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What is so important about science?
Question Date: 2003-12-06
Answer 1:

Good question. Science is very important in many ways. Here are a few of the ways:

1)On a basic level, science can tell us what is true. People used to think that the world was flat. Science taught us that the world is round and there are other continents and people on the other side of it.

2)Science helps keep people happy and healthy. 100 years ago, most people died at an age of 30. The reason that most people live to 70 years old today is because of scientific knowledge.

3)Science helps us decide the best way to do things. Because of scientific knowledge, we can make buildings that don't collapse on the people inside them, which is good.

4)Science makes things very easy for us. Because of science, we can drive around in cars and talk to people far away using phones.

It is important that you learn about science so that you understand why things happen and can make good decisions using scientific knowledge. For example, people get sea sick or car sick if they feel the movements that the car or boat is making, but the people don't see the movements. So, if you get sea or car sick, you should not close your eyes. You should look outside the car or outside the boat. That is some scientific knowledge that can keep you from getting sick.

Answer 2:

Science is a study in which theories are validated against practical experiment. It is thus capable of making models which let scientists and engineers build new things and sometimes predict effects of events which affect mankind. To make this specific, it was once thought that 'vapors' and 'evil humors' caused diseases. It was not until Louis Pasteur and his colleagues made repeatable tests that microbes were identified with disease. The result of these tests was that surgeons started cleaning their tools before operations -- to remove the microbes. This saved thousands of lives in the years since. Often the theories and knowledge seem to have no bearing on humanity -- but it can be very hard to predict the utility of knowledge. Physicists at the turn of the century who were working on models for atoms would not have predicted the development of atomic energy 30 year later.

Answer 3:

The core of the answer to this rests in what science "is". It is a way of knowing, a way of developing knowledge - a mechanism to establish what you accept as sufficiently "real" to allow you to take action upon and thereby live your life.

Scientific knowledge is distinguished from knowledge based upon belief in that science is always done by a group - the knowledge is not individual, but universal. Because science is observed, collected and synthesized by different human beings, it must embody a protocol to allow one to select between alternative observations or hypotheses. To this end, science requires that all observations be repeatable by more than one observer. It further requires that all hypotheses be falsifiable. That is, that they be open to test and that it is possible to demonstrate that the observation/hypothesis is unlikely or "wrong". In this process you never "prove" anything, you only "fail to disprove". Science tries to establish a hierarchy of probability that a certain interpretation is indeed most similar to what happens in the real world - but only God can know if the answer is correct; the rest of us deal with "it is highly probable". As a result of these requirements, science can only address "natural" phenomena; those that are observable and measurable by humans.

Because of the necessity to constantly test and re-test, to be suspicious and questioning, another hallmark of science is its ever changing nature - at its core, science is about accepting uncertainty. We never know if a supposition or observation is "right", we just keep poking, prodding, testing, and trying to disprove it. However, the longer a supposition or observation withstands attempts to falsify it, the more likely it is to be the "correct" answer.

So, why is it important? Because it takes us beyond individual opinion and belief and codifies a way of testing our observations and our assumptions. Further, it allows us to do so between humans of different languages, races and religions - and even over generations, as the science of today builds upon that done by humans long dead. Its power is reveled in the products of science, from material goods of our culture through the humanitarian goods of medicines and improved crops. And in our far more complex understanding of our planet, solar system and universe. Science is, in a real sense, an extension of our individual intellectual abilities into a multi-brained, multigenerational "super organism" that capitalizes on our ability to use our mind.... collectively.

Answer 4:

You've asked a pretty big question, and since you're asking a bunch of scientists, you're going to be getting some pretty opinionated answers, but here goes:

Tens of thousands of years ago, our ancestors managed to live, eat, sleep, and reproduce without understanding anything about the world around them, otherwise we wouldn't be here today. So, in some respects, you could say that Science isn't really important to the basic necessities of life at all.

However, I can't imagine that it was an easy life. The elements must have been cold without any clothing to wear. Food must have been hard to find, and even less fun to eat without any tools for hunting or farming or fires to cook with. Disease and early death must have been the order of the day.

I'm sure you get the idea. My point is that everything, and I mean everything, that you take for granted in the world around you today, from the shoes on your feet to the meal on your plate is the result of Science. Now this might not seem like the case, because I'm sure you don't learn about how to weave cotton into clothing in you science class, but once upon a time, it was the science of the day. And I'm sure that you do learn about modern medicine, and things like aspirin and penicillin, that were unknown not too long ago. To be honest, I didn't like biology class much as a student. Too many animal and plant names to learn, too many bones in the body to bother learning them all. Now, I wish that I had paid more attention, because the advances that are being made in medicine are simply amazing. Small pox, polio, infant mortality and death from childbirth, these were all things that were common to our grandparents or great-grandparents. We never even have to think about them. Science found the answers because people found science important.

What will life be like in the future? What new discoveries will change the way we live? Imagine the possibilities. None of it will be possible without Science.

Answer 5:

Science is really important as an incredibly valuable way of learning about ourselves and everything around us. In Science, we try to find the answers to questions about how things work by doing experiments or by making theories about how something might work and then testing them. One great thing about Science and the scientific method is that it's pretty clear how the scientist got the answer, and others can repeat the experiment, or check the theory, to see if they get the same answer, or the same experimental results. In this way, we have a really good community of people working alone and together to learn many things about ourselves and the world and to discover and invent things that improve the lives of all of us.

In science, we use both reason and intuition, and we test the ideas that come to us through our reason and intuition. Ideally, we are hoping to make exciting new discoveries that will bring valuable new knowledge, with a clear benefit to people after the new knowledge has been applied to some area of our lives.

I used to teach 2nd graders that they did a scientific experiment whenever they wanted to know if they needed to wear a jacket (question), so they went outside to feel how cold the air was (experiment and data) and then they decided whether or not it was cold enough to need a jacket (conclusion). In my scientific research, I use a new type of microscope - an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) - to look at DNA molecules and other biological molecules, to see how they interact with each other. I hope this research will bring medical benefits to people in some way. I know that my work has helped a lot of other scientists to do exciting biological research with the AFM because I was lucky to be one of the first people working in this research area. I also know that my work helped in the design of better AFMs, which are now sold at 2 companies in Santa Barbara, as well as many other companies; so my research has helped provide jobs for the people who work at these companies.

In science, we trust the teachings of others only as long as they still agree with the results we are getting from our current experiments. To give a very, very old example, this means that scientists stopped believing the sun moved around the earth after they started discovering that the earth seemed to move around the sun. So we are constantly changing some of our beliefs, as we get new data that disagree with these beliefs. This can be a problem, especially in areas such as human medicine and nutrition, because these are both very difficult research areas; but they are research areas that we are all very interested in, so we tend to follow the teachings of the newest science, even if it is not well proven. For example, the research behind the Food Pyramid suggests that we should eat mostly grains and very little fat; but other research indicates that fat is actually a really good energy source, and fat helps us feel 'full' and stop eating.

Unfortunately we need to decide what to eat every day, so we need to try hard to be aware of how different foods make us feel when we eat them (this means lots of difficult experiments, with poor controls!).

I'm glad to be a part of the scientific community, and I really appreciate the way that science has changed my life, such as better medical procedures and all the fun technology that is part of my life, such as my computer and TV. I also like being part of other communities, such as my church, because there are many things that enrich my life besides doing science.

Thank you for your question.

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