What is Science?

The specialization demanded by the expansion of knowledge has made these journals accessible only to those with proper expertise, who inevitably come in contact with one another. Various conferences, organized by the scientific community facilitate the collaboration of experts and a multitude of universities and laboratories, funded by governments and private citizens, house these specialists. The caliber of the universities and laboratories is determined by the quality of their resident scientists. New discoveries are first discussed among experts, then published in prestigious journals, and finally announced in conferences for a wider audience. If a theoretical discovery is announced in a reputable conference, or an experimental/observational discovery is made in a prestigious laboratory, we can rely on the validity of the discovery and accept it as scientific truth.

We believe in the existence of Higgs boson because numerous theoretical and observational articles — some securing Nobel Prizes for their writers — by a tiny fraction of physicists have appeared in reputable journals over decades, culminating in the fact that there should exist a particle we have come to know as Higgs boson. I am a theoretical physicist and haven’t the slightest clue as to how a Higgs boson is found. But if you ask me how I know that the Higgs boson really exists, I’ll tell you that I believe in the scientists at the Large Hadron Collider who, on 4 July 2012 claimed that they had found the elusive particle.

This brings me to the crux of the nature of scientific facts. If reputable scientists and their respected organizations sign on to a statement based on scientific research of other scientists, the statement becomes a scientific fact. And it does not matter whether or not an ordinary citizen or even a non-expert scientist can verify it for themselves. Many of us have not seen a chromosome, but if biologists tell us that we all possess twenty three pairs of them inside the nuclei of all the cells in our body, we have to accept the statement as a scientific fact.

The revelation of scientific truth to only a handful of scientists, consequent to the specialization of knowledge, creates an opportunity for people in power, whose interest is threatened by scientific facts, to exert their socio-economic pressure to discredit those facts. And they can always find mainstream scientists who are willing to renege, leave the mainstream, and publish their own “alternative facts” for the right price. These facts then become a forceful tool — and a convincing reinforcement for lobbyists — to persuade the lawmakers, most of whom have a background in science as strong as a first grader’s background in Shakespearean  literature, to pass laws that remove the scientific barrier to the financial gain of the interest group.

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Education drives the evolution of our species.