Science is not a bunch of facts

If you haven’t beaten your beliefs with a cricket bat recently, here’s some inspiration to get started.

I’ve mentioned before that I like Tim Minchin. This recent piece he penned as forward to a book on Australian science writing just reinforces my view: It’s always nice when someone you respect thinks the same way as you.

Science is not a bunch of facts. Scientists are not people trying to be prescriptive or authoritative. Science is simply the word we use to describe a method of organising our curiosity. It’s easier, at a dinner party, to say ”science” than to say ”the incremental acquisition of understanding through observation, humbled by an acute awareness of our tendency towards bias”. Douglas Adams said: ”I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.”

Science is not the opposite of art, nor the opposite of spirituality – whatever that is – and you don’t have to deny scientific knowledge in order to make beautiful things. On the contrary, great science writing is the art of communicating that ”awe of understanding”, so that we readers can revel in the beauty of a deeper knowledge of our world.

Minchin’s Occasional Address at the Uni of Western Australia is worth watching (or if you share my preferences, reading) at any age, but especially if you’re a teenager. Here’s my favourite line:

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat.

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