There are reports that the Government are planning to cancel the National Children’s Science Centre at a time when we need to get serious about science, more than ever. Yes, I know, many see me as the science nerd who bangs on about how great the Moon and astronomy and science is. It can be interesting, amusing at times and I’m sure many of you see it as a commendable past time but when all is said and done it’s just another hobby. Well, yes, it is just another hobby and for me a great one but there is genuinely a more serious side to it.
Science is not just the subject you once did in school or that your children do now. The application of science is what is dominating all our lives right now. Pandemics, vaccinations, climate change, the bees disappearing, all these issues are not happening in the background they are smack bang in the middle of our lives. And the message that is becoming louder and louder is that what we do has a direct impact on all of these things. While other social issues such as gender identity, the right to life, the rights of people with special needs, obesity may not directly affect all of us, our attitude toward them directly affects how as a society we deal with them.
I know that science is not the only consideration in relation to many of these matters but it is a fundamental one and having some appreciation of the facts will go a long way in allowing you to come to an informed opinion and action. If it was the case that for every problem, issue and challenge we face as a society, we had a certain group of experts that knew with 100% certainty what exactly the best thing to do is then really all we would need to do is just find out who the relevant group is and follow their lead and actually, this is what many think they can do. They identify the group and then go into auto pilot and let the chosen group do the thinking. Now I want to let you into two little secrets. Firstly there are no groups that know with 100% certainty how to deal with any issue and secondly, any group that claims it’s 100% certain is almost certainly lying to you and/or themselves!
There are groups that know a lot more than others and their interpretation and consequent recommendations could be considered the best advise out there. You may even have a number of reputable groups who may have good but slightly differing advise. Ultimately you have to pick your way through these groups and decide which way you are going to go. Unfortunately for too many of us it’s the opinion of a certain politician or celebrity, a particular newspaper or website, a local neighbour or family member that usually sways your opinion because we ‘like’ them. If you depend on others to make up your mind, drifting along with certain opinions, eventually your views will be tied to popular trends and not the actual facts while all along we convince ourselves that our argument is based on logic and it is insulting to imply otherwise. We are so easily insulted these days!
We are all prone to this, not necessarily in all subjects but definitely in some. The only way to know your mind is to open it, is to inform yourself and is to read beyond the headline. Look, no one expects you to become an expert in any scientific field. You don’t have to be an expert to read opinion and to weigh the value of that opinion up against the person or persons giving it. If your car is acting up you go to a car mechanic who will advise you. Now your friend may be a brilliant brain surgeon or artist or whatever and they too may have some valid insight into your car problems but you know the mechanic is experienced, knowledgeable and has seen it all before, it only makes sense you give more weight to his opinion. It doesn’t mean that everything he says is absolutely correct. You may have to look up
the meaning of some of the terms he uses. You can still talk to friends to see if they have had similar experiences and see if that helps your understanding. Now if you would do this for your car, surly you would do it when it comes to things like the health of the environment, you and your family.
A little bit of reading around, chats with people with experience, familiarising yourself with basic terminology and concepts. All this is light touch but so effective. Having the opportunity to visit educational facilities that specialise in conveying scientific principles like a National Children’s Science Centre is an essential, not a luxury. Basic scientific principles are at the heart of what is affecting you now. Imagine how easier it would be to weigh up what is going on around you and how to react to issues if you just informed yourself with a little science. It doesn’t have to be a daunting task. There are plenty of easy and informative, even fun ways to engage with science. Books, magazines, websites, people! At times you may not be sure how good the source material is but trust me, the more you inform yourself, the more you can tell the chancers from the real thing. And please don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there is the one right answer out there if only you can find it. Life is not black and white, but at least with having a basic understanding and an appreciation of the fundamentals in science you will be able to better make up your own mind and understand why you have taken the position you have. And it all may start with a brief chat about the Moon! You see it might not be just another hobby after all!