What’s the Hardest Problem in Science? #change11

Surely it’s getting more students to major in science?

Okay, that’s another topic.

According to David Barash in the Chronicle of Higher Education, it’s the mind-body problem.

That is, what is the relationship between the experience of subjective consciousness and the physical brain? To put it in terms more friendly to current scientific consensus, “How does the brain create our experience of consciousness.” (Most scientists agree that “mind” is an emergent property of the brain, not a substance that descended from elsewhere or can exist on its own after biological death.)

Well, I’ll let you think about that problem for a while. I know the answer; I’m just not telling.

In any event, this problem may not be your cup of tea, but if you want to solve the first problem (How do we get more students to major in science?) then these kinds of problems are actually the answer.

Difficult (and important) problems inspire curiosity, innovation, and motivation. And yes, also learning.

More class sessions, courses, majors, departments, and colleges should be structured on difficult problems.

In a sense, education is about learning the problem, and learning how to provide the best non-answers.

Questions are more important than answers.

Answers are important, too.

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1 Comment

  1. Nice post. I agree that helping learners to understand the unanswered questions in a discipline can inspire them to explore that discipline. Though answers are important, most of the things we “know” still warrant further study, which can be a well-kept secret in classrooms.


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