FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Part 3: Big Questions


1. Questions

Can We Trust Scientific Journals?

This topic’s goal is to continue the exploration of questions on the trustworthiness of science with an in-depth discussion.

Before class, you might review the discussion guide.

Consider starting class with the desks arranged in a circle.

With a brief review, remind students of your expectations for the discussion. It can be helpful to mention the kinds of virtuous interactions you would like to see and emphasize that you will be looking specifically for virtue.

Following is a series of questions you might introduce one by one. Allow time for the class to discuss each question and to bring in evidence from their reading of the article, “Why we can’t trust academic journals to tell the scientific truth”, introduced in the previous lesson. As the discussion of each question unfolds, you can intervene to encourage students to clarify a point or consider further evidence from the article:

  • What exactly is the author worried about?
  • What is the author’s evidence for this worry?
  • Does the evidence seem sufficient for us to take the concern seriously?
  • What kinds of sources were cited, and what did you learn from them?
  • What does the author think are the key causes of the problem?
  • How does the author think the situation could be improved?
  • What evidence is there in the article and its sources that scientific journal articles often are trustworthy? (e.g., If it is true that 50 percent of life science research cannot be replicated, what does that suggest about the other 50 percent?)
  • In summary, does the article suggest a problem with the trustworthiness of science as a whole?
  • How might the wider public discussion of the status of science be helped if that discussion focused on such specific issues, rather than on whether we can generally trust what scientists say?

To debrief the dialogue, allow at least ten minutes at the end of the class. You might use some of this time to discuss content—erroneous thinking versus good logical deductions—and some to discuss virtues displayed during the dialogue—or the lack of virtues displayed.

Consider concluding with the following questions:

  • Does this discussion have any bearing on discussions of faith and science?
  • How might someone wanting to defend the importance of faith be tempted to misuse this article?
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