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Ph.D Strangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Science

Science. What a beautiful word. It sounds complicated, it’s spelling took me a few years to master back when I was younger and it’s pretty much what I want to do with my life. Science is humanity’s best try at making sense of the world that surrounds it, and of manipulating that world. You use science everyday, whether it be it’s offshoot, or quite literally, your brain’s understanding of the concepts it describes. If you are able to walk without falling over, that is because your brain is calculating how to distribute weight as you raise one foot, is calculating how to be most efficient with the energy you possess (using gravity to help your foot land back on the ground for example). There is so much you do subconsciously that all relates back to science, for in the end, science is a way of thinking and of learning, and that’s all you do everyday (or should do, at least): learn from the past and better what you do.

Now, if you know who I am, you’ll know that I love science. To many of you, liking and researching the subject beyond classes in school may seem far-fetched, but I see it as so much more. It isn’t just a hobby, or a pastime, it’s not something I do when I’m bored, it’s something I’ll do whenever I can. Most kids come home from school and try to unwind; whether it be through sports, music or something creative like art. But I read about science, do maths; and do all these other things too. And I know just how hard it may seem to cram all of this into a daily schedule, when we are young, all our time is eaten up by school and homework, but the rewards from trying are monstrous. There is no better, more satisfying feeling than to see some complex term and think “I know what that is,” or be able to use them and actually understand what you’re talking about.

One could know everything there is to know but still not understand what science is. More than all the knowledge, equations and terms, science is a way of thinking. Science is taking a concept or idea, verifying it through experiment. It’s updating your beliefs when new, credible information outweighs your current beliefs. Science is the ability to predict the outcome of something with the largest degree of precision possible, if something cannot by predicted accurately, it is not science. Science is a term that has been slandered, vulgarized, misused and misunderstood. Something is not science merely because someone claims it is. From “detox” products to the belief that vaccines cause autism to meth-based candy that may be finding its way to your childrens’ mouth, pseudoscience and products with a sciencey sounding name slapped onto them are everywhere. The Internet, for all its greatness and everything it has brought to us, has given an international platform to anyone who wishes to claim anything, and so fake stories like this have circulated at an incredibly fast rate. A better understanding and skepticism is needed in the face of lies that hide behind a respected name.

Science also keeps me up at night. Often it is because endless questions about who we are and our Universe. In some cases, it is also incredibly frustrating, not because you don’t know the answer to something (that in itself is quite agitating) but because of its misuse. People appear on television everyday and proclaim some “scientific study” or a “scientific fact,” that are in fact wrong. No one ever steps in to tell them they are wrong because none of them understand the complex scientific or pseudo-scientific terms they use. No one dares contradict them as they will just pull out more pseudo-scientific jargon to try and prove their point. They can assign anything to those words, as most people do not know what they mean. This comes from scientific illiteracy. That is why politicians can proclaim falsehoods to a cheering crowd of 4000 people, none the wiser. This is why science is important, and why it is vital to understand it and question it.

Scientific illiteracy means people take ideas and concepts given to them without thinking twice or seeking to understand. After all, the point at which great civilizations end is when everything becomes about “bread and circuses,” an expression coined by a Roman poet describing the state of a failing Rome. Harry Truman believed that in order to make America strong, you had to make it smart. And the dumbing of the world will bring about its downfall.

Not only does science enlighten and explain, but it also carries along a thought process. It isn’t cynical, but it makes you question the validity of things that seem to have no basis. The widespread misunderstanding of science, however, will be the collapse of our current society and civilization. That is not why I love it though, I love it for it’s ability to explain things that are beyond our grasp, things our brain cannot wrap itself around, that we have managed to explain with a method and a tool that we have created and perfected over our existence.