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NYT: Put a Little Science in Your Life

June 2nd, 2008 · Posted by Hugo · 17 Comments

This morning I came across an Op-Ed on the New York Times website by Brian Greene, titled Put a Little Science in Your Life. It’s a pretty good read… and I suspect it might only be readable by non-subscribers for a while, so go check it out now.

Some snippets from this article:

But here’s the thing. The reason science really matters runs deeper still. Science is a way of life. Science is a perspective. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner that’s precise, predictive and reliable — a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional. To be able to think through and grasp explanations — for everything from why the sky is blue to how life formed on earth — not because they are declared dogma but rather because they reveal patterns confirmed by experiment and observation, is one of the most precious of human experiences.

Now that’s a scientist speaking. ;) Brian Greene is a string theorist, but I won’t hold it against him because this Op-Ed is so cool. On the nature of children:

As every parent knows, children begin life as uninhibited, unabashed explorers of the unknown. From the time we can walk and talk, we want to know what things are and how they work — we begin life as little scientists. But most of us quickly lose our intrinsic scientific passion. And it’s a profound loss.

Can we not all become like children again? Ready to be wide-eyed at the wonders of life, exploring the unknown in awe?

What does happen to our scientific passion? Why does “adulthood” kill it? Is it too challenging to have to sacrifice cherished dogma and beliefs when they turn out to be false? No, actually, I don’t think that’s really the reason. Children are learning machines… learning and absorbing new knowledge at a pace that boggles the mind. At some point one has enough knowledge and experience to get by, and priorities shift. It is no longer that important to know the truth, knowing enough to survive is, well, enough to survive. Such is life?

Not quite. It is a choice. Like the choice to appreciate the arts, or the choice to appreciate sport or the outdoors or good food or wine. Not everyone makes the same choices, and I believe we should respect diversity and individuality. However, we don’t all have the same choices in the first place…

Some people cannot afford good food or wine, or do not have opportunity to experience the arts, sport or the “outdoor lifestyle”. Various factors can suppress the choice, just like various societal pressures can suppress our ability to choose to enjoy and appreciate science. The question is then: what can we do to provide people with more choice, more opportunities, to appreciate the wonders of life?

Categories: Religion and Science
Tags: ·

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pieter // Jun 2, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    unfortunately we get interested in girls, narcotics and music of questionable moral fibre

  • 2 Hugo // Jun 2, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    ;) So I’m still interested in science because I don’t have enough interest in girls, narcotics or music of questionable moral fibre? In agreement with St. Paul, marriage is for the weak!

    Hmmm… or does my interest in science imply that my life is unbalanced? Plan… clearly I need some sort of a plan. I need one of those three things… What would be the least effort, to obtain maximum return on minimal investment? I think the least effort would be to find some music of questionable moral fibre. Any recommendations? Something I can buy from kalahari.net or something (naturally I wouldn’t want to practise questionable morals in order to obtain such things :-P )

  • 3 Marthelize // Jun 3, 2008 at 12:15 am

    hmmmm… Least effort….max return…. minimal investment.

    Ok so “girl” is definitely NOT the answer, is it? ;)

    Yep, music it shall be. Of questionable moral fibre? Well… the possibilities are endless, but does it really have to be questionable? If you’re anything like me, music alone can be a vice. Any music. And all music. :D

    And about your actual blog entry, how true the statement that children are all little scientists. Beautiful and accurate. I never really outgrew that phase I suppose, that’s why I went into science as a study route. But something changed it for me. Not adulthood per se… merely the arena in which science presents itself in this day and age. Or is presented. I’m faced with the ignorance of the masses and it leaves me questioning why we even bother attempting to improve life as we know it if all our new ideas and innovations are ever met with (at least at first) is suspicion and mistrust.

    I haven’t lost my faith in science, neither have I lost my curiosity. I just don’t know if it’s worth it anymore.

    Maybe this is why I’m changing direction. Refocusing my curiosity. Studying a new field.

    Law, here I come!!!!!

  • 4 Hugo // Jun 3, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Law?! From Science?! And here I’m wondering whether Engineering was a wrong choice, whether I should have gone for “real science”. ;)

    Disillusionment… happens at various times with various people. Then you go and cruise on with life for some time, until you suddenly get to a point where you want to snap out of it and get your zest back. And you wonder how…

    Music, yea, ’cause girls are too difficult. (And so we lie to ourselves, pretending it’s not us that are too, um, no wait, scratch that, it’s because girls are too difficult!) :-P

  • 5 Marthelize // Jun 3, 2008 at 1:01 am

    Yep. Law. From Science. Truth be told though, law might have been first…my dad always told me I have the mouth of a lawyer ;)

    Disillusionment…wow… big word. Scary word. Am I disillusioned? Perhaps. Not just with science, with many things. It’s terrifying. Maybe swapping science for law is my attempt to get some zest back. I’m hoping it works out…

    But NO, i have NOT lost faith in science. It’s just too frustrating and I’m too impatient to wait for the world out there to catch up…

    Hahahaha… Ek stry nie. Girls is moeilik. I suppose I am a prime example :) But… aren’t we worth it though? :D

  • 6 Kenneth Oberlander // Jun 3, 2008 at 10:24 am

    So would those of us who stayed scientists in adulthood be considered neotenous then? ;-)

    Marthelize, how sad for science. On the other hand, a lawyer who understands science…we need those as well!

  • 7 Hugo // Jun 3, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Either that, or maybe you were “born again” into the youthful scientist’s outlook… :-P Depends on whether you ever strayed from the true path…

  • 8 Sweet Chili // Jun 3, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Since when do people trust lawyers? I certainly dont ! :)

  • 9 Kenneth Oberlander // Jun 3, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Hugo: nope…been pretty much my career choice since school…I’ve only ever been born once… ;-)

    Sweet chili: Aaaah, but a lawyer interested in the truth…it’ll have novelty factor, if nothing else…

  • 10 Marthelize // Jun 3, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Kenneth: Sad for science? Hehehe..sometimes I think the people in white coats would be safer and slightly more sane without me about (I was one of those constant “why?” children, and the question is still one of my favourites :) )

    And neotenous? Never! Maybe just a little less indecisive and a little more convinced of their calling ;)

    Sweet chili: Remember there’s always the exception to the rule :D

    Hugo: Do you think my curiosity into other fields of study means I’ve strayed from the “true path”? :)

  • 11 Sweet Chili // Jun 3, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Well, Kenneth, my bad…I havent met that kind of species yet…;)

  • 12 Sweet Chili // Jun 3, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Marthelize – I think the “why” question is the trademark of the scientist…and most of the time, good scientists are also slightly insane ! ;-)

  • 13 Marthelize // Jun 3, 2008 at 11:00 am

    True, slightly insane. Cannot argue that point and I won’t even try because we’re also very proud of our insanity (although we prefer to refer to it as being “quirky” ;) )

    Sweet Chili, come back after 3 years (when I’m a lawyer) and then perhaps you’ll meet this strange new species :D

  • 14 Kenneth Oberlander // Jun 3, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Insane? I think not!
    Just because we work with carcinogenic agents, dangerous animals, poisonous plants, radioactive and explosive materials, liquid nitrogen, hallucinogenic drugs, AIDS, anthrax, malaria, work around volcanos, deep sea trenches, outer space, Amazonian jungles…what did I leave out?

    No, we’re not insane. We’re just pleasantly iconoclastic!

  • 15 Hugo // Jun 3, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Marthelize: straying from the “true path” as much as I have. ;) Also, note you’re busy with your MSc. The mind goes through all kinds of hoops during such stressful times. I nearly reinvented myself three times towards the end of my M, but in the end I “stayed the course” and am still aiming in a software engineering direction. Who knows, maybe after it is all over, you’ll choose to stick to the “true path” (of quirky insanity). :-P

  • 16 Marthelize // Jun 3, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    “I don’t suffer from insanity… I enjoy every minute of it!”

    True story.

    Hugo I’m taking your word for it… We’ll see how this all ends up. But even if I do decide to pursue law, I doubt that the quirky insanity will ever truly disappear. It is built into us and 6 years of studying in that direction only cements the quirks ;)

    I’m sure I’ll find my way….though any hints and tips along the way from wise individuals who have been there and done that would be much appreciated ;)

  • 17 www.acidalex.com // Jun 3, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    For music with more fibre than All Bran and absolutely no discernible morals at all – try:

    Joe’s Garage by Frank Zappa, it’s got a zippy-zappy little track on it called “Catholic Girls”, with a refrain, which is bound to curl yo toes – and the rest of it is very nicely skanky in all the right places too … as for the rest … your ass is on yo own niggaz.

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