Dear Science Student: What Does Science Mean to You?

Is Science All About Math?

Too often, when we think of science, calculation and math comes up. However, is science as boring as this calculation?

The truth is that science is focused more on concepts rather than numbers, but that doesn’t make math less important. For example, we need to understand the concept of far and near first before we calculate to find the number of the distance. Without having the fundamental knowledge in science concepts, your calculation doesn’t makes sense. Think of it this way: you know it is 2 meters, but you have no clue how far it is because you don’t get the idea of far and near. So, what’s the point of knowing how to find the number while you don’t know the concepts?

Only you understand the ideas will the number make sense to you. This is because math is synthetic a priori, according to Kant. It is true by its own definition (a prior) while it helps to explain something in more details. It also doesn’t make sense on its own. In our case, 2 meters is used to help us understand better how close an object is. If there is only 2, the number doesn’t explain anything (is it 2 cows? is it 2 books? is it 2kg?).

However, there are some flaws in our education system. We are taught to calculate rather than to understand. Here is what I mean: suppose that your brother asks you what the electrons behave like, you are not expected to say, “I don’t know, but I know how to find atomic number in the exercises.” You are expected to say, “Though electrons look like a particle, it is not. In quantum mechanics, the study of subatomic particles such as quarks or photons, electrons are both particles and waves according to particle-wave duality. This is proven in the double slit experiment; which when electrons are observed, they behave like particles, and when they’re not, they behave like waves as you see the interference occurred. I know it’s hard to get at first, but you’ll eventually get it.”

Overall, in science, concepts should be our number 1 priority while the calculation should be the second.

Does Science See Things From Only One Perspective?

Here’s an interesting fact: different fields in science focus on different aspects. No matter how similar or related they seem to be, their priorities are different. Suppose a guy want to make love with a beautiful girl, what do a neuroscience and an evolutionary psychologist have to say? For a neuroscience, he would say arousal causes his cerebral cortex to signal the hypothalamus to stimulate the production of testosterone; and the receptors in his limbic system are stimulated to produce pleasuring feeling. For an evolutionary psychologist, he would say since she has a golden ratio figure and our brain is wired to have the copy of the genes as many as possible, mating with her will produce a beautiful offspring who will have lots of mate, and thus more copies of the genes.

Therefore, different fields in science will not focus on the same aspect like people think.

Does Science Make Mistakes?

One thing I must tell you is that no matter how true science seems to be, it is not 100 percent true. Why? Our knowledge in science is based on empirical evidence, the source of knowledge that is based on our primary senses. For example, were everyone born red-green colorblind, they would believe that red and green were the same colors, no matter how many times they have tried to experiment and observe the colors. Even if they tried to use mathematica as a tool to perfect their concept of colors, and even if they have mathematic calculations and experiments to back up their theory and law of colors, it does not mean that their concepts of color is really true. So, in science, it sounds like “Assuming it is true, based on what we observe and test, then the number of the calculation or the formula of this law would be…”

Another thing is that science usually focuses on something totally new to us. So, we don’t know whether our hypothesis or theory is true, and whether we are on the right path. This is why as technology get improved, the old theories (like the germ theory or the first atomic model) are pushed away. For example, when we study astronomy, there are a lot of things we don’t know for sure, but there are also a lot of theoretical frameworks that suggest it should be this or that. Thus, science is never 100% true, and that’s the reason why there are conflicts between scientists (how Einstein is opposing to quantum mechanics).

When Does Your Decision Matter?

In our lives, we have to use philosophy every day, be it work or vacation. Similarly, science also need philosophy to guide its way. However, science and philosophy need to be in balance because even one inequality will raise the ethical controversy. For example, scientists are trying to design a super human, so is it ethical to do so? Before superhuman, there is a big gap between the rich and the poor. And if the superhuman happened, there would be a very huge gap dividing the rich and the poor, where the rich can be more than human while the poor living worse than human. Another example is the Artificial Intelligence. When science tries to make it as realistic as human, will we treat them like normal human beings? Will there be an inferior race just like the old day when the blacks were treated as salves? These philosophical questions are confronting scientists every day. Thus, in science world, just because we can do it, it doesn’t mean we should.

Tips: According to my friend, if you want to study physics, chemistry or engineer at a serious level, you should know Single and multivariable calculus, linear algebra, real analysis, complex analysis and abstract algebra.

P.S. Maybe, you might not understand everything I am trying to say, so I suggest you read it a few times, if you have enough time, and try to get to google the words you don’t understand in this article. OR just understand my overall message.