After responding too hastily to Paul Davies' cosmological implication for design, I later read reactions from scientists and philosophers of science. I have not changed my mind that Davies' article was an attempt to twist science to deistic purposes, but I think that I am clearer about the nature of Davies' errors. I'll get back to that potentially lengthy topic later. In the meantime, I gave more thought to the important issues facing education in science and philosophy.
I am ever more convinced that all university degrees ought to include a core of critical thinking courses. In fact, my alma mater recently expanded all baccalaureates to 4-year programs and instituted compulsory, core courses on canons of critical thinking.
I think that this became necessary because high school standards had been steadily falling as the bar was lowered post-baby-boom. Matters became so dire, thanks to "whole language" primary teaching, that the universities brought in mandatory English testing for those who had not completed grade 13 English and had completed one year of university courses. Those who failed the compulsory test were required to take remedial English courses. (I considered this delay cruel – far better, I think, to ensure that students have adequate English skills before they lose money, and time, and confidence flunking their first year courses.) Eventually, the provincial government took action and instituted tougher, province-wide educational standards. Teachers complain that these demand more than the kids are ready for. I think that part of this problem stems from the fact that streaming of classrooms has not yet been reintroduced.
While I was completing my university education in science, philosophy of science was not a required subject for science students. Medical ethics and epidemiology were part of the medical curriculum, though many regarded them as a nuisance time-waster that distracted from the voluminous life-and-death material. Many of the humanities degrees did include a core requirement for a basic course in statistics, much to the dismay of students seeking to escape math and science.
Within the science faculties, the topic of philosophy of science was not even discussed amongst my friends and classmates. I suspect that those of us studying science subjects probably mostly dismissed PoS as superfluous. After all, we were already learning how to think along the lines of scientific methodology and interpretation of results. We did not need PoS to know what science did. Philosophy was regarded as that nebulous subject that obsessed itself with long-obsolete thinkers and self-obsessed, fanaticist fantasists who could not make up their minds.
Ironically, the creationist stupidity emanating from the US may be providing a much needed prompt to scientific and philosophical thinking. In the good old days – before YECers and IDiots set about giving the science-ignorant the impression that their religiously-motivated, uneducated opinions were just as valid as the hard-won knowledge of highly-educated experts – science and philosophy were rather rarefied, arcane, esoteric, and inaccessible mysteries about which most of us need not trouble our pretty little neurons.
Belatedly, and thanks to religiously-motivated pseudoscience and usurpation of science, scientists and philosophers have realized that the irritating gnat will not stop buzzing loudly around the ears of the uneducated. Finally, the public has become interested, and scientists and philosophers are beginning to team up to bring a semi-coordinated voice of reason and explication down to the level of those who did not chose to study science or philosophy at university.