From London to Mars: Moving Forward with Science

August 6, 2012

Promoting science is part of CFI’s mission. Presumably, most people reading this post do not need to be persuaded of the worth of this objective. Nonetheless, two recent events underscore just how marvelous a tool science is.

NASA has landed the rover Curiosity safely on Mars. Following a trip of over 560 million kilometers. After a precisely timed, minutely planned, carefully sequenced descent. This is a wonderful achievement made possible through scientific research and the practical application of the knowledge provided by science.

Perhaps even more stunning was what took place at the London Olympics when Oscar Pistorious competed in the semifinals of the 400-meter event, running on two prosthetic legs. Forget for the moment the controversy about whether these prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage. What’s amazing is that biomedical technology has enabled a person whose lower legs were amputated as a baby to run competitively in the Olympics.

The combination of these two events vividly illustrates the accomplishments that are possible with science.

Of course, science can’t do everything. One set of problems that science can’t solve is the irrational opposition to science and the elevation of other forms of “knowledge” over science. Regrettably, scientific research and the application of science-based technologies are still resisted by some on the grounds of religious dogma, mysticism or ideology, as witnessed by the opposition to stem cell research and genetically modified plants and animals. Moreover, much, if not most, of the world’s population still places a higher value on revelation, faith, or tradition than they do on science.

Our evolved brains have given us science, but they have also given us religion. Despite the achievements of science, there is no certainty that science will triumph. There remains much work to be done in support of science.