I ran across this quote recently, as I was researching for a story on science in society. I thought it was such an interesting take on science that I wanted to share it:
“The fuel on which science runs is ignorance. Science is like a hungry furnace that must be fed logs from the forests of ignorance that surround us. In the process, the clearing that we call knowledge expands, but the more it expands, the longer its perimeter and the more ignorance comes into view. . . . A true scientist is bored by knowledge; it is the assault on ignorance that motivates him – the mysteries that previous discoveries have revealed. The forest is more interesting than the clearing.” – Matt Ridley in the book Genome: the autobiography of a species in 23 chapters
Science is not always appreciated by society as whole, perhaps because it is misunderstood? Open up any newspaper and you will read articles like the nuclear scientists in Iran being killed in car bombs, or climate scientists in the U.S. and Australia receiving hate mail and death threats. Teachers in some southern states are verbally attacked by angry parents when they teach evolution. Why all this hostility? And why should we care?
Because science leads to a better understanding of the world around us. It creates new technologies that enhance our lives. It fulfills us in ways that would not be possible without it. There may be a lot of scientific ignorance out there, as Ridley refers to, but thankfully there are also a lot of scientists and educators working to assault that ignorance and bring about a better understanding of, and appreciation for, science.
Intrigued about science and society? Read my article on the cover of the winter issue of Keystone Wild!Notes, due out on the internet by the end of February.