Today, November 10, is designated World Science Day for Peace and Development by the United Nations. At first I wondered about the choice to make the title so long–science on its own is a great thing to celebrate. But then I thought about all the science involved in the creation of mustard gas in World War I, and of the various methods for efficiently killing Jews and other “undesirables” during World War II, not to mention the scientific breakthroughs that brought us the bombs that vaporized Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
So I’m glad for a longer title–we want our science pointed firmly in the direction of peace and of sustainable development. Right about now we could use some brilliant scientific breakthroughs that would help us address climate change and all the related humanitarian disasters that are and will be unfolding, either in slow motion or in sudden cataclysms. And we need science that will help us figure out how to coexist peacefully and productively as the human family grows larger.
I’d be very glad to see some scientific help in the field of mental health, so that we all get better at recognizing the challenges that face us and those we love, and also those we really don’t like. We could all use more empathy, and that’s going to be easier to come by as we better understand our own and other people’s experiences and inner workings.
While I’m putting together a wish list, I would love for us all to have access to reliable reporting about what science is saying. I came across an article on Snopes.com (and if you don’t know the site, you should–it’s a helpful fact-checking source) that collected 10 news stories from last year that were supposedly science, but were mostly propaganda, like “our scientific report says all science on global warming is fabricated.” I know it’s too much to hope that everyone will all of a sudden turn entirely honest, so maybe it makes more sense to put our hope in improving our ability to evaluate what we read for basic plausibility. The better we get at identifying reliable information, the more progress we can make.
What science would you put on your wish list?
[Images: sciencestruck.com, stuff.co.nz]