Science, humanity's greatest discovery

I am not a scientist by qualification or profession but I recognise that it is science that has allowed humanity to learn almost everything that we have learned about the world we all live in.

There are various definitions of science, look them up on the Internet. I will simply say that science is a method for understanding things, the best method that has been discovered so far. Basically it allows the development of theories by continual referral to evidence. If evidence contradicts a theory then that theory is not scientific and should be abandoned, or at least corrected.

To engage in science is to follow the evidence wherever the evidence takes one.

It is science that informed us that the Earth is just a speck in the Universe and that the Universe is amenable to reason. It is science that allowed us to learn that all matter is composed of some 90 or so elements, and that energy and matter are different forms of the same stuff. It is science that showed us the complexity of life, how living things are related to each other and how present living species came about.

Technology is applied science. The combination of science and technology has allowed our civilisation to get to where it is at present. Science and technology have been used for both good and bad, they are amoral; we need ethics to tell us how we should live.

I need to stress that science and technology are tools, they cannot be blamed for any misuse of them any more than a hammer could be blamed for someone using it to break a window.

This page was started 2020/12/08, last edited 2021/01/04
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

What has science allowed humanity to understand?

I'll list just a few of the things that science has allowed mankind to gain some understanding of...
  • The ancient Greeks did not have the scientific method down pat as we do today but nevertheless they discovered scientifically that the Earth was round and they used scientific methods to measured its size;
  • One of the earliest successes of science was in astronomy: discovering that the Earth is round and it's place in the Universe;
    • Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler used scientific methods to show that the Sun, not the Earth as was previously believed, was at the centre of the solar system.
    • Newton used science to discover the Law of Universal Gravitation; how everything in the Universe attracted everything else and how the amount of attraction depended on mass and distance;
    • Over time it was found that there were cases in which Newton's 'laws' didn't quite describe reality. Einstein produced his theories of relativity which has been very successful in describing the Universe on the large scale;
    • As scientists studied atoms, nuclei and sub-atomic particles it was found that neither Newtonian mechanics nor Relativity explained their behaviour. Quantum mechanics was developed to fix this and has been very successful;
    • Science has showed us how stars are formed, how they are powered, how they can become supernovae, neutron starts, black holes and other exotic objects.
    • Science has allowed us to measure the solar system and the Universe;
    • Just recently science has allowed us to build instruments that detect the vanishingly small distortions in space caused by the merging of black holes billions of light years away .
  • Science has allowed us to discover that everything in the solar system is made of of about 90 elements, what those elements are, how they interact, and how they formed.

Periodic table
Science has not only allowed the discovery of the elements that make up the solar system, but it has uncovered where they came from and how they formed.

I ask the reader to, just for a minute, ponder on what an amazing achievement this is.

Image source Science Blog from the SDSS; Origin of the Elements in the Solar System

I could go on attempting to list all the things that science has allowed us to discover. I could not possibly do justice to the attempt. I will make do with just a few more points:
It is science that permitted us to understand how we came to evolve from single celled organisms over several billion years, it is science that allowed us to discover the varied causes of disease, it is science that showed us that the Earth is about four and a half billion years old and the Universe about 13 billion years old, it is science that showed us that we are damaging our world by dumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and cutting down our forests.

The only reliable way that mankind has ever found to understand the world is through science. Religion has provided fairy stories in an attempt to explain the world; science uses observation and reason to search for truth.

It is remarkable how many of the milestones in the development of human society are connected with a scientific, questioning, free-thinking state of mind.

Some have said that science is just another religion.


Climate change, science, religion

Similarly, some have claimed that the belief that climate change is a developing disaster is also religious. The acceptance of climate science is necessarily scientific; it is not based on unfounded belief (like religion and climate science denial.)
  • Science is based on sound, verifiable evidence; religion is based on unsubstantiated belief.
  • Science is based on reason, religion is based on blind faith.
  • Science is based on doubting and questioning, religion is based on accepting.
  • Science is based on searching for truth, religion is based on being given falsehoods and being satisfied to accept them.
Science and religion have nothing in common.

The deepest roots of science are in philosophy, which, like science, is based on reason, doubt and searching.

Don't waste your advantages

The human brain is a remarkable instrument; the only thing in the Universe that we know of that is capable of understanding how the Universe works. Science is a remarkable tool; the only tool we know of that is capable of allowing us to understand how the Universe works.

We all use our brains, but if we use tools other than science to try to understand how the world works we can make egregious errors. Don't waste your amazing brain by ignoring science or disbelieving what it is telling us.