Posted by: Deb | August 1, 2009

But isn’t science evil? I mean, it got us into this mess.

C’mon, you’re at a site called Science@home, do you really expect me to say yes?

But this is the feeling a lot of people seem to have these days, and it’s not because they’re stupid. I prefer to think it’s a misunderstanding of what science is about, so I hope I can help straighten it out a bit.

First off, there are bad scientists out there. I mean this in two ways – there are evil/selfish people who don’t care whether they hurt others, and there are people who are incompetent. There are also bad teachers, bad lawyers, bad police, bad midwives, and bad parents. You get the picture – any occupation can have people doing it who are good, bad, lazy, hardworking, brilliant, average, friendly, morose, or any other set of opposites. By the same token, there are some darn good teachers, lawyers, police, midwives and parents. Oh, and scientists.

And the world just isn’t black and white. Things need to be evaluated not only in terms of their risks, but their benefits too. So monoculture farming is bad for the environment, but it allows us to feed an awful lot of people. Is it the only way to feed them all? Probably not (I don’t know that much about farming), but do you know how we’re going to find another way? Science.

Science is going to be the key. Because as I’ve said in an earlier post, science is a method of investigation. So there are scientists out there who are studying crop yields and how to improve them, nutrition, ecology, non-chemical methods of pest control, you name it. It was scientists who discovered global warming, convinced various governments and are now working on solutions. If you don’t like petrol, do you know the chemistry to produce an alternative fuel? If you don’t like nuclear power, do you know how to design and build a microgenerator? If you are interested in making rational parenting decisions, do you know how to evaluate your choices?  Our children are going to inherit a complicated world. In order to understand it, they need to be comfortable with scientific ways of thinking and evaluating so they can come up with their own answers.  Science is what’s going to get us out of this mess.

What are some of the things you find of most concern, for your future and your children?  How do you think they can be solved?  Do you think science could play a part?  Comment and let everyone else know!

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