04 June, 2008

Put a Little Science in Your Life!

Also found via Pharyngula, an op-ed in the New York Times by Brian Greene (U.S. Physicist) on the role science can play in giving meaning to life. It's a fantastic essay and conveys wonderfully the very real need that exists to improve science education in our schools and the overall place that science has in the daily lives of ordinary people:
The reason science really matters runs deeper still. Science is a way of life. Science is a perspective. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predictive and reliable — a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional. To be able to think through and grasp explanations — for everything from why the sky is blue to how life formed on earth — not because they are declared dogma but rather because they reveal patterns confirmed by experiment and observation, is one of the most precious of human experiences.
This goes directly to the heart of the matter. We stand today as inheritors and beneficiaries of the Enlightenment but an increasing tide of irrationality threatens not only to slow our forward progress, but to actually move us backwards, both morally and practically. Faith-based wooly-headedness seeks to limit or quash the rights of women and minorities and distort or hinder the teaching of science in schools. Fanatics possessed by religious delusions seek to destroy the freedoms and lives of those with whom they disagree. Political partisanship and ideological motivations lead to the obfuscation, twisting, or blatant disregard of rational argument and science itself. Even many people who reject dogmatism often turn to superstition and wishful thinking like "pop" spirituality and so-called "psychics". We are swimming in a sea of nonsense and it seems like we're having more and more difficulty keeping our heads above water.

And this is exactly why science is so important. Science can illuminate a road out of this mess: Reason. The scientific method is our only reliable source of knowledge of the external world and as Greene notes, it can help us give context and meaning to our lives. Where dogma and superstition fail, science triumphs.

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