At some point in our lives, we’ve all been told that science is important. Why? What’s the big deal?
Science is how we know about things. It’s about asking questions, forming hypotheses, and testing them. Based on the results of our test, we either accept or reject our hypothesis. For example, we could ask the question, What happens if we drop a rock over someone’s foot? Our hypothesis is that the rock will fall down and land on the foot. We test this by performing an experiment: dropping a rock over a foot. The results are that the rock falls on the foot, supporting our hypothesis. If the person to whom the foot belonged yelled when the rock hit the foot, we might also form an additional hypothesis that rocks falling on feet causes pain. However, this is only one sample. What if other rocks don’t fall on the foot? What if rocks hitting feet doesn’t cause pain? To improve the accuracy of our conclusion, we would test many, many rocks.
Scientists ask questions about lots of things. They ask “What does this do?” “How does this work?” “Why does this react this way?” It is said that we are born scientists, and anyone who has spent a substantial amount of time around young children can affirm that yes, they ask questions about everything. The trick is to answer their questions, not to dismiss them; to encourage them to continue asking questions.
If we simply accept things we are told because we trust the person who said them, we are opening ourselves up to a whole realm of deception. Rather, it is imperative that we question everything, and ask if our own knowledge and observations support the claims. This is true of everything from the latest science news to politics to your family member’s claim that they did not eat your doughnut last night. Do not simply trust the authority; rely on your own rational mind.