Science Writing 104

Tired of “science” as a word?  Tired of talking about “science” as something that is only supposed to be referring to a process of learning?  Do you now notice when some talking head keeps referring to our body of knowledge as “science,” thereby making their argument sound more important than the other guy?

Then take some time off.  Watch a vid on your mobile.  Play 2048 on your tablet.  Stick some popcorn in the microwave and let it rip.  Wait a minute, what do we call all this fancy technology?

Welcome back, “science” aficionados.  Our society tends to lump all this technology into a special class of machinery that we call “science.”  The mobile, the tablet, the microwave, to many people these are all beyond their understanding.  So they like to lump it under “science.”  If you explain to them that even the lowly hammer has been improved of late, thanks to scientific methods, they won’t call the hammer “science.”  The hammer is easy to understand.

But the microwave?  That’s magic.  A pacemaker?  More magic.  Sending a machine to the edge of the solar system?  That’s ultra magic.  But we can’t call it magic, because we grow up learning that magic isn’t real.  So we call it “science” instead.  And it’s not science at all.

Science is a method of learning.  From that learning we are able to create knowledge; highly refined knowledge that takes years to learn.  Some of the people who learn this specialized knowledge go on to apply their learning to building things.  Machines, buildings, computer programs.  These people are engineers, and an engineer takes whatever knowledge they can get their hands on to build wonderful machines, like: microwaves, computers, Voyager spacecraft.

Science is a process, a means we use to learn.  The stuff we learn is knowledge, not “science.”  The stuff we build from that knowledge is, stuff! like machines, buildings, even cells.  That stuff is not “science” either.

So please be careful about how you use that word.  And when you hear it, put it into its proper place.  Like a good word engineer.


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