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kgould's picture

 I've seen the linear vs.

 I've seen the linear vs. loopy science model over seven times now, in class and during summer research, and this is the first time that I've really thought about using them together rather than choosing between the two. I am a fan of loopy science. Not necessarily the model of loopy science, although that's pretty awesome too, but the ideas that go with it-- science is not the final word, it denies authority including its own, it is not really "objective," it is not a matter of "true or false" or "right or wrong," but getting things less wrong and always, always retesting hypotheses. 

But what if we were to use the linear science version together with the loopy science version? Is that even possible? Someone suggested it in our last class and I'm curious about what that might mean. Yes, the models are similar and they suggest similar processes, but it is the approach to each that is different. I don't think the attitudes of linear science could reconcile with loopy science's more open-ended approach to exploration and understanding. 

Linear science is about discovering "what is." Loopy science would argue, I think, that we can't ever be sure about what is. How can we know anything we discover is true? One instance of seeing the sun rise does not mean the sun will rise again. One instance of seeing a molecule behave a certain way doesn't mean that it will behave that way again. 

And I think education is divided along these lines as well. I know that I had a more linear approach to learning in high school; the teacher was the authority and you did not, unless the teacher was secretly "loopy," question them or their authority. You went through your observations, your exploration of a topic, you drew a conclusion and it was either the right one or a wrong one. There was always a "right" answer and, often, only one. If your English teacher didn't think that your paper agreed with what they said in class, you didn't do well. It was less about learning for yourself than playing into what you knew the teacher wanted. And that's not really learning.


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