Stereotypes and science

  • What do we know about each other?


         How many times have we talked about what  the Germans are like or  if French people are as romantic as they seem? We all think to know the others quite well. So, let's ask! And here they are the conclussions
         Between the 16th and 17th centuries sciences achieved a great development. Whereas during the Middle Ages authority and tradition had been the main sources for investigation, an important change took place during this period. Scientific investigation starts to become independent from faith using a new methodology based on mathematics and experimentation. That’s the case of Harvey, an English doctor who discovered the pulmonary circulation by vivisections, namely, opening alive animals to see what happened inside.
         But it isn’t only science that uses the senses in order to get information, we do it every day: to know how to get to school, what the weather is like and, of course, to get to know each other. We all have ideas about  what the others are like.  They are written on the whiteboard. Now  let's think about it!
         Empirical sciences refer to the world, they are based on the observation and the experience to demonstrate the statement. This method is called induction. From a certain number of cases we are able to generalize a conclusion. For instance if we observe that 200 dogs have 4 legs, we would probably say that dogs have four legs. However, that’s not so easy. Firstly, because we are not able to check all the cases and secondly because we can only check the present and it could happen that the future were different. That’s why a generalization is never totally proved as Karl Popper said. Nevertheless,  even to be probable a generalization should be based on a representative sample. A sample must be big enough to represent the whole group we are studying.
    So, Let´s return to the picture:
         How many gypsies do you know? How many Germans? 10, maybe 30? How many of them are perfectionist? All? Even though, if we consider that the German population is around 80 million, can we generalize by only proving 30 cases?
        And now we can read again the sentences we have written on the whiteboard to see how many of them resist a scientific analysis