Monday, July 28, 2014

Is science hard?

The idea of conceptualizing science simply intrigues me and I have attempted to do so with the following basic statement:

Now I want to address common attitudes around science, which may make that seem too simple, as many may believe science is hard, but I say you do it, if you flip on a light switch!

And if you watch babies you may notice they stick lots of things in their mouths, which requires watchful parents and caretakers, as they're doing scientific experiments. This scientific activity of babies helps them rapidly learn their world, and eventually they can predict with great accuracy: like fruit is sweet!

As we grow older the childlike experimental side begins to fade as we learn social rules, and eventually with a personality well established we focus more on our place in our world, and eventually, most focus on procreation and then taking care of children before sliding into old age.

But some retain that childlike need to experiment, and we call those most obsessed, scientists.

So why might people think science is hard if everybody starts doing it as babies?

Well the art of prediction requires figuring out fundamental rules, and eventually those rules can become more difficult or the consequences of those rules are more complex. So, yes, fruits tend to be sweet. But the action of electricity for instance, can be predicted using mathematics that is challenging for most.

What science allows us to do is expand our realm of certainty. 

The more we move that realm of certainty beyond relatively simple things, like those most children learn, we start encountering greater difficulty in comprehending those rules, or their consequences. 

So scientists are in a way adult-babies, which may sound funny, but it best explains the childlike wonder that can drive certain people to keep expanding the realm of certainty, while most are involved with other things.

To the extent that we extend the realm of certainty we are doing science. And in fact plenty of people do science, but it can feel to be very difficult as certainty is actually kind of hard.

Of how many things are you certain in your life?

Remarkably enough, many people believe in endless shades of grey. While some claim absolute certainty, but primarily in a religious context.

Yet who, would argue with you that flipping a light switch and having a light come on is a matter of faith? Or shades of grey?

For many people you might as well call it magic, but we don't! We understand there are underlying rules which humanity has learned to understand so that it can predict with great accuracy what electricity will do.

Few people in the modern world marvel at the wonder of flipping on a light switch and having a light come on.

Maybe we all should.

Those who seek certainty are a different type of human. While most people are more focused on living their daily lives.

So science in and of itself is not hard, and we all start out as little scientists, learning some ability to predict in our world. But that ability to predict, like predictably setting a broken bone with medical science can get harder and harder to have, or can require learning a lot of difficult to understand rules.

So science covers a lot of territory where yeah, it can be really hard in certain areas, like at the limits of human certainty, but to some extent we all get to try our hand in some way shape or form, with the art of prediction. It's just part of the human experience to try and use those advanced brains of ours to try and gain some sense of certainty in our world.

And luckily we get lots of certainty, and next time someone tries to argue against that position with you?

Flip a light switch.

James Harris
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