How can a scientific approach to understanding the world help us in our everyday lives?
Science is more than a body of knowledge or a subject that we learn in school. Science is a way of thinking about the world around us. Science can help us in our understanding of the world because it invites us to be imaginative and disciplined at the same time. A scientific approach to learning allows us to recognize new facts and phenomena even if they do not conform to our preconceptions. It allows us to have an open mind while practicing critical scrutiny at the same time.
The scientific method encourages us to test our ideas against the outside world. If we find errors or inconsistencies in our preconceived notions, we can correct them and improve ourselves. Science does not encourage the acceptance of ideas without critical thinking. This close-mindedness can lead to very dangerous outcomes. For many years white Europeans believed that black people were inferior and not even the same race as humans. Science revealed that we share the same genetic makeup and the only difference was the amount of melanin in our skin.
Science can help us figure out when we are being lied to. It can help us to correct our mistakes; it encourages the exchange of ideas and the testing of these ideas to find the best one. It teaches us to deal with criticism and even to criticize ourselves. The following quote from the British physicist Michael Faraday aptly summarizes the importance of understanding science in our everyday lives:
"It is tempting to seek for such evidence and appearances as are in favor of our desires, and to disregard those which oppose them...We receive as friendly that which agrees with us, we resist with dislike that which opposes us; whereas the very reverse is required by every dictate of common sense" (from a lecture given at the Royal Institution on May 6, 1854).