Science is beautiful

10 12 2015

Maybe I’ve had a couple of glasses of champagne; maybe I’ve enjoyed tonight’s meal just a little too much and I am now feeling sated and content; maybe my fleeting, blissful state of mind has precipitated a temporary penchant for the poetic. Just maybe.

It is a rare thing indeed to be content, and so I implore you to indulge me a little tonight because I am in particularly high spirits about my chosen profession. Despite the bullshit of the daily grind (bad reviewsprofiteering of academic publishers, shitty university administration, the constant pressure to beg for money, poor pay, feelings of futility, et cetera ad nauseam), there’s nothing quite as comforting as being aware that science is the only human endeavour that regularly attempts to reduce subjectivity. Being human means that even scientists have all of our weaknesses and limitations of perception, but science allows us to get as close to objectivity as is possible; science is not the pursuit of objectivity per se, but it is the pursuit of subjectivity reduction.

In the face of all posturing, manipulation, deceit, ulterior motives and fanatical beliefs that go on every day, science remains the bedrock of society, and so despite most human beings being ignorant of its1 importance, or actively pursuing its demise, all human beings have benefitted from science.

What can be more beautiful than finding out how something complex actually works? What can be more assuring than understanding that every mystery we encounter always has a logical explanation? It certainly gives me great comfort that there is a way to decipher the complexities of the universe without having to invoke some elaborate nonsense vomited from an overactive imagination. One could confuse such ‘comfort’ as a type of piety, but unlike religion, science requires updating one’s point of view based on evidence, whereas religious faith endures despite evidence.

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to listen to (or view) the wonderful cabaret-style poem Storm by Tim Minchin, then I highly recommend that you do. It describes far more eloquently this sentiment of the beauty of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Whenever I’m feeling overly exasperated by the idiots we elect to public office, or when some celebrity spouts evidence-free rubbish about a new miracle cure, or when a religious fanatic lets loose a diatribe of nonsense or a hail of bullets, I try to remember that science eventually cuts through all the bullshit.

If you are a scientist, take pride in the knowledge that what you do is like no other human endeavour. If you are not a scientist, then please take the time to hug the next one you meet and say ‘thank you’ on behalf of all human beings.

CJA Bradshaw

1I’ve never really liked referring to science as a ‘thing’ — this falsely gives it a state of entity; rather, science is a ‘way’ of doing something more objectively than would otherwise be possible. In this sense, it is more a verb than a noun.



One response

10 02 2016
Bad science |

[…] final word. I’m certainly not denigrating the fine process of the scientific method — how we constantly update previous hypotheses with better data to modify (and sometimes […]


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