Now we all know that EDGE asks an annual question to leading figures in academia/ intelligentsia and compiles their answers together and publishes as a book. That to me has always provided a rich perspective on contemporary matters. Alom and COPUS, in a similar vein, have asked a very topical question for the Year of Science 2009, which is as to Why Science Matters. This question they have put to prominent people in science education, research, writing, teaching and journalism (bloggers included). People who have answered include scientists like Dr Susan Blackmore, and there are a variety of perspectives from scientists steeped in diverse fields ranging theoretical physics to molecular biology.
I have been honored to participate in the same and you can read my full response here. Below, I am just providing a small teaser so that you indeed go to the main site to read my and others opinions as to why science matters.
Consider the problem posed by some people whose behavior is crazy or erratic as compared to the rest of the ‘normal’ and ‘sane’ individuals. These might have been labeled heretics or witches in the dark ages and deemed to be possessed by demons / spirits. Lacking a scientific insight into what really haunts and ails this ‘mad’ condition, the cure advised for the treatment / containment of the problem (insanity) would also be similarly non-scientific and irrational. Thus the burning at stakes in the middle ages of those who were perhaps suffering from some form of a mental illness, but were nevertheless characterized as being possessed by ‘spirits’ and thus in need of exorcism. If insanity is seen form this dualistic lens of an alien spirit having possessed the body, then one can easily see how witch-burning might have been a legitimate solution to the problem of insanity.