Why do we science?

As a student in the life sciences, I struggle often with determining the point of what I’m doing.  I had to ask my research advisor at least three times what the point of my research project was, and I’m still not totally sure I understand.  I’m often told that “knowledge for the sake of knowledge, discovery for the sake of discovery” should really be the point, but I really have a lot of difficulty getting behind that.  Sure, what I’m doing in the lab is interesting, but will it really help people?  I’m not sure.  Is that a sign I maybe shouldn’t be a scientist?  Potentially.

That’s why it was so encouraging to find this earlier this evening.  Unfortunately, the sound on my computer is on the fritz at the moment, so I haven’t actually been able to watch the video yet.  But even the section that was transcribed was incredibly interesting and insightful, and I can’t wait until it gets fixed so that I can watch it and gain a more in-depth understanding about what Neil deGrasse Tyson is trying to get across.

I find it refreshing to look at my research project in a new way.  I don’t necessarily have to be doing something that directly relates to solving cancer in order to improve the world.  I can see the practical applications to what I’m doing, but only in  a very abstract way.  It’s hard not to compare yourself to your friend working in a cancer lab when you’re counting seeds on a plant.

Science is as science does, and it all helps humanity in some way, even if the final application isn’t there yet.  It’s important to keep that in mind, and help to put everything in perspective.

I’ll be back with more thoughts on the entire video as soon as I can get my sound up and running.

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3 responses to “Why do we science?

  • dannyfritz

    Your question on finding meaning in your research is answered almost directly in this video at around 35 minutes into it. You don’t get to know how your research will be used by engineers and other non-scientists applying science, but great things can come out of it that you never imagined. They just needed that bit of information to spark their idea.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson has a very positive outlook on the public and their acceptance and interest of science. This view is relieving in the trail of all the fundamentalists I have talked to that categorize science as a religion of lies.

    P.S.: “my computer is on the fritz.” Well, get your computer off me and invest in a table.

  • alliegrace

    I’m unsure how you manage to be a student and a built in desk in my room, but congrats on the accomplishment!

  • Analysis: Wordpress Blog Statistics « Danny "TechnoCat" Fritz

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