by Rebecca Nesbit
Inspired by Alom Shaha’s Why is Scince Important? video, the four of us have produced our own take, based on one of our favourite foods – cake. As well as producing his own video, Alom ran an impressive project to collect the thoughts of scientists, public figures, and everyone who can comment on the question of why science is important. It’s worth a watch, and if any teachers get the question of ‘why are we doing this?’ then this is a good place to go for the answers.
I’ve also just sent off my written answer to the Why is Science Important? website, and here is what I said:
Back in the times of hunting and gathering, when wisdom
teeth were to replace ones we’d already lost, when food, shelter, firewood and
medicine all came from the forest or the plains, science was rather different.
We needed to know some engineering to make hunters’ weapons; we needed to
understand some biology to know when different plants would be ready to eat.
But now, in the age of farming and medicine and a population
of billions of people, when teeth fall out because of eating too much cake, the
science we need to survive is rather more detailed. If we want to eat cake, and
I certainly do, here are just a few of the many reasons we need science:
- Sustainable agriculture – science is essential if we are to produce enough food to feed
the world without doing long-term damage to the environment. Maintaining soil
fertility, finding new ways to control pests, protecting bees and other
pollinators, developing new varieties of crops, and designing effective
irrigation and drainage systems are some of the ways that scientific research
helps to feed us.
- Health – much as I would love to live on cake, our understanding of nutrition helps
keep me healthy and improve my quality of life. Food allergies and intolerances
prevent some people from eating cakes, but science helps treat their
conditions, and provide food they can eat.
- Energy – energy is involved at every stage from growing the crops to feeding me the cake
– making the fertiliser, harvesting the crop, processing the ingredients,
baking, storing, transporting… If that is to continue science needs to find
alternatives to fossil fuels.
It’s important that everyone understands science because decisions
about how we can make cake in the future shouldn’t just depend on a few
scientists, and nor should decisions be made by people who don’t understand
them. Decisions such as whether to use GM crops, whether to ban pesticides,
whether to put resources into protecting bees, and how to produce the energy we
need are everyone’s business. If they’re not made with an understanding of the
science behind them we are jeopardising our chance of a sustainable future.
Science helps me understand the world and to make it a better place.