Why do people feel that Physics and Math are hard to understand? Could the answer be simple? What if people are not blank slates and come equipped with all sorts of naive intuitions about the world, many of which are untrue and hard to change. If that’s true, it means understanding these disciplines are not simply a matter of learning new ideas. Rather, it also requires unlearning instincts and shedding false beliefs. Evolution seems sadly ironic: While the Universe evolves our views about our own development don’t seem to change much.
What about formal education, how does it impact this process? Step back and examine why anyone really goes to school to get an education. First it may be the belief in a good story, which is, if you work hard and do well you will come away with a college degree and end up with a job. The second may just be cultural, to develop a sense of cultural identity to pass on. In effect the understanding of Physics and Math would be highly depended on the approach of the education system in question.
Does anyone realize that the current system of education was designed, conceived, and structured during the Enlightenment for the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution. You would think education has evolved since then, in a way you would be right. Education today is a perfect reflection of our modern lives. It’s predicated on convenience and optimized for entertainment, but remains immersed in the Enlightenment view of intelligence.
This intelligence we’ve come to think of as and associate with academic ability. It’s easy to see that this is spliced into the gene pool of formal education. As a result, there are really two types of people, academic and non academic; smart people and non smart people.
Real intelligence, on the other hand, consists of a capacity for a certain type of deductive reasoning. The consequence of that is that most people think they are not bright or smart enough to understand the concepts of Physics and Math, because they’ve been judged against this particular view of the mind.
I can illustrate this using a few current scientific laws that have universal acceptance, and applicability, they are the laws of thermodynamics whose development dates back to the 19th century.
The laws in simple terms state the following:
“You Can’t Win”
“You Can’t Break Even”
“You Can’t Get Out of the Game”
Are these concepts hard to understand? Not really, but how many people believes these statements or accept them psychologically? So, if Physics and Math concepts are as simple as the above ideas and don’t require “supper intelligence”, what then is require for their understanding? Maybe just the development of a new ability, the capacity to unlearn.