Skype, contraceptives and theory of relativity. What do these three things have in common? They have all been invented or discovered. They are all the result of a scientist’s ideas. They were all possible through long research and substantial investments. They are all part of our daily life in some way.
Science was not born as a set of specialised disciplines. It was the result of human curiosity. Early humans were amazed and scared of nature. They started wondering about the meaning of natural phenomena and then attempted to describe them. Thus, science was born. Aristotle, one of the most important philosophers and scientists humanity has ever known, used to describe philosophy as the first form of critical reasoning, the first form of science. Philosophy is the result of human curiosity and so is science. Everyone who wonders is a philosopher and is thus a scientist in some way. It is little surprise that the word “wonder” means “speculate” and “marvel” at the same time.
Nevertheless, people do not have a good understanding of scientists and scientific research. Science is a part of our history as humans and has been since the first hominids started making tools out of stones. With time, people started realising that applying scientific principles to everyday life could help them live better. So agriculture, architecture, medicine, engineering etc were born. Science is part of our daily life. It saves lives, connects us and drives us to work.
If there is indeed contempt for science, where does it come from? On one hand, there is a lack of public engagement visible among scientists and academia, not involving enough the public in their own world. And even when some scientists try to communicate more with the non-scientific public, they still don’t get enough support by academia as institution. On the other hand, there are visible signs of laziness in people, who do not want to understand how important science is in everyday life, and what the real meaning of science is for humanity.
The educational system is mainly responsible for this lack of integration. Schools should provide students with knowledge in both science and humanities until the end of their A-levels and maybe even beyond at university. An integrated educational system is essential to build an integrated society. People who do not study science tend to underestimate its power in society and its meaning for human beings. On the other hand, scientists who do not study humanities, sometimes lack ethical judgement, which is what lead them to decisions taken for the mere sake of science, which may have negative effects on humanity or the world in general. Certainly the atomic bomb was not the result of ethical judgement in the application of a scientific theory. Thus, a good balance is necessary. Education is the answer to my question. If people were educated in science, they would then appreciate its meaning and value. And if scientists were given the instruments for ethical judgement, they would understand better people’s feelings.
I am going to investigate these issues in several articles, dedicated to various scientific disciplines or topics. I will try to understand what the role of University of Liverpool is in the battle against scientific misinformation and immoral science, and conclude the series with some personal considerations and opinions.