Why Is Science Important for Society?

Science plays a huge part in our daily lives, and it’s transforming our world at an incredible pace.

However, not everyone understands that it is not just about inventions or new technology or new medicines; Science is a lot more than that.

So, what role does science play in today’s society, and what makes it so important?

Lesley L. Smith, Ph.D.

Lesley L. Smith

Research Associate | Physicist, University of Colorado

As you may have guessed, I am very passionate about how awesome science is.

Science has created crucial knowledge that we need every day such as medicine, food preparation, and agricultural practices

Basically all modern medicines we have were discovered or created using science. One of the first was the discovery of Penicillin in 1928 when Sir Alexander Fleming was experimenting in his lab in London.

Ancient people learned how to cook and prepare food through trial and error—basically the scientific method. Now, thanks to modern science, we understand how cooking such as the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar usually requiring heat, work.

Ancient peoples also used a nascent scientific method to learn what practices worked best in agriculture. Today, science has taught us
rotating crops, increased crop diversity, cover crops, reducing tillage, integrated pest management, and other practices are very effective.

Science paved the way for technology

Other benefits of science in your everyday life include technologies such as computers, cell phones, and other communications devices, television, cars, buses, and the like. If scientists hadn’t discovered electricity, none of these would be possible.

In 1800, Italian physicist Alessandro Volta is credited with discovering that certain chemical reactions could produce electricity, kicking off an exciting era of electric discoveries.

Science is also how we create new knowledge moving forward because it’s a logical method to solve problems

You probably learned the scientific method in school: ask a question, do background research and construct a hypothesis, test your hypothesis via experimentation, analyze data and draw conclusions, share results.

We need science/the scientific method to solve current and future problems, including how to get along with one another, how to better predict severe weather like tornadoes and hurricanes, possible ways to fix climate change, and even how to cure cancer.

Today, scientists are hard at work on these and many other issues and they freely share their discoveries in scientific journals so we can all benefit together.

Related: 14 Best Popular Science Books of All Time

Paolo Magrassi

Paolo Magrassi

Physicist | Technology Analyst, The Analyst Syndicate | Digital Technologies Consultant, European Commission

Science is first of all important because it is materially useful: it gives us technology, like biology, energy, medicine, or computers

Technology, which started to grow exponentially in the 1800s and exploded in the second half of the 1900s, is perhaps the most important driver that has enabled us to reduce global absolute poverty from 55% to 15% over the past 40 years and under-five mortality rate from 90% to 15% since 1990. It is allowing to feed far more people than 50 years ago. And the average worldwide life expectancy at birth is now 72, compared to 53 in 1960.

Were it not for technology and its underlying science, we would not have drugs, MRI, vaccines, limb prostheses, cinema, the world-wide-web, computers, tv…

Related: How Has Technology Changed our Lives

Science is also important because it is the best method invented so far to investigate nature and understand how it works

This is not only useful but also psychologically and intellectually rewarding. Two other great human mental methods exist, art and religion. They are both great. They entertain us, they comfort us, they give us joy and they keep us spiritually alive.

Art and religion also sometimes provide us, like science, with some tools to study reality. But in this respect science is perhaps unbeatable, because it teaches us a good practical methodology to (a) communicate in an unambiguous fashion, and (b) allow others to verify our results.

Science never rests on its results

Contrary to a widespread belief, science is not concerned with truth. Rather, science is concerned with constantly looking for the best possible explanations of phenomena.

Scientists are obsessed with disproving something that has already been scientifically proved. And in fact, one definition of science is a human activity that only deals with falsifiable theories. Science is by no means infallible. This makes it nice, and it teaches us a lot.

Petri Launiainen

Petri Launiainen

Author, A Brief History of Everything Wireless: How Invisible Waves Have Changed the World | Former Vice President, Nokia | Chief Technology Officer, Datumize

Education systems around the world are facing the growing pressure of replacing hard science with faith-based “facts” in their curricula.

One prominent example of this is the United States, where wealthy donors are actively promoting an attempt to suppress scientific thinking by belittling subjects like evolution. The irony of this is that many of these donors made their fortunes by applying hard scientific facts to real-life business opportunities: yet, they are now hell-bent on reducing this potential for the next generation.

Science promotes fact-based education

On the opposite scale of this movement is the homogeneous, fact-based education model that is prevalent in the Nordic countries. The curriculum includes subjects that guide the students towards critical thinking, aiding them to resolve the truthfulness of their data sources in a world in which fact and fiction appear to be presented on equal footing.

But education is only one side of the coin: open access to libraries with quality content that offers both fact and fiction for curious young minds has played an important role, too, and is often directly connected to the appreciation of learning in general. Many prominent careers have been sparked by a random book that the reader came across on a library shelf.

Today, the library concept is increasingly being taken over by the Internet: it is the new, universal “Library of Alexandria”. Internet is the great equalizer that allows practically anyone anywhere to tap into the ever-expanding information pool at their own pace. And with the expansion of wireless technologies, this limitless source of information is now in everyone’s pocket.

But none of this would exist without science: the trip that these words have to make from the touch of a link on your smartphone screen to the point when you actually are reading them is fiendishly complicated.

The seemingly effortless collaboration of the flow of electrons and the propagation of electromagnetic waves is the result of the accumulated effort of countless engineers over a period of hundred years, all rooted in hard science that has its origins even further back in time.

And the Internet is just a tiny spec of our daily environment that has been made possible by the advances of science. More down to Earth examples are sanitation and the electric power grid: the effort needed to keep the lights on and the water running in and out in today’s mega-cities is a formidable feat of technology, yet all this is taken for granted by us city-dwellers.

Knowing all this, it is truly hard to grasp the growing keenness to willingly throw away all that accumulated scientific knowledge and promoting baseless beliefs instead. The hardest advocates against learning are often related to religion: a sordid example is Boko Haram, the name of which loosely translates into “Western education is a sin”. Yet, if they followed their own norms, they would fight their wars with sticks and stones instead of guns and explosives.

Even more alarmingly, this kind of “make-believe” is increasingly spreading also to advanced societies. The denial of global warming and the growing hostility against vaccinations are sad examples of such movements. Both have the power of killing thousands or even millions of people in the longer term.

As an example, the 1952 polio epidemic in the US infected nearly 58,000 people in that year alone, of which 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. But as there are no signs of such devastation around us today, some people are willing to take the risk of bringing similar horrors back, parroting claims that have been completely refuted by the scientific community.

The nasty side effect of the Internet is that it puts a website run by a dedicated loony on an even footing with a multi-billion dollar organization like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Both are accessible on identical terms, and assessing the validity of this information is left to the reader.

Maybe the biggest paradox here is that however anti-science the message may be, the channel that is used to promote the view would not exist without a century of applied science.

The Library of Alexandria ended up being destroyed by waves of mobs, commanded by short-sighted rulers. The spreading of misinformation via the channels that were made possible by science has the danger of unraveling our societies if we let ourselves to be numbed by the falsehoods.

If our leaders start basing their decisions on faith and hearsay instead of hard facts, our societies will eventually crumble: modern societies won’t survive without the acceptance and appreciation of science.

In the words of the late Carl Sagan, “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

Raymond Kennard, Ph.D.

Raymond Kennard

Assistant Professor, Husson University

On the surface, this seems like an easy question to answer. As a scientist, it is easy for me to list the countless number of great achievements that science and the scientific method have accomplished for the general benefit of society.

Whether we are talking about the discovery of the Americas, landing a man on the moon, the first heart transplant, and yes even something as historic and rudimentary as the discovery of fire.

Throughout history, any great leap in advancement is owed in part to the study of science and the scientific method

With this mindset, one may be inclined to come to the conclusion that science it the most important tool for society. Sadly, for every great achievement that can be listed, science has helped create some of the most horrible and devastating circumstances our society and planet have ever faced. The atomic bomb and our current environmental crisis are two such examples.

This is not to say that science is good or bad. This dichotomy is dependent upon how science and technology are used by individuals or groups of individuals.

The true study and implementation of science and the scientific method is the culmination of all of the important aspects of every culture on our planet.

Ethical and effective science that benefits humanity depends upon the creativity of the arts, the analytical analysis of mathematics, effective communication of the language arts, observation of historical phenomena, and the ethical tenants taught to us by philosophy and religion. Using all of these different disciplines in concert leads to beneficial advances for individual human beings and humanity in general.

Science teaches us to gather facts from as many sources as possible, evaluate their validity, analyze this data, remove any bias opinions and ethically report the results in a conclusion, with the intent to inform the public so that they may make use of this information in the most beneficial way.

Science also teaches us that just because we can do something, even though it may benefit us right now, there are times when we ethically shouldn’t.

Alex Dyer

Alex Dyer

CEO & Founder, Tutor House

Science has shaped society in ways far beyond what we can appreciate

From discovering DNA to the creation of the internet, science has shaped our understanding of ourselves and those around us, while also increasing our lifespan, connectivity, and quality of life.

The impact of science is felt at every level of society, from the creation of entire industries like pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and technology, to enabling even those most mundane of daily activities like boiling a kettle or sending a text.

Looking to the future, science has the potential to change the genetic makeup of society, as new developments in the field of genome editing begin to emerge, while global societal issues like population increase and climate change are increasingly turning to science for salvation.

Beyond that, perhaps the most important aspect of science is that, in an age of fake news, social media and rise of extreme beliefs in politics, religion and social movements, science teaches us to think independently and objectively, to continuously challenge our assumptions in an endless search for the truth.

In an age of ever-increasing uncertainty with many challenges to face, science could be the thing that saves us.

Lisa Richards

Lisa Richards

Nutritionist, The Candida Diet

As a society, we owe our knowledge of food and nutrition to science

Why is this important? Without this knowledge, we would be unable to manage and prevent many chronic illnesses. Consider the individual living with a diabetes diagnosis.

Science has led to deepening our understanding of how to manage this disease through diet, and in some cases, with medication.

The patient with hypertension or high cholesterol is now more equipped with an understanding of how their dietary habits impact their health and quality of life overall.

Science has broadened our understanding of just how intricately our physical, mental, and emotional health are tied to the foods we do or do not consume.

Because of science, we are able to increase our quality and longevity of life while avoiding many of the illnesses our parents and grandparents endured.

Related: Best Nutrition Books

David LaVine

David LaVine

Computer Engineer | Marketing Consultant | Founder, RocLogic Marketing, LLC

Science is a great counterpoint to help keep us in check as a society

Our emotions, desires, and irrational behavior can create incremental problems that can accumulate and become very real problems for us all as a group.

Science helps us describe what’s going on in the world around us in a logical and rational manner

Climate change is a great example of this. Without science, it would be difficult to grasp the impacts that each of us contributes to making our planet less viable in the future (eg. carbon footprint, changing weather patterns, harming our food supply).

Science will also be used to describe the positive impacts we’ll need to have over the coming years to reverse the effects.

Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel

Founder & CEO, Prep Expert

Science drives technological innovation

Technological innovation is the single most important aspect of any society that allows its people to live safe, secure lives. This doesn’t mean simply cell phones and video games. It also includes housing, plumbing, lighting, farming, transportation infrastructure, etc. Every one essential for the sustainability of any society. However, science is also important because it is powered by the human imagination.

It allows us to engage our innate curiosity and creativity to see what’s possible and how to achieve it. Every important innovation started with the question “what if?”, and Science allowed that idea to be tested and realized.

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