Why is it important to study science?
Science is important to study because science is integral to significant and inescapable aspects of modern life. Some of these aspects, as explained by Jared Diamond and others, that are inextricably tied to science are:
- the national and global economies.
- communication, education, production of food, reduction of disease.
- the formation of Public Policy (government laws and regulations).
- individuals' ability to reason logically and think analytically.
- the acquisition of accurate information about the natural world and about society and culture.
As the University of Manchester, School of Earth Sciences, UK, expresses it, "The natural world is complex and human activity can have unexpected consequences that are hard to reverse." The study of science opens accurate knowledge about "how physical and biological processes maintain life, and how humans affect nature."
Professor Chuck Ammon of Penn State University explains that studying science allows us, through (we hope) accurate observation to "challenge dogma" and see the natural world and the universe as they factually are, a quest being explored notably today at Switzerland's particle accelerator CERN and at Massachusetts' Woods Hole Research Center. The "essence" of science is to pose questions, dig for answers, then "expose more questions."
Some examples of these aspects have far reaching consequences in our present-day world. For instance, science breeds new technologies, like advanced communications devices, and these technologies have a direct impact on whether domestic and global economies expand. An expanding economy raises the standard of living, which, in some nations, means the acquisition of:
- fresh drinking water.
- food to eat.
- the opportunity to be educated.
- roads upon which local goods can be taken to a thriving marketplace.
Other examples of these significant and inescapable aspects of modern-day life are the developing public policy debates over nanotechnology (e.g., microfibers) and fracking (i.e., hydraulic fracturing). Opponents to fracking attribute such adverse events as increased incidents of earthquakes, sinkholes and poisoned water wells to fracking, a process in which a liquid chemical infusion is injected to bedrock sites to force-mine natural gas from otherwise hard-to-reach repositories. As an illustration of public policy questions surrounding such debates, since 2005 the EPA has had no authority to address connections between contaminated drinking water and nearby fracking. Nanotechnology, for which medical uses in medication delivery systems have been developed, has as yet no consistent governmental public policy regulation as to workplace handling of nanoparticles or as to environmental impact of nanoparticles.
Science is the study of everything around us (including us) and tries to explain how things happens and why they happen. The study of science also includes scientific methods, hypothesis (formation and testing), discussion, and so on. The study of science is required so that:
- we can understand how things and processes work, and this includes EVERYTHING! From the motion of stars and earth to formation of day & night (or seasons) to the workings of our body to everything around us. And I mean everything, including the physical, chemical, biological and technological world.
- we can learn to think rationally (science-based thinking) and analytically, and use the knowledge of scientific principles (or methods) analyze a situation (or problem) and present potential solutions to it
- we can differentiate between correct and incorrect scientific information. There is simply too much information on internet and TV and one has to be able to separate right from wrong. For example, how can a vehicle be considered totally environmentally-friendly if it is running on electricity generated by a thermal power plant.
- we can contribute to the knowledge pool of humanity by carrying out scientific work (if we can).
- we can act responsibly when using scientific equipment.
Many of our current important decisions about our future and the future of our planet can only be understood in light of science. For example, one of the most pressing planet-wide problems is global climate change, but without understanding the science behind it, it is difficult to know the degree to which it will impact us and what we can do about it.
Another important area where scientific knowledge is important is technology. As more parts of our lives become dependent upon technology, it is increasingly important to understand how it works and its potential limitations.
Another area that is personally important to many of us is health. We are constantly bombarded by information about how to live healthy lifestyles. Some of this information is reliable and a great deal is nonsensical, but unless you understand something about science and medicine, it's hard to distinguish between the two.
Science could be thought of as the fundamental way we explain the world around us. Science is a language that helps us understand our world, as well as a window into how we can create new things. In the words of Mariette DiChristina, editor in chief of Scientific American,
Science is the engine of prosperity. Economists have said that a third to a half of U.S. economic growth has resulted from basic research since World War II. The cars and trains that got us here today, our smart phones, the energy that lights this chamber, the clothes we wear, the food we eat: All of these were developed and improved through research.
The video "Why is Science Important" is a good way to hear a wide variety of opinions on the topic.