There are many things in the world around us that we don't understand or would like to predict. Scientists face uncertainty everyday and they design experiments to test their theories. As they progress with their research, they aim to decrease the uncertainty and increase their confidence in the results.

Points for discussion:

Which of the following factors might influence your opinion?

  • The appearance of the person eg smart or scruffy
  • The age and/or gender of the person/author
  • The source of the information in the report.

Many people use the internet to find out information about science. How can we find out where the information has come from, who has written the information and what are their motivations for writing the article?

An extension exercise: look at a number of websites and try to find out who has written the information and what their motivations are for writing it.

Curriculum links

Science
Practical and enquiry skills 2d. evaluate methods of collection of data and consider their validity and reliability as evidence.
Communication skills 3a. recall, analyse, interpret, apply and question scientific information or ideas
Applications and implications of science 4c. how uncertainties in scientific knowledge and scientific ideas change over time and about the role of the scientific community in validating these changes.

Psychology

Evaluative and interpretative skills: recalling, analysing, interpreting, applying and questioning information or ideas
Applications and implications of psychology relationship of psychological study to other areas of scientific enquiry and to society as a whole.

 

Scottish Curriculum for Excellence

Science general - experiences and outcomes

express opinions and make decisions on social, moral, ethical, economic and environmental issues based upon sound understanding
develop as a scientifically-literate citizen with a lifelong interest in the sciences
SCN 4-20b. Topical Science: Having selected scientific themes of topical interest, I can critically analyse the issues, and use relevant information to develop an informed argument


Predictions and trust

What kinds of evidence are the following predictions likely to be based on and how much would you trust them?

  1. doctor_300A person wearing a placard in the street saying "The world will end on Saturday".
  2. A doctor telling you that based on your test results you probably have between 3 months and 3 years to live.
  3. A report claiming that human activity has no impact on climate change.

Would any of these make you change the way you behaved?

What other information would you want to know?

Which would you trust the most?

What might the expertise and motivations be for the following people when passing on scientific information about climate change? Rank them in the order that you would trust what they say:

  • A journalist for a newspaper
  • A scientist working at a university
  • A scientist working for a pharmaceutical company
  • One of your friends
  • A newsreader on the BBC
  • A family member
  • A religious leader
  • A school teacher