Science Is Not Your Enemy

The kids are away again, so cheeky tales of mischief are replaced with more adult affairs.

Last week it was George Saunders’ plea for us all to be more kind; today, it’s Steven Pinker‘s enthusiastic call for everyone to give science a big hug.

His essay Science Is Not Your Enemy in the New Republic, requires adult levels of concentration but is an always-timely reminder of our good fortune in being born at a time when science has alleviated so much hardship, pain and misery.

Remember: most people born today have a miraculous life of ease and plenty compared to the rest of human history, and it’s science which has given us this – a world loaded with knowledge, beauty and wonder.

As Professor Pinker says:

‘In making sense of our world, there should be few occasions in which we are forced to concede “It just is” or “It’s magic” or “Because I said so.” The commitment to intelligibility is not a matter of brute faith, but gradually validates itself as more and more of the world becomes explicable in scientific terms.’

Yes, there are plenty of things we still don’t understand, but that doesn’t mean they are forever mysterious or beyond our reach.  Just think about what we do understand!

‘We can say much about the history of the universe, the forces that make it tick, the stuff we’re made of, the origin of living things, and the machinery of life, including our own mental life. Better still, this understanding consists not in a mere listing of facts, but in deep and elegant principles, like the insight that life depends on a molecule that carries information, directs metabolism, and replicates itself.’

And not only that:

‘Science has also provided the world with images of sublime beauty: stroboscopically frozen motion, exotic organisms, distant galaxies and outer planets, fluorescing neural circuitry, and a luminous planet Earth rising above the moon’s horizon into the blackness of space. Like great works of art, these are not just pretty pictures but prods to contemplation, which deepen our understanding of what it means to be human and of our place in nature.’

If you’re a human being and want to be inspired about our place in the universe, go and read Science Is Not Your Enemy.

And then read The Better Angels Of Our Nature. 🙂


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