Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Beliefs: The Promise of Science

I believe that science is the greatest tool we have for understanding the world around us and is our only hope for making the world the better place we want it to be. However, that doesn’t mean I worship science. It is not meant to provide a person with a basis for morality or to codify how one should live his or her life (I’ll address that in another post). Instead, it’s more like a tool whose purpose is to gain knowledge of the universe around us through observable and testable evidence. By itself, that might not seem like much, but it’s what we do with that knowledge that can make all the difference.

For example, just two centuries ago we never would have suspected the existence of asteroids, much less the threat they pose to our survival. If one had appeared over the Earth at any point in our history except for the last couple of decades, we would have been powerless to stop it. Today, we not only recognize how dangerous they can be, but we are also coming up with better methods to detect them, and we can even theorize ways to divert them to save ourselves from extinction. All thanks to science.

I shouldn’t even have to tell you how science has made our daily lives better. It has given us effective medicine, rapid transportation, empowered people with access to instantaneous communication, etc. What has religion done for us? Not so much. It unifies some people, but makes them bitterly opposed to others, and it resists all change, no matter if it’s good or bad. Since the serious pursuit of science began shortly after the Middle Ages, we have seen more positive progress than 5000+ years of organized religion could ever dream of achieving.

In its purest form, science allows us to understand who we are and what we can do while keeping us free from the ancient dogma that forms the basis of our irrationality. In its ideal form, science starts with a blank slate and asks, “Why?” Then, instead of giving up when the search becomes difficult and deferring these questions to the supernatural, it continues to push forward in search of answers, never content until it finds a satisfactory explanation. Even then, that explanation can change radically as new discoveries are made, thereby always keeping science relevant and moving forward. In the end, it teaches us to never be satisfied with not understanding the world around us, a lesson we should all appreciate, because without understanding, everything is nothing more than wishful thinking.

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