We choose to ignore science, so it often appears as though science is obsolescing itself. Ultimately however, science endures. The reason why has largely to due with our inability to drop the security blanket of comfortable denial we wrap ourselves in to cope with modern life.
People prefer faith over science because faith offers beautiful, compassionate answers. Science offers truth, be it beautiful, or ugly, and humans cannot handle the truth. This does not mean we have to choose God over science, or truth, but that human beings are not very adept at having to think beyond black and white, good and evil, and right and wrong. We are unable to recognize that the Cosmos is filled with many shades of grey, and with many subjective opinions. We seem binary.
The other major reason why science seemingly obsolesces itself, is that just as faith comes with great compassion and passion, science is by definition impartial, and can feel cold when scientists struggle to show their work is objective, credible, and not just a wished for outcome. Scientists, often called geeks and nerds, often are not full of bubble and warmth. They are not full of zeal and charisma. Therefore science is not to be persuasive in the sense that those issues which depend upon pulling our emotions are usually presented to us. Politicians, rock stars, athletes, actors, and artists play the role of wonderful theatrical presentation and they are the favored ones in national hearts and minds. They provide the emotional appeal and pathos we need psychologically. Their popularity is reflected in the monetary value we put upon them. Scientists, on the other hand, and most especially teachers of science, are not making the tremendous income that reflects our preference for the charismatic members of our planet.
For all of us this is a great tragedy. When scientists, for example show the most truthful “likelihood” projections of something as crucial as climate change, they are not screaming, shouting, weeping, or in any way drawing extreme attention to the crisis we are in. They are quietly revealing the truth, and then sitting back and scratching their heads upon realizing that people are still more interested in Dancing with the Stars! The great Sociobiologist, Dr. E.O. Wilson, has done supreme scholarship upon the importance of biodiversity for the continuing existence of healthy life on our planet. Yet, more people will recognize the name Lebron James, or Lady GaGa, than know the name of someone who has done a lifetime of brilliant work in the service of striving to protect our biosphere. Of course artists have a place in our hearts; and often they are the ones to bring vital attention to some of our more pressing issues. Nerds love ya, GaGa!
This phenomenon is due, again, to our fickle preference for the sensational. People, and most especially people in hard times, seek distraction, release, or as is most often the case with celebrity, wish to know what scandal someone is involved in so we can be reassured psychologically that “at least we are not as much a loser as __(place name/s for scandal of the week here)__.” We prefer to live in denial, and fear our own ability will not be enough for the challenges. Scientists know that if we own our responsibility, we can utilize our increased confidence to align ourselves with natural laws. We will begin to eliminate things nature did not invent such as garbage, war, petrochemicals and toxins, shame, blame, and fame.
In all ways, in all places, we are longing for connection and hope that we are as good as those we look up to, or that we can belong to the community that values talent and ability above all. We don’t all feel as smart as scientists, so we somehow believe that they are unapproachable, or just not regular folks we want to have a beer with after work.
This too is a great tragedy because we lose not only vital information about where our values should be directed, but because we need to feel “belonging,” we exclude science and scientists from our daily intake of what matters on earth. Also, although work in science is designed to be objective and non partisan, scientists are usually by nature extremely passionate about their given field, even if necessarily objective and scholarly about the publication of that work. That work is not what most of us have time to plow through, and it does not change moment to moment like the sparkling world of Hollywood, politics, or sports. It may be time for at least the most vital bits of science to be presented in ways more adaptable to our flicker mentality of the 21st century. We need almost constant stimulation, especially since the advent of the Internet. We are honing extremely short attention spans, and we also do not like to hear bad news.
The most ironic thing about all of this is that the fate of life on earth is surely the most sensational and dramatic reality around us daily, yet we don’t want to know about it. We do not wish to know the reality of those suffering from desertification and dying of lack of clean water. We do not want to know anything about the next epidemic to strike except maybe which pill to take, and what does it cost? We do not want to know that seabirds, seals, and turtles are dying today of plastic ingestion of our garbage, or that the computers we are sitting at will likely end up in landfills leaking toxins, or third world nations where small children are exposed daily to the poisons of our rejected gadgetry.
Most of all we do not want to know that WE are responsible for all this. Or if we do admit it, we want to believe that our brightest scientists are surely perfecting the technology to solve our waste stream, population, and diminishing biosphere problems.
The greatest trouble with science obsolescing itself is that we are in our shunning of knowing the truth, missing the greatest truth of all: We need truth, and we need to know our power, if we are to live up to our greatest potential of intelligence and wise choices. We need to set faith aside, if that shallow faith keeps us in thrall to a superhero style of rescuer that will mend everything we mess up. We need to recognize that perhaps God IS truth and that science is a process dedicated to dispassionately find the revealed truth that the creation has to offer about life on earth. When we reveal these natural laws we can see we are mammals that can belong, every bit as much as the lilies of the field, or the birds in the trees. We can see there is tremendous beauty and drama unfolding about us in every leaf, and every distant star.
We do not have to allow science to obsolesce itself. We can learn to embrace truth, that is, science. We can love ourselves rather than obsessing as we do about our disconnections, scandals, and inadequacies. It is up to us to make science something we honor, learn from, and can appreciate as mature adults and not shallow children wanting the next shiny toy. We can learn to include science even in our flickering and fickle attention spans because life is absolutely amazing. Ultimately belonging in a natural world is more truly fulfilling than any spurt of attention on celebrity, or next unfulfilling material object, no matter how much it sparkles. Science and her little sister, technology, can help us light up the darkness and ignorance in the world with renewable and non-damaging enlightenment. We can begin to connect with nature’s laws and find we are kin with all creatures, clouds, and comets. We can find we belong after all. We can find the most scintillating story of all is the story of us, not just a few alienated, clever primates, but a whole world of wonder.