Most people think you have to be super smart to be a scientist. Popular culture depicts the scientist as possessing a higher IQ level and level of intelligence than an average person. I used to think that too. I believed that only smart people became good scientists. I also believed I was smart. Both of these beliefs have been shaken completely now that I’ve actually embarked on the journey.
As the great Carl Sagan said in his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space,
“Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop.”.
“kālo’smi lokakṣayakṛtpravṛddho lokānsamāhartumiha pravṛttaḥ”
I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
Our ancestors lived a life of bleak prospects. Their average life expectancy was about 20-30 years. In between all the hunting, gathering and foraging, there was little time to wonder about the reason behind our existence and our goals as a species. And yet, those are the very questions that drove our ancestors to accomplish their most mythic achievements. Science is what has been driving our species forward. It is what drives our economies and what grows our industries. But most importantly, it is the one thing that can vanquish the darkness that surrounds us.
We may be tiny ape-like germs on a speck of dust, but we have developed a tool that can predict the motions of galaxies and determine the origin and fate of the cosmos. Merely thinking about this gives one a sense of euphoria. Whether they are accepted as such or not, scientists have always been the real heros of our species. They are the equivalent of brave wanderers who, in olden times, set off to discover lands unseen and bounties unimagined.
Yes. Science is flawed. I never said it wasn’t. It can take lives at a mind blowing scale. But hasn’t it also saved lives at an even larger scale? There are more people alive today than there ever were in history. This has all been possible due to science. Science increases agricultural productivity and survival chances. It is the reason the planet can sustain more than seven billion people.
It has chosen once, it seems,
And whether our concern
For magnitude’s extremes
Really become a creature
Who comes in a median size,
Or politicizing Nature
Be altogether wise,
Is something we shall learn.