Home Sweet Home: How to be scientific

Home Sweet Home: How to be scientific

Scientists are the monks of the modern world. They are people who know the speed of light but can’t count their change. Warning signs that you are becoming a scientist are when you prefer maths with letters rather than numbers, when you find chess sexually arousing, and when your idea of a holiday is a symposium.

By Guy Browning

SCIENCE IS THE RELIGION FOR people who can’t cope with religion. The core belief is that science is an objective way of accessing the truth. Naturally there are as many scientific truths as there are scientists, because God (or science) hasn’t yet built an objective human being. Scientific facts and theories come and go like catwalk fashions, and as with fashions, you are completely beyond the pale in the scientific community if you don’t immediately start wearing them. 

Like most religions, science has its particular way of doing things which is called scientific method. This is where you have an idea and conduct experiments to see whether the idea stands up. There are as many experiments as there are ideas, so sooner or later you will match up your idea with the right experiment and the idea will be proved to be correct. That of course requires a heck of a lot of experimenting, which is what students are for. 

One of the laws of science (these change every so often, so check local press for details) is that whatever idea you have just verified after years of work in the laboratory, a research team at a mid-western American university has just proved the exact opposite. 

Science used to be fun. No-one knew anything (they did, but not scientifically, so it didn’t count) so you could just go around proving all sorts of stuff with a notebook and a few test tubes. Now you have to spend seven years glued to a microscope, looking up the backside of a fruit fly, before you can come to any sort of provisional hypothesis. It would be far better if you could just have the hypothesis and forget the research, but then you’d just be a free thinker and there’s no room for that kind of heretical behaviour in science. 

Scientists have a reputation for dressing poorly and having the social skills of a marrow. This is because they are all engaged in a wider experiment to prove that human interaction is actually unnecessary in the march of scientific progress. If you need to contact these researchers for any reason, they’re on the internet. 

Scientists are the monks of the modern world. They are people who know the speed of light but can’t count their change. Warning signs that you are becoming a scientist are when you prefer maths with letters rather than numbers, when you find chess sexually arousing, and when your idea of a holiday is a symposium. 

The central article of faith amongst scientists is that they are making progress. Like every other religion, they have an unshakeable belief in a better world to come. Of course, we won’t know whether that’s true until the big scientific experiment is over, but by then it will be too late.

© GUY BROWNING IS AUTHOR OF ‘NEVER PUSH WHEN IT SAYS PULL’ AND CREATOR OF ‘TORTOISE IN LOVE’ (DVD) – USED BY PERMISSION.