This is significant because (apparently) I love to give out bad grades.
Many of these students are not science majors, so I hope that by taking my class they learn enough about science to navigate the natural world around them. I want them to process information critically and to think before they form an opinion. They come to us with some strange beliefs anyway - "I didn't come from no damn monkey!" - and so I spend a lot of time encouraging discussion and clearing up confusion.
Major points of confusion:
- natural selection
- gene regulation
- global warming
I'd like to blame the humanities for devaluing the word hypothesis, but I don't think that's exactly fair. They could blame me for making up words and ignoring grammar. Indeed, I carelessly wield a vocabulary as dangerous as a butcher's meat cleaver. But in science, a hypothesis must be testable and falsifiable. A theory is a hypothesis for which there are several lines of hard evidence. Unfortunately, people throw around the words "hypothesis" and "theory" to describe guesses and tenuous connections. A man on a commercial flight to Australia once told me, "I don't believe in global warming. It's just a theory." I pointed out the window to the ocean below us, "Theoretical physics gave man the ability to fly. How's that working out for you?"
How do we reconcile these definitions?