us to ask, “Better for what and for whom?”