09 Jul Reflections on Science Week
“Science knows no country because knowledge belongs to humanity and is the torch which illuminates the world” ~ Louis Pasteur.
In a world full of social and cultural divides, where people can be irrationally and deeply hateful of one another by virtue of superficial differences, there is a peace of mind one can enjoy by partaking in a universally accepted and enlightening subject like science.
Science is one of the most popular and loved subjects that Dainfern College offers. From Grade 0 to Matric as well as in the A Level programme, students are exposed to various scientific concepts and a love of the subject is cultivated from a young age. Every year the High School students express their love for the subject and celebrate science in an event that we call Science Week. Unfortunately, owing to COVID-19, students this year have not been able to indulge in the usual festivities which in the past included student demonstrations, guest speakers and our periodic table cupcake competition.
Instead, this article has been written to try and provide students with some of the clarity and understanding of the scientific world that would usually have been provided via demonstrations and other guest speakers. This article will look at the issues facing our society today and try to outline the future of the field.
In a world where knowledge is exchanged across the globe in mere seconds and illumination and/or improved understanding is a quick Google search away, it comes as no surprise that some of our greatest achievements and discoveries have occurred in the last century, during the age of information. The most pertinent question that we as a species must ask is: are we ethically equipped to deal with the power and ramifications of some of our more recent discoveries? For example, one of these issues is whether or not we should be genetically modifying plants and other organisms for our personal gain. These recent developments have raised the question of whether it would be ethical to genetically modify human beings. Our moral understanding has yet to catch up with our scientific understanding: as the research journal, Nature (1932) says “Due to the slow evolution of morals, [man] has, however, not yet learnt to command himself, to relinquish old habits of thought, sovereignty, independence, which are inconsistent with the command of Nature now put into his hands”.
The aeroplane was invented in 1903 and the moon landing occurred in 1969. These two milestones of human achievement are separated by a mere 66 years. This is a testament to our accelerated growth and development. However, this development has not come without its problems; our population and cities are growing quicker than we can support them. The United Nations says 9 million people die of starvation each year. Expanding industries and urbanisation have inadvertently caused global temperatures to rise by 0,2 degrees Celsius every decade. These are only two of the many problems that our generation is tasked with solving. Scientific developments will no doubt be behind many of the solutions to these issues.
According to Kevin Fong (The Guardian), until a century ago, science as a means of gaining understanding was seen as good enough for the likes of Newton and Einstein but fruitless for the economy. This could not be further from the truth and the paradigm shift the world has undergone is proof of that. With graduates entering various fields every day the scientific world is larger and more diverse than ever before.
According to LinkedIn projections, by 2030, eight out of the 12 jobs with the highest demand will be in various scientific fields. These jobs may include organ creation, earthquake forecasting, biofilm (artificial bacteria) production, makeshift structural engineering (3D printing homes), rewilding (building cities in an eco-friendly way through biomimicry), not to mention the 11 million jobs that already exist in renewable energy (IRENA). There are also many up-and-coming fields such as biomedical engineering and genetic engineering.
Nor does science only solve society’s problems: science is far more than a means to an end. Science is simultaneously a school of thought and a set of skills. It develops the problem-solving ability of students and hones their critical-thinking skills, all while improving their understanding of the world around us. The skills that science teaches us have application in all careers and it is because of this that there will always be a need for science in some way, shape or form for as long as humanity exists.
Co-head of Academics, Cambridge AS Level