Science – The Real Fabric of our Lives

Some of the basic elements of the scientific m...
Some of the basic elements of the scientific method, arranged in a cycle to emphasize that it is an iterative process. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Science affects everyone, all day, every day, from the moment we rise, and throughout the night while we sleep. From the smallest action to the major decisions, we are all guided and influenced by science. The digital alarm clock that wakes you, the morning news on your TV or radio, the transportation you choose, your decision of baked potato over fries, your cell phone, the antihistamine for your allergy, the clean water that flows from your tap, and the light switch you flip at the end of the day have all been brought to you by science. In fact, the modern world would not be modern at all without the understandings and technology made possible through science.

To make it clear how deeply science is interwoven with our lives, just try imagining a day without science. But first, look around you and note what you see.  Maybe you are at your desk, cleaning your glass, preparing to use the computer. Around you are scattered papers, pens, highlighters; the family cat is rubbing your legs and your cup of coffee  is cooling.  Out the window you can see mother in her garden and brother working on his truck while listening to the race. It’s a beautiful spring day, the sun is shining and the plants are standing tall and green thanks to the rain from last night. Dinner is in the crock pot.  Life is good.  Life is comfortable.  Life is science.

Science even lies with our knowledge of all that —  that from the tiniest atom that forms the metal in the computer circuit board, to the chemical reactions happening in your brain and body as you prepare to work, to the gathering clouds and distant rumblings that threaten more rain – all that is science.

The Scientific Method

             Just as importantly, science is  a reliable process by which we learn about all that “stuff” in our universe. The scientific method makes science different from many other ways of learning because of the way it is done. Science insists on testing ideas with evidence gathered from the natural world . 

Although much science is complex, the most important characteristics of science are simple:

  • Science only focuses on the natural world; it does not deal with the supernatural.
  • Science is a method of learning about the natural world and is not just a collection of facts; instead it is a path to understanding.
  • All science relies on testing ideas by determining the expectations of an idea and making observations to see if those expectations hold true.
  • Accepted scientific theories are reliable because they have been rigorously tested, but as new evidence and new perspectives surface, accepted theories can be revised. Nothing is written in stone.
  • Science takes a community effort. It depends on a system of checks and balances that ensure accuracy and understanding. Diversity allows for a broad range of perspectives on scientific ideas.

The testing of hypotheses and theories is an essential process of science. There are many explanations for any aspect of the natural world.  Science collects the likely explanations and uses scientific testing to sort out those supported by evidence and refutes the rest. Science has two logical steps:

(1) If the premise is right, what would we expect to see?

(2) Do the results meet the expectation?

These basics —observation, regularity, theory, prediction, and testing— jointly comprise the scientific method. In practice, you can think of the method as a never-ending cycle in which observations lead to theories, which leads to questions, which lead to more observations, tests, etc.

Every law and theory of nature is subject to change, based on new observations.

Since I fancy myself a writer, I will use a writing example. Most of my stories begin as a few scribbled notes, sketchy ideas, and references to articles.  These bits and pieces progress to a rough draft that is read, reread, and amended. I then submit my final draft for feedback to my ‘editor’ (usually a family member).  The article is then rewritten (taking into consideration comments from my “editors”) to become a finished product, and finally, published.

1)    My observation  is: I need to write a new article

2)    My Question is: Can I do it; what will it be about?

3)    My Prediction is: I will write a great new article, using the information I have gathered! (The model for this is my first draft.)

4)    My Test is: the feedback or evaluation from my “editors”.

5)    Conclusion – Editor loved my article.  Publish! 

Or –

Conclusion – Lots of revision work suggested – do I take their advice or not?      If yes – make changes and resubmit for evaluation. If no – publish ‘as is”.

Scientists use methods to evaluate and improve models that are very similar to simple trial and error. This may be hard to believe because science is so cloaked in complexity and terminology, but the same principles used in science are used for everyday tasks, like cooking, budgeting, and yes, writing.  Understanding how to apply the scientific method to these (seemingly) un-scientific problems can be a valuable tool that is helpful in the workplace, at home and in making any important decisions.

Science has definitely changed the quality of life for all mankind.  Thanks to science we have refrigeration so our food won’t spoil and we have heat and water at our fingertips.  We have vehicles to transport us over land, sea, and air. Thanks to the scientists at NASA, space exploration has given us things like the micro-wave, cordless tools, enriched baby food, smoke detectors, GPS systems, Velcro, freeze dried foods, and solar panels to name a few. And of course, Tang and my favorite, Space Ice Cream!

Medical Science has given us new medicines, techniques, and procedures that save, extend and improve lives.  The International Human Genome Project, for instance, discovered a complete set of human genetic information that allowed doctors and scientists to understand what our roughly 23,000 genes do. Electronic medical records allow doctors to harness healthcare information in centralized locations and stem cell research promises a whole new frontier in medicine.

Science has contributed to how we spend our leisure time and how we educate our children. It has allowed me to continue my education from the comfort of my home. In fact, some think that online educational opportunities will replace traditional educational institutions in the near future.

Science has improved our industry and agriculture in many ways.  The science and technology of the Internet have made this a global society with the ability to share information as soon as it becomes available and news even as it happens. Science fuels the raging debate over climate change that some just will not accept regardless of scientific evidence.

Science permeates our lives and informs our actions. Physics teaches us about gravity, how mirrors work, and how heat and cold is transferred by various materials. Chemistry addresses the principles of matter, like atoms, molecules and compounds that make up the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the medicines we take when we are sick…things we can’t live without. Biology tells us why we are the way we are, what we need to thrive, how every living thing serves a purpose, where we came from…  All these things are related to science.

Our future depends on an unremitting wave of new scientists to keep our economy growing; students who are ready for modern scientific research, teaching and technological development.  Science is much more than the formulas and test tubes of the laboratory.  Science is rewarding, interesting, important and, (sometimes)  fun. It allows us to understand the world and to appreciate its complexities. The more we learn about the natural world, the more we question and the more we question the further we are pushed towards the future.

…reality and the nature of existence was not only much more complex than I could ever imagine, it was also much more precious and wonderful in that complexity”. (NativeSkeptic, 2011)

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11 comments on “Science – The Real Fabric of our Lives

  1. Interesting article, didn’t entirely understand the way wordpress notified me I’d been linked to but I figured it out in the end. My only criticism would be the first point in the characteristics of science that “Science only focuses on the natural world; it does not deal with the supernatural.” While true it doesn’t clearly state the boundaries between natural and supernatural. Anything which has an effect in the world that we can detect can be tested through science and so many so called supernatural abilities such as psychics can and have been tested and disproved using the scientific method. Besides that, great article, don’t know if the link was intentional or not but thanks for the link. When I can figure out how to link you back, I will.

    • Thank you for your response and comments. I guess I agree with my first point is because you must be able to both ‘prove’ and refute scientific theories…you can neither prove or disprove the supernatural claims. For example: Is there a God? This is based on belief, not science. 🙂

      • Well I would argue that we can only have a large body of agreeing evidence for a theory, unless it’s a mathematical proof you can only say there is enough evidence for it to be highly probable that the theory is a good model of reality. But that I think is just semantics.

        I agree that the question of the reality of supernatural things cannot be answered by science but we can say how much these hypothetical supernatural things affect (Or as many believe effect) the world. Relate back to my example of psychics, under experiment we have shown that these people are not communicating with the dead. This doesn’t disprove the existence of an afterlife, but it does disprove the notion that there are people who exist that can communicate with those in any afterlife.

        Whether such afterlives exist in which they do not impact the natural world as we perceive it, that is not a question of science as we have no way of measuring the impact of these things on the world and so cannot say that they exist or not.

        Now some (myself included) follow Occam’s Razor saying that the simplest explanation of the lack of communications from any afterlife would be the lack of one. In this inferential way we can make statements about any supernatural things through the way that they influence or impact the world we can sense.

  2. Ms. Wing,

    I thought your article was insightful and most importantly understandable by most anyone who can read. I think this especially relevant in discussing politics with the far right; i.e., those who say that Darwin was wrong or climate change is not affected my human kind. Shades of the Scope’s trial. Now the challenge is to get the right to read your piece.

    I also enjoyed Ursus Cetacea’s comments, but I would like to take issue with said wet bear’s statement on metaphysics, “…the simplest explanation of the lack of communications from any afterlife would be the lack of one…”. I doubt sincerely that old William of Ockham’s razor could slice it that thin. Myself I am more inclined to believe Mark Twain, “Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see”.

    There is no certainty in science. We can hold truth as a probability. When Truth = 1 and False = 0, it only takes one observation to disprove a hypothesis; i.e., = 0, however the probability of truth is an asymptotic function and at infinity cannot not be 100% certain; that is = 1.

    Although widely disputed Karl Popper’s argument that you cannot disprove a negative is worth discussion. Science as opposed to metaphysics can only deal with that which exists. The scientific method cannot be used to prove that which does not exist. A hypothesis based on facts that have been made in error can be refuted by discovering the error in assumption of the facts; i.e., disproving a positive, not proving a negative. The psychic was a fraud.

    Rational demonstration is necessary to support even the claim that a thing is possible. It is a breach of logic to assert that that which has not been proven to be impossible is, therefore, possible. An absence does not constitute proof of anything. Nothing can be derived from nothing.” If I say, “Anything is possible” I must admit the possibility that the statement I just made is false.

    In any case I thank you and the aforesaid Cetacea for you insightful thoughts. I enjoyed reading them.

    • Very well said, I’m renowned amongst my friends for being quite a harsh communicator, speaking often too plainly and strongly when I feel in that I’m speaking from a place of strength. What I mean to have said is that unless evidence emerges for something, then I myself will assume the negative. Who’s teapot was it? Russel’s teapot, thanks google, since there isn’t evidence for it, I’ll assume it doesn’t exist. That maybe me being stubborn or strict but I’m young and brash but one day I hope I’ll know what I’m talking about. Thanks for the comments, it’s encouraging to read well formed and balanced comments on the internet, a far cry from youtube I might say.

  3. Gracious UC,

    There is no fault in being plain spoken even when you are not speaking from a place of strength. I am old and brash and I frequently discover just how, if you’ll excuse the expression, full of shit I really am. I hope that somehow I can continue to paint my own picture of reality and not cave in to the idea that I truly do know what there is.

    Thanks for the rejoinder of Mr. Russell’s Teapot. I could not remember from where I had read this, thanks to Google again. Since I had mentioned Popper, Wittgenstein’s Poker popped into mind, a great read by the way, and the frustration that rears its ugly head when I ponder Wittgenstein’s idea that all philosophical problems are a matter linguist puzzles.

    I have read the words in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus several times, but have as to yet claim any understanding, but now I’m just running on with out a real point, which is often the case. I did enjoy you further comments.

    My Dear Ms. Wing,

    If I am so friggin’ smart why ain’t I rich? Now there is a question to ponder.

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