What is science for?
Four experts offer their thoughts, as part of spiked's Einstein survey.
2005 – announced as Einstein Year – marks the centenary of the publication of Albert Einstein’s equation E = mc2. To mark this occasion, spiked surveyed over 250 renowned scientists, science communicators, and educators – including 11 Nobel laureates – to find out what they would teach the world about science and why, if they could pick just one thing. The survey was sponsored by NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts).
At the London launch of the survey – at the Royal Institution on 10 May – we invited four of the survey respondents to offer their thoughts on the question: ‘What is science for?’ Their answers are linked to below:
‘When spiked asked various folk which bit of science they would most like to teach the world, there was one response that was given over and over again: the scientific method. In other words, it seems that scientists wanted to explain the nature of science to non-scientists. So, what is science?….’
‘The essence of the scientific method is a reluctance to accept any hypothesis until compelled to; you might say that the whole of experimental science is based on the idea that you must try to disprove any idea you have. Like the mathematician Godel, you should live on the basis that while “X” may be true, it is best to consider it false despite the evidence in its favour so far….’
‘Science has a special authority. It is a way of observing and understanding the world that transcends our subjectivity, our policy preferences, prejudices and what we find tasteful. This gives scientific understanding a privileged status in our society….’
‘Gerard ‘t Hooft was right about the Einstein survey: it is absurd to identify one single thing that everyone should know about science. But he was wrong to imply that the survey was worthless as a result. The point about such questions, as about lists of “top tens”, is not that they provide meaningful answers but that they stimulate thinking about the topics to which they pertain….’
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