The Vaccine Against Ignorance
Science is the best tool mankind has ever created for understanding reality and the physical world that surrounds us. Period. The many mysteries solved in the history of mankind are due largely to the scientific method: a way to test truth claims and hypotheses that is far superior to anything that preceded the method.
Astronomy. Medicine. Biology. Geology… the average age in North America alone stands as an amazing testament to the great utility of the scientific method.
However one doesn’t have to be a “scientist” to appreciate and understand science.
Richard Dawkins makes this point,
Now, you can enjoy the Mozart concerto without being able to play the clarinet. You can be a discerning and informed concert critic without being able to play a note. Of course music would come to a halt if nobody learned to play it. But if everybody left school thinking you had to play an instrument before you could appreciate music, think how impoverished many lives would be.
Couldn’t we treat science in the same way? Yes, we must have Bunsen burners and dissecting needles for those drawn to advanced scientific practice. But perhaps the rest of us could have separate classes in science appreciation, the wonder of science, scientific ways of thinking, and the history of scientific ideas, rather than laboratory experience.
Before I began my undergrad I was not very scientifically literate. However, being in the humanities required me to take some science classes. After a molecular biology class, a geology class, and an earth sciences class, I began to learn and appreciate an entirely new way–an infinitely, qualitatively better way–to understand the world around me, and a method for testing truth claims and hypotheses. My respect for this method has merely grown in the intervening years, and as I said above: Science is the best tool mankind has ever created for understanding reality and the physical world that surrounds us.