Sir Harold Kroto (2012) - Science - Lost in Translation?

Sir Harold Kroto (2012)

Science - Lost in Translation?

Sir Harold Kroto (2012)

Science - Lost in Translation?

Abstract

This presentation explores the way in which the ideas and advances of people like Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler to Newton and Leibniz laid the foundations of Science. It was not until their time that mathematics was finally recognized – and not without some difficulty – as the language through which the Universe spoke. The moment when the First Equation of Physics, ie an equation describing a physical process, was actually written down in terms of symbolic algebra was the critical one. Symbolic formalism is of course also intrinsic to the development of Chemistry and Molecular Biology.

The Enlightenment was a byproduct of this philosophical breakthrough and right from the moment of its birth the “infant” Science found itself in conflict with the established order which was based on dogma. The intrinsic source of this conflict continues to this day and will, almost certainly, lead to serious consequences for the human race in the future. Up to about fifty years ago, almost everybody needed at least some common sense to survive, but Science, arguably the most influential factor in shaping the modern world, has been so incredibly successful that most people no longer need any common sense (at least in the developed world) to survive. Society has in general benefited greatly from the application of scientific advances ie Technology, but this very usefulness and more recently its efficiency have obscured the fact that Science is a supremely cultural and, more importantly, an intrinsically ethical activity. Indeed at its most fundamental level Science is actually a subset of Natural Philosophy which is the only philosophical construct mankind has devised to decide on what can be “true” with any degree of reliability. Natural Philosophy simply asserts that evidence is absolutely necessary for the validation of any and all claims without exception.

It is as difficult to appreciate many of the deeper aspects of Science (physics in particular) without some fluency in mathematics as it is for someone who knows no English to appreciate the deeper aspects of Shakespeare’s writing. Today Science is a victim of its own success in creating so many powerful, efficient and above all useful modern technologies. This has resulted in a serious problem in that society is now totally dependent on the fruits of science, ie our Technologies, and uses them extensively without any need for understanding of even interest in how they work or how they were developed. This is leading to some serious problems for the human race in the 21st Century on two levels: Firstly few people, including people in major positions of responsibility such as politicians, possess the analytical skills necessary to make sensible judgments on major issues, such as sustainability armed conflicts etc and secondly, the Enlightenment is under threat as those who arrogate their power and influence through dogma, mystical dogma in particular, are conspiring to drag humanity back into a New Dark Age.

There is only one last hope for the future and this resides in a massive global educational offensive. Fortunately there has been a major advance in that the birth of the Internet offers the second most important contribution to education since the invention of the printing press. The amazing Wikipedia project has shown the way the GooYouWiki world can help to educate on a global scale. Our GEOSET programme (www.geoset.info see also www.vega.org.uk) is also one such project which aims to harness the efforts of educators in a synergistic exercise to improve the knowledge and understanding of people wherever they are and in particular help teachers achieve this end. Amazingly we have discovered that some of the most effective creators of educational material are talented students motivated to contribute to this highly humanitarian project.

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