"[To understand science] We must develop a connecting link—which is more than observation but less than theory."
If a scientific theory is to be more than empty dogma, we must learn it inductively. This means that we must start from observations and somehow arrive at the theory. But no giant leap is possible here. We must develop a connecting link—which is more than observation but less than theory.
A long series of unrelated observations cannot be retained and is therefore useless. We need a pre-theoretical framework that integrates the observations into an intelligible whole; such a framework enables us to remember and to think about them. It is a crucial stepping-stone to discovering a causal theory that explains the observations.
For example, consider observational astronomy. On countless occasions, everyone has seen the Sun, the Moon, the five visible planets, and the brightest stars. But such fleeting experiences have no lasting value unless we grasp the regular cycles of the movements and relate them to each other. In the Falling Apple astronomy course, we present the observations in an integrated framework by means of the unique devices we developed, such as the Sun Puppet and the Horizon Globe. As a result, the students can retain and understand the observations—and then, at a later stage, they can fully appreciate the explanatory power of the heliocentric theory.
When a student is assaulted with a long list of separate facts, his eyes glaze over and his mind goes blank. In a misguided attempt to avoid this disaster, educators make a premature leap to theory. Our approach provides the missing link: a pre-theoretical framework that integrates the facts. Observations are then memorable and thought-provoking, and theory is the solution to fascinating mysteries.