Imagination can be a catalyst for creating theories for scientific testing. However, scientific objectivity requires the suspension of imagination and creativity. Knowing where one begins and the other ends is the challenge of the scientist.
History of science seeks to examine and understand science in social, cultural, and historical contexts. Developing theories, seeking evidence, and engaging in professional debate are part of the process of gradual acceptance of new ideas that shape our view of the world around us. An understanding that humanity’s view of reality and truth shifts over time, provides a powerful inducement to preserve evidence of the past and keep an open mind.
Stephen Jay Gould, among the best known and widely read scientists of the late 20th century, describes “a yearning to understand the timeless operation of the natural world by discovering the causes and principles of physical order; and our desire to document the specific and unpredictable pathways of life’s actual history.” Gould notes that “Mammoths have occupied public consciousness from the great Paleolithic cave painters of southern
Today, some of the languages that Lewis and Clark recorded no longer exist. Jefferson and his peers understood the importance of gathering scientific information to improve knowledge for all people. It is unfortunate that the technology of the day, including handwritten notes, slow communication, and transport by horse and boat, appear to have resulted in the loss of some of the fossils and potentially all of the vocabularies. Of the ethnographic objects collected by the expedition, only a few survived.
As you create your presentation, consider some of the following questions for further thought and reflection.
Further Thought and Reflection
How did the observations made by the Lewis and Clark expedition shape the views of European Americans of the time? What biases and prejudices did you encounter in your research?
How can research ensure objective methods? Is it possible to not see the world from the perspective of your culture and your time period?
How do the very choices of what to record bias the scientific process?