Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What Is #Science And Why Does It Matter?

Hey Everyone!

A few weeks ago, scientists from all over the world marched in protest of the current trend of dismissing science as irrelevant and devaluing its findings. Specifically, the determination of certain world leaders, who shall remain nameless ;-), to deny the fact of anthropogenic climate change was being protested, but the larger issue of science itself being under attack was also up for discussion. Since there are a lot of people who apparently don't understand what science is or why it's important, I figured I'd share my thoughts.

First, what is science?  It's important to understand that it's the process that constitutes science. Answers to questions and innovations and inventions are the result of applying the process of science to a given problem, but they aren't science in and of themselves. There's a difference between science and technology.

Science is the process whereby we pose a question, hypothesize an answer, design an experiment, examine our design for flaws, test our hypothesis using our experiment, observe and record the results, analyze the data, determine if the results support the hypothesis, and then report on our experiment, results, and conclusions so that they can be critiqued by others and more experiments can be run to see if our results are repeatable. It's that systematic testing, tweaking, retesting, confirming, testing some more, analyzing for faults, and more testing and analysis that makes science the powerful tool that it is. But there are no "short cuts." The work needs to be done and the process followed for the results to be meaningful.

So, why does science matter? Well, I'll tell you a little about how science has made my own life better. When I was a child, I received what are, and have been ever since the mid-20th century, considered "routine" vaccinations. As a result, I was not blinded or deafened by measles. I was not robbed of my ability to have children by mumps or rubella. I was not crippled by polio. I did not die young from smallpox. My lungs weren't ravaged by whooping cough. I didn't even have to suffer through the agony of diphtheria. I have never had to live in mortal fear of a deep cut because, thanks to a vaccination, tetanus poses no threat to me.

When I broke my wrists and ankles in childhood mishaps, I didn't have to live the rest of my life paying for my foolishness with permanent deformities because a doctor was able to set the broken bones so they could heal straight. When I caught the flu and I was too stubborn to rest, and so it turned into pneumonia, I didn't die because I had access to antibiotics to fight the infection.

My whole life, I've been able to get up in the morning and take a shower in warm water. I don't have to carry that water in from a river and burn wood to heat it because clever scientists figured out how to deliver water to faucets inside homes and also how to heat that water so that it's available when it's wanted.

There is food in my refrigerator and pantry because people have used agricultural science to figure out how to maximize crop output, fight plant diseases, and prevent predation from parasites. Others have figured out efficient ways to harvest those crops so that little is lost. More science was applied to creating refrigeration technology and other methods of food preservation. And still other people have figured out how to transport that food to places where I can purchase it.

Others have applied agricultural science to the production of animal-based food products. Thanks to science, we know what temperature those foods need to be cooked to in order to ensure safety. I've always been able to consume dairy products with confidence thanks to pasteurization.

I'm sitting in my living room now. The sun has gone down for the day, but I'm not sitting in the dark. Because science has made it possible for electricity to be delivered to my home, which powers light bulbs. The computer I'm writing this on is a wonder of scientific innovation. So many different scientific disciplines brought together so that we can all stay a little more connected to our friends.

Science impacts all of our lives every day in both large and small ways. From the time one of our distant ancestors picked up a rock or a stick to defend against a predator or bring down prey, or saw a brush fire and wondered if it would be possible to harness such a power for their own purposes, human beings and our predecessors have been using science. In more modern times, we've formalized the process of scientific inquiry and honed it into the most effective tool mankind has ever had for exploring, defining, and understanding the universe around us. Science has taken us into the depths of our oceans and out among the stars.

Have there been bumps and missteps along the way? Yes. But the beauty of the scientific process is that even mistakes serve to inform our study. We learn and fine-tune and try again. Until our results are upheld by repeatability and our methods can withstand the scrutiny of our peers and rivals.

In this way, science is superior to other methods of exploration. Because nothing needs to be taken on faith. Every conclusion can be questioned and tested. Every experiment analyzed for flaws in the methodology and unaccounted for variables. And once the evidence is in and confirmed by repeated testing and analysis, we can all study where that data came from, how it was collected, and we can prove for ourselves whether or not it supports the hypothesis or doesn't.

Science is vital to the continued survival of our species because it allows us to sift through the constant bombardment of information we experience and figure out what is and isn't supported by evidence. And once we've cleared away the noise, we can use what's left to find real solutions to real problems. And that's why science does, and always will, matter.

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