Science is a new endeavor, being around 400 years old. It’s assumptions are simple, but limited.
1. Nature can be understood. 2. Science can be verified. Under the same circumstances, nature can be perceived in the same way by all observers. Repeatability is important to science. Measurement allows for duplication of results. 3. Human reason is adequate to understand nature. 4. Every effect has a natural cause.
The word “science” is based on the Latin word for “knowledge”. Science searches for order in nature.Science is a body of knowledge based on OBSERVATION. It’s dynamic, meaning that it is ever changing in content. It is a quest for understanding requiring Curiosity—asking questions, Creativity—ability to solve new problems, reasoning ability, and more recently Team work.
It’s certainly changed the world and killed superstition. However, Stripped of its glamor, day to day science can be routine and even boring. Or perhaps, at the best of days, familiar. Why does a person undertake being a scientist? Scientists are often driven by having outsider status.
In the book The Scientist as Rebel (2006) Freeman Dyson makes this statement. “There is no such thing as a unique scientific vision. Science is a mosaic of partial and conflicting visions. But there is one common element in these visions. The common element is rebellion against the restrictions imposed by the locally prevailing culture.”
Michael Strevens, a philosopher at New York University, supports this notion. He aimed to identify that special something that drives people to collect data. The something special, he says, is that they want to produce new evidence to argue with. He maintains, it is “the key to science’s success,” because it “channels hope, anger, envy, ambition, resentment—all the fires fuming in the human heart—to one end: the production of empirical evidence.”
I was a curious little girl, always asking why and what if. And science suits me. The routine is a comfort and the new is a thrill.But I might not have become a scientist at all if I hadn’t been told I couldn’t do it.
Thus,it should come as no surprise that the most recent winners of the Nobel Prize for chemistry are two women. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna. The two are noted for their development of a bacteria based gene editing technique known as CRISPR.
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, or CRISPRs, are repeating sequences found in the genetic code of bacteria. Bacteria use specific CRISPR associated genes as a defense mechanism against viruses. Viruses are as dangerous to bacteria as they are to us. In the CRISPR process, a protein is produced. It cuts viral genetic material, and the bacteria pockets it as a mug shot to use to identify the virus. Thus, the technique can cut and store bits of DNA in a cell’s strand.
For more information, watch this.
Scientists are curious rebels. They don’t accept the limitations of society and those with something to prove are among the most successful. It can be argued that to teach conformity and acceptance is to snuff out the scientific spirit.
Freeman Dyson warns, “If science ceases to be a rebellion against authority, then it does not deserve the talents of our brightest children…We should try to introduce our children to science today as rebellion against poverty and ugliness and militarism and injustice.”
Scientists are inherently skeptical and require a lot of proof for a new idea. They are also curious and like new ideas. This creates a tension. Most scientists enjoy and celebrate this tension.
And with this new Nobel, I have something to celebrate, since the CRISPR technique is used in my latest novel Lost in Waste. Catch the Crispr fever! For a copy click here, or comment.
And thanks to Curious Rebels forty years ago, the default for scientist is no longer a man.