What is Science Anyway?

I’d like to begin by telling you what it isn’t. There are a number of misconceptions I have seen in the media as well as in TV and film (not surprising coming from Hollywood).

Science is not something that brings you gadgets and faster / better fighter planes. That is engineering. The two are related, yet not the same. I have actually heard people lament that all science does for us in the modern world is bring them more gadgets. Again, this is a basic confusion of the term that I see repeated in podcasts, print media, etc. Please do not confuse science with engineering, or capitalism / materialism—the never-ending quest for higher profit. Capitalism and materialism uses engineering to get profit. Engineering uses science to design and construct more efficient objects or tools. Engineers must know at least the basic science in the field they operate in (e.g., an electrical engineer must learn the physics of electromagnetism).

Science is concerned with generating knowledge… and not some highly marketable product. The two are often confused in America society. It is true that science is useful as the basis, the foundation for engineering. Yet science does not have the stated purpose of making it easier to post on Facebook or driving your car at speeds in excess of 200 mph (322 kmph for my friends outside of USA) or (for the US military industrial complex) killing the maximum number of people in the shortest amount of time. Science is concerned with exploring the natural world, finding answers to interesting questions, and seeking explanations for mysterious or puzzling natural phenomena.

Science is not just a book of facts, as it is often presented in the American education system. Science is more like a way of life… a way of investigating the natural world, hoping to satiate our natural curiosity (the kind of curiosity hammered out of us by society). The mechanisms it uses, including the scientific method, are tried-and-true ways to solve mysteries, to discover what solutions lie behind those stubbornly persistent questions we human mortals tend to pose.

What causes disease?

Why do people die of old age or cancer? (And why memory loss?)

What is it like on the Moon?

Why is the sky blue?

Science has answered all of these questions. Yet there are many more, still waiting to be answered. This is why I chose to be a scientist, since childhood, I have had an insatiable curiosity for the why.

The process of answering those questions, even though it may be tedious or time-consuming to do so, is science. And this is what gets lost in the discussion… science is a human effort! Throughout the history of humankind, there have been many, many scientists of all races and genders who have spent countless man/woman hours researching something they were passionate about. There are so many things in our society that try to dehumanize us. This is part of the reason why I (in recent years) have begun seeking out spirituality. I did not want to become an auton… a mechanized drone in society.

Science is a human pursuit… one of the most basic and rewarding human endeavors one can engage in.

American media and Hollywood do not portray it as such. They usually portray scientists as robotic, non-feeling drones devoid of passion, endlessly chipping away at some dull and boring equation (equations aren’t boring if you really get down to it, but this is again how Hollywood portrays things). This is sad. It is also hurtful to me as a scientist to be portrayed as such. I wish they would stop.

There have been so many scientists who, throughout the centuries, have spent their time laboring to understand a certain phenomena and improve all our lives. Scientists like Louis Pasteur, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, and J.J. Thomson. There were pioneers such as Vivien Thomas, Marie Curie, and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. I challenge you, after reading this, to GOOGLE at least one of those names (perhaps one you don’t recognize) and learn about them and their great accomplishments. They sacrificed a lot to insure we currently-living humans know at least a little bit more about the universe we live in.Please leave your comments if you agree / disagree with me! Peace and remember to never stop learning, it’s part of the journey.

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