Friday, February 20, 2009

Victory is Phil's!

Over at Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait's latest post is a video explaining the importance of science. It's part of a larger project called "Why is Science Important?" Scientists make videos describing why they think science is important. It kind of gets back to a post Ashutosh left on The Curious Wavefunction, discussing the way science is presented to the public. My comment was that scientists should do their own PR- and what better way than this? Phil Plait has a great engaging style- and a poster featuring Stewie Griffin, so I think he's great for this sort of thing.

My one criticism of his video is the way he focuses on technology to represent the importance of science. I've never really felt technology was the raison d'etre for good science, it's simply the raison d'etre for private companies' R&D departments. Not that there is anything wrong with technology, of course. I tend to think of science as being on the same level as art. Pre-agricultural humans spent fewer hours working than modern humans. Modern humans don't work continuously in a toil to preserve their existence. It's unnecessary, and what's the point of existence if it is simply to exist?

Meanwhile, we laugh, we love, we play darts, and we explore our worlds and our lives. Is it so wrong to suggest that man should seek his own pleasure among the stars, and on Earth? That the joy of exploration is reason enough? Why is it that we devalue anything that does not have a place in the paradigm of industrial production? I argue that science has a place beyond technology, because humans have a place beyond mere existence. Ever since we were leaving paintings on cave walls, it has been in our nature to revel in our humanity, and discovery will always be part of that legacy.

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