Letter: Respecting, understanding science


To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Say the word out loud to yourself. "Science." Now think about it. What do you picture? For most, the word conjures images of bespectacled but otherwise faceless researchers in white lab coats and/or tweed-jacketed professors monotonously orating a seemingly endless list of dull facts: "The sky is blue because ...," "All cells contain ...," and so on.

The truth is as far from these boring scenarios as possible. Actually, science is a choice of a lens through which to view the world, a kind-of x-ray telescope to reveal the wonder hidden all around us. And for scientists, that wonder comes hand-in-hand with another much-needed trait these days: humility.

A scientist, put as simply and by-the-book as possible, is one who adheres to the scientific method. This means a scientist: remains observant of the world around her; asks questions as to the nature of this world; tests these questions; invites others to repeat and/or challenge her tests, and, critically; alters her conclusions depending on what her peers themselves conclude. Think about that last step. How often in your day-to-day life do you encounter someone who is open to any conflicting opinion they hear and is willing to completely shift their views when faced with a strong enough argument? In my own experience, I have found this very rare. And yet, this is an everyday affair for scientists; long-held beliefs are shed like molting feathers when more logical beliefs -- healthier, newer feathers -- are created and disseminated.

Take another important institution: government. Now ask yourself how often you hear a senator or congressperson switch their stance based on new evidence. Not only is this not the norm, it is considered
a major taboo: flip-flopping! How dare an elected official use ever-increasing evidence and experience to establish a better viewpoint?!

This the core of science; this is why science should not be feared and need instead be thoroughly understood. It is an attempt to combine the unabashed awe of a child with the well-earned wisdom of the sage. Science is the Great Open-Mindedness, the willingness to ask questions and accept the answers, however uncomfortable they might be.


Great Barrington


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