Science can be viewed as human’s way to see and understand the world. Our ability to conduct science stems from our innate creativity.
Is it Just a Mechanism?
The scientific method is a unique form of answering questions about the world because it cannot prove anything. It can only prove things wrong and provide evidence for why something might be true.
What is science? Here are three definitions of science that we can use as a baseline for assessing science in our history:
- Science is about attempting to understand how the world works and seeking answers in material explanations
- Science involves the testing of hypotheses in order to see if they make sense with the physical or material outcomes
- The goal of science is to develop the best questions and research to improve our knowledge, but not necessarily to know all the answers
Science is a very imaginative process and requires creative inquiries. Science relies on curiosity, innovation, and experimentation.
Animals are innovators. Birds make nests, termites make mounds, chimps hold leaves over their heads when it rains. When exposed to environmental problems, animals come up with creative solutions. Animals are curious beings, and it is through this curiosity that they innovate and solve challenges. They observe others and learn from trial and error.
Humans are also extremely curious and experimental. We desire knowledge- we want to know why and how the world works the way it does. We learn through trial an error, we collaborate, we teach each other, and we come up with solutions.
Beyond Hit or Miss
Science was sparked from a creative problem-solving system in which we use pre-existing knowledge to come up with new questions and develop more complex explanations. Humans have a desire to improve things, even things that already exist.
Lets look at an example. Cracking nuts is something that many animals engage in. Chimpanzees learn to crack nuts from watching mom and other adults. Eventually, they learn which hammer works best for cracking nuts. Early Homo went through a similar process when learning how to crack nuts, but they did not stop once they found the “best hammer.” They improved the system. They discovered that different sizes and shapes of nut determined what hammer or tool worked best. They learned a sharp edge worked best to crack one nut, but a flat stone worked better to crack multiple nuts at once. They took this information, shared it with each other, and improved the productivity of nut cracking. This is an example of ratcheting. Innovation was achieved by individual experience, group collaboration, and scientific investigation.
The Trajectory of a Spear
The earliest evidence for throwing spears is at a 300,000 year old site of Schoningen in Northern Germany. This proves that Homo incorporated math and science into their hunting because a knowledge of physics is necessary in order to throw a spear accurately. The development of spear throwing must have required much trial and error and experimentation in order to perfectly shape a spear and learn how to throw it at the right angle with the correct velocity.
Compound tools, tools that require two modified pieces to be attached together, were used regularly 80,000-125,000 years ago. These tools required great imagination, innovation, and experimentation. Homo developed adhesives in order to stick the pieces of compound tools together. They experimented with sap and ochre, and eventually the Sibudu from 70,000 years ago discovered that sap + ochre + heat from fire = strong adhesive. This discovery led to the creation of glue.
The rice stalks that the people of Pearl River valley in China modified to be shatterproof led to the first hypothesis. These people realized that if they selected for the shatterproof stalks, they could control the variation of rice in their farms. They experimented with this hypothesis and eventually were able to grow solely shatterproof rice! Selective hunting and farming is seen far back in our evolutionary history. Early Homo was using the scientific method and ideals that Mendel and Darwin prove thousands of years later.
Scientific Inquiry Turned Inward
Charles Darwin forever changed our pre-existing ideals about evolution and biology. He proved that we evolved from non-human primates and we still are evolving today. Since Darwin, we have delved into the topics of evolution and have greatly improved our understanding of the human body. This research has revolutionized medicine.
Science gives us great insight into our past and helps us solve our problems of the future. Our capacity for science stems from our imagination and creativity and will allow us to solve some of humankind’s greatest mysteries. Science alone does not solve all our problems, but it helps us to understand our own existence and tackle new challenges.