What is "Science"?

Who and What Is It For? And Who Gets to Say?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Grobstein

Center for Science in Society

Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania 19010

U.S.A

pgrobste@brynmawr.edu

610 526-5098

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the inaugural issue of the Journal of Research Practice

Draft (incomplete) 15 August 2004


 


I suspect that my writing this article will incline at least a few people who have (or would have) regarded me as "scientist" to write me out of membership in that community, and for that reason to dismiss what I have to say here.   The risk is probably equally great with people who regard themselves as "scientists" and those who don't. Though for somewhat different reasons, both groups are likely to share a common feeling that one cannot both be a "scientist" and argue, as I will, that some widely accepted understandings of what "science" is are not only wrong but counter-productive, and potentially dangerous.   So let me say at the outset, to both groups, that I think of myself very much as a "scientist", and take great pride and satisfaction in my work as a "scientist", past and ongoing.  Furthermore, I regard this article as very much a part of that work.  In short, I hope those inclined to disenfranchise me as a "scientist" will hear me out before passing judgement. My objective is not to attack "science" but to encourage the same kind of critical examination of our understandings of science that science itself promotes in its examination of our understandings of other phenomena.  It is, I will argue, exactly that critical perspective that is the source of the demonstrable power that "science" has.  And it is exactly that critical perspective, turned on itself, that science needs in order to continue to evolve, in the most productive ways possible, the essential role it has to play in human culture, both for those who, at the present, regard themselves as "scientists" and those who do not.

 

With that said, I suspect I am at this point running a different risk with a somewhat different group of potential readers, again (significantly) including both people who currently think of themselves as "scientists" and people who don't.   The problem this time has to do with "the essential role [science] has to play in human culture", a phrase that many people who regard themselves as scientists as well as many who don't will find equally troubling.  The former may wonder why they should worry at all about culture; science is science and that's what they do --- culture is something different and can take care of itself.  And the later may wonder why they, conversely, should think at all about science (or perhaps are already worried about it as a threat to culture).  Common to both is a perspective that science and culture are different and parallel things between which one can choose (perhaps with the addition of the idea that one threatens the other).  To these people too, I ask you to hear me out.  Science, I will argue, is not usefully conceived as an alternative (either neutral or competitive) to culture.  It is instead a central element of human culture, one that existed long before the term "science" was coined and one that will remain long past our current era when "science" is seen by many as an odd or specialized or privileged activity that can be engaged in only by those receiving difficult and advanced training and duly anointed by a self-perpetuating professional community. Just as I would prefer not to have what I say dismissed because of disagreements about whether I do or do not fall in the category of "scientist" so equally I would not like it dismissed over disagreements about whether I do or do not fall into the category of "member of human culture".  The needed "critical perspective turned on itself" for science is necessarily also a rethinking of the role of science in culture and hence of culture itself.  It cannot be achieved without a very substantial blurring of the borders between those who think of themselves as "scientists" and those who think of themselves as something else, and will, I believe, inevitably result in a further blurring of those borders.

 

There is a third group of potential readers, perhaps the largest one but in any case certainly again a mix of those who think of themselves as scientists and those who don't, who, perhaps even more than the first two groups, need and deserve to be acknowledged at the outset of this essay.  For this third group the notion that science is a part of culture will not be surprising, either because they have had as yet no reasons to think otherwise or because, at the other extreme, they have had adequate reasons to give a lot of thought to the matter, and have done so.  The things I have to say about science itself may also not be surprising to this third group, for one or the other of the same two reasons.   Here it is not enough to ask for indulgence and patience.  The question that instead needs to be addressed is "why are you writing this essay at all?  Are you simply beating dead horses, or do you actually have something new, or at least useful, to say?"

 

I'd like to think that I do indeed have something new to say, but that is largely an "academic" question and my concerns here are more practical.  So I will content myself with explaining why I think this essay might be useful, even for a group of readers who may not find anything in it with which they find themselves in sharp disagreement (indeed, perhaps particularly for that set of readers). 

 

More than 50 years ago, CP Snow, the British scientist and novelist, called attention to what he referred to as a "two cultures" divide:

 

I believe the intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two groups. When I say the intellectual life, I mean to include also a large part of our practical life, because I should be the last person to suggest the two can at the deepest level be distinguished ... Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension - sometimes (particularly among the young) hostility and dislike, but most of all lack of understanding ... This polarisation is sheer loss to us all. To us as people, and to our society. It is at the same time practical and intellectual and creative loss, and I repeat that it is false to imagine that those three considerations are clearly separable. 

 

 

While there have been extensive discussions about what exactly constitutes the "divide", there is no question but that it relates to "science", and to some more or less sharp distinction between people who are and people who are not interested in and engaged with "science".  And there is no question but that that "divide" persists today.  In 2004, the New York Times celebrated the 25th anniversary of its weekly Science Times with a special issue having a lead article entitled "Does Science Matter?".  The authors wrote 

 

" ... there are new troubles in the peculiar form of paradise that science has created as well as new questions about whether it has the popular support to meet the future challenges ... Science has also provoked a deeper unease by disturbing traditional beliefs"

 

The tension between those who have some degree of comfort with "science" and those who don't may have been at one point primarily a disagreement among intellectuals but it is now, as Snow forecast, increasingly significant in "practical life", at a whole variety of scales ranging from international conflict to national policy to local interactions between individuals in educational and other contexts.  To further cement the point, a few comments I've recently collected in an educational context:

 

My personal view of science for many years was, well, summed up with one word, "Yuck!"; in primary school it was indistinguishable from the morass of general information we learned from uninspiring textbooks and well-meaning, but insipid teachers. Middle school was worse: sterile classrooms in which science was lectured at us, and labs were limited to teacher demonstrations with very little student-centered learning. Then came the nighmarish annual science project ... Along with college pretty much came the exit of science from my life ... Karen Cohen (high school teacher)

 

"Science came from a textbook with very little experimentation or discovery because all of the answers were written on paper, you just needed to read and understand them. ... There are teacher preparation programs that continue to steer clear of the subject unless you have declared science to be your area of certification. So we know where that leaves the K-8 educator. This in turn becomes apparent in some classroms where we continue to breed a group of young people who are phobic about science" ... Janet Middleton (middle school teacher)

 

"Science has always been regarded as a very different approach to life. In fact I used to think that it was a way of life for some weird people. Actually people see scientists as nerds in the society" ... Ayatola Oronti (high school teacher)

 

Science as "indistinguishable from the morass of general information we learned from uninspiring textbooks"?  As "all the answers were written on paper, you just needed to read and understand them"?  As "a way of life for some weird people"?  Are we (both those of us who are "scientists" and those of us who are not but are engaged with and have some understanding of it) fully aware of what many people think about "science"?  Of how remote from it they may actually be, and what the consequences of that are, for us, for themselves, and for others (particularly but not only the context of generating expectations in the next generations)?

 

Science education can, of course, be done in a way that paints a different picture of "science" but, even then and there, one runs into problems.  I discussed the New York Times article in a college introductory biology course and got an important response from a particularly thoughtful student.  I felt that the Times article misrepresented the terms on which science ought to be evaluated and wrote the following as a correction:

 

"The distinctive role that science has played in our culture... is to be the embodiment of permanent skepticism, of a persistant doubt about the validity of any given set of understandings reached by whatever means (including those of science itself). It is the insistence on doubting existing understandings, not the wish to eliminate human ills nor to find 'answers' that has always animated science and has always been source of its power and successes"

 

To which the student responded:

 

      This is a stirring appraisal of science and one that I would very much like to believe. But I'm beginning to have my doubts. In my conversations with others about the natural sciences and the social sciences, I have represented the views that you express in class - about the noble skepticism of science - as those of the scientific community at large. Now I sense my own naivete in having done so. The tale that Broad and Glanz weave is a misguided one, so you say, but my question is this: you and what army? Are all scientists as given to reflection about what it is they are trying to achieve? Would every scientist agree that it is Broad and Glanz who are misguided? I feel there is a strong dichotomy between the doers and the thinkers, and it is the thinking minority that allows science to remain, in large part, unaccountable for what it has brought about" ... Su-Lyn Poon (college intro bio student, anthropology major)

 

 

"You and what army?" and "minority that allows science to remain, in large part, unaccountable for what it has brought about" is actually the immediate stimulus for this essay.  And, I hope an adequate explanation for my writing it, even for those who have understandings about "science" and its place in our culture not so very different from the ones I will describe in the following.  The critical question is not whether one recognizes the "understandings".  The critical question is how effectively one transmits them to others, not only in words but also in actions.

 

To this point, I have frequently put the word "science" in quotation marks.  I hope it is now clear why.  There is no "science" in the abstract; there is only the evolving understandings of science in the minds of individuals and in the cultural stories to which they give rise.  Furthermore, there is, at the moment, nothing even close to a consensus about what the word means in our culture, no commonly held cultural story.  My effort here is to move us more towards such a commonly held cultural story about what "science" is and what it is, and is not, useful for.  I will use "science" when I mean to refer to that which has different meanings (consciously or unconsciously) for different people.  And I will use science (no quotation marks) when I refer to the particular sense of that term that I am offering here.   I trust all readers will understand that the latter really is intended as an "offering".  I make no pretense of asserting that it is any more "real" than any other conception of "science", and suggest only that other people may, as I do, find it useful..      

 

I hope it is also clear, at this point, why I have repeatedly called attention to similarities between people who currently call themselves "scientists" and people who don't.   I strongly believe that the evolution of  understandings about what science is and what it is useful for is much too important to be left solely in the hands of a self-annointed and closed community of "scientists".  What is needed is indeed an "army", not one solely of "scientists" but one consisting of a much larger and hence much more diverse array of human beings who have in common a shared sense of science as a valuable component of human culture and a willingness to shoulder the burden of making it into what it has the capability to become.

 

Science has the potential to be what we all desperately need as we evolve into a world wide community: an important element of a common human story of growth and exploration, one in which all human beings are involved and take pride.  For this to happen, we (all of us) need to work, much harder and more deliberately than we have, to not only reduce the perception of science as a specialized and isolated activity of the few but to make it in fact the product and property of all human beings.  In the following, I try to make this as concrete as possible by focusing on particular aspects of "science" where I believe there to be important disagreements, suggesting resolutions of those disagreements, and pointing to implications for "practical life" that follow from these resolutions.

 

Science as a recursive, unending process ... as profound skepticism

(rather than as a distinctive and privileged route to Truth or well-being)

 

Nature is strictly governed by impersonal laws ... Steven Weinberg

 

Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world ... . Albert Einstein

 

The bottom line is to make the port, to make people, to make this country safe so that no one should have to look over their shoulder in doubt ... Lt. Commander Gary Jones (U.S. Coast Guard)

 

To consumers, it often seems that contradictory studies about food and health appear in the media just about everyday, leaving many to wonder why researchers can' t get it right the first time! ...   Asian Food Information Center (http://www.afic.org/FFA%20Issue%2019%20Science%20is%20Evolutionary,%20not%20Revolutionary!.htm)

 

IF "nature" were "strictly governed by impersonal laws" AND humans had the means to find them THEN one might imagine that with a combination of rigorous effort and sufficient time we would arrive at both "Truth" and the best condition for human beings that can be achieved in the context of those "impersonal laws".  We could all be "safe" (or at least as safe as possible) and no one would "have to look over their shoulder in doubt".  Its worth noticing though that Albert Einstein, writing even in the restricted context of "physical concepts" regarded "laws" as "free creations of the human mind ... not ... uniquely determined by the external world".  In the context of thinking about "science", and science in culture, there are very important implications of Einstein's assertion, both conceptually and practically.

 

For  many people, both people who think of themselves as scientists and people who don't, "science" is the cultural entity whose distinctive property is its claim to be able to uncover "impersonal laws", and, ultimately, the "Truth".  In fact, of course, such a claim does not at all distinguish science from many other cultural entities.  Many religions and political philosophies lay equal claim to providing special access to "Truth", along quite different paths and with quite different proposed or anticipated outcomes.   Not unreasonably, the conflicting claims for the same turf generates antagonisms between those who are engaged with science and those who are not. 

 

The same holds for "science" as the cultural entity with a distinctive claim to being able to assure "safety" or "well-being".  There are many other cultural entities (nations, tribes, service professions and organizations) that regard the provision of safety and the assurance of human well-being as their mission, and who pursue it in directions quite different from "science".  Moreover, while "science" has had notable successes along those lines, it has also produced a number of problems.  Whether, on balance, "science" has enhanced or diminished human safety/well-being to date is by no means an easy question to answer.

 

If "science" is distinctive neither as a path to "Truth" nor as a path to safety and well-being, what is it exactly? Has there been any distinctive role that science has played in human culture?  Where is the "core" of "science"?, why is it less clear than it might seem on first glance?, and how might it be brought out so that science can more effectively play a useful role in culture in the future? These are not, of course, questions for which there exist (or should be expected to exist) definitive answers, but let me suggest a direction along which I think useful developments might occur, a direction consistent with Einstein's view of science as "free creations of the human mind".

 

Figure 1 contrasts two descriptions of "scientific "method", one that was taught to me when I was an elementary school student decades ago (at least one that I remember having been taught), and a second that I currently use in my own teaching.  There are several important and relevant differences.  The "old" description uses words ("hypothesis", "experiment") that convey (to an elementary school student at least) at definite sense that "science" is a specialized activity, one that can't possibly be engaged in until one has, at least, learned the meaning of the words (which, of course, themselves further inspire images of white coats, laboratories, and the like).  I'll return to the significance of this difference in the next section.  Here I want to focus primarily on two other differences between the two descriptions.  The first is the use of the word "true" in the older description and its absence in the newer.  And the other is the linearity of the earlier description, in contrast to the circularity of the second.

 

The "scientific method", which I take as very close to the "core" of science, is, the left side of Figure 1 notwithstanding, very much NOT about determining either "truth" OR "Truth".  As indicated in the right side of the figure, an "hypothesis" is nothing more (and nothing less) than a useful way to summarize observations made TO DATE (it is shorter than simply describing all previous observations and makes predictions about future ones).  And an experiment is nothing more (and nothing less) than the making of a new observation to see whether it matches the predictions made by the previously existing summary.  From this perspective, no "hypothesis" can ever be proven "true".  A new observation can show that a previous summary is no longer adequate ("falsify the hypothesis); what it can never do is to show that a summary will be forever more adequate.  In short, "true" in relation to scientific statements should be eliminated from the vocabulary.  Hypotheses may summarize fewer or greater numbers of observations (and can be discriminated in value partly on that score) but there is nothing in scientific method that would or can justify the assertion that a hypothesis is "true" in any respect other than being "an adequate summary of observations to date" (with, perhaps, the addition that the particular summary in question fits well with other summaries related to other sets of observations).  The idea of "true" plays a useful role in mathematics, and perhaps in some kinds of human interactions, but it doesn't belong in science (except, perhaps, in some narrow technical contexts having much more constrained meanings than is present in human language generally).

 

So what IS science doing?  What IS it about, if not determining what is "true"?  Its at this point that the circularity represented in the right side of Figure 1 becomes relevant and important.  The "scientific" method is not a route to an end (a "conclusion").  It is instead a recursive, never ending process.

 

 There are two possible outcomes of a new observation: it is either the one predicted by the existing summary or it is not. If it is the one predicted by the existing summary, there remains (and always will remain) the possibility that a future observation will invalidate that summary and so the continuing task is to further test the summary by making additional observations.  This may, of course, get boring after a while, as in the case of the hypothesis the sun rises every day, but the point here is that a new observation consistent with a hypothesis can in principle never end the process. 

 

In almost all ways it is the second possibility, the new observation that is not predicted by the hypothesis/summary, that is the more interesting and important one.  In this case, the summary itself requires alteration, and that in turn means creating a new summary that makes new predictions and hence requires new observations.  Here too, the unending recursive cycle continues.

 

Even more importantly, it is at this juncture, most particularly, that Einstein's "not uniquely determined by the external world" is relevant.  There has always been more than one possible "summary" that will fit the observations (Grobstein, 2004).  And so there is always an arbitrary creative act in science, a choice (conscious or unconscious) to further pursue one or another way of several alternative ways "making sense of the world".  It is through this crack particularly that science is perhaps most strongly affected by culture and by the individual temperment of its practitioners.  Many people (both "scientists" and others), regard that crack as a  weak point of science, the place where the "scientific" claim of "objectivity" fails.  One can also regard it (as I do) as one of the strengths of science, the space that allows for individual agency and, even more importantly perhaps, the space that makes it possible for individual efforts to usefully become collective ones.

 

 I'll discuss this further in a later section.  What's important for the moment is that, whether for reasons having to do with the organization of human brains or because of the nature of "reality" or both (Grobstein, 2004), scientific method (and hence, I would argue, science) does not and can not provide "final" answers to questions about anything.  Not about what IS, nor about what would be the best way to assure human well-being.  What it CAN do is to provide effective summaries of ever greater bodies of observations.  These may be very useful for making predictions and, in many cases, for suggesting ways that particular forms of human suffering might be alleviated but it is critical to understand their limitations to use them effectively.  Moreover, the really distinctive thing that science can do, its most important unique contribution to human culture, is not these things but rather to provide a motivation and method for further questioning and exploration.  Science is, fundamentally, not about security but about doubt, not about knowing but about asking, not about certainty but about skepticism.

 

Periodically, people write about the "end of science" (Stent 1969;, Horgan, 1996), suggesting either that the process of science has converged to a final answer or that we have reached a point where the process itself is no longer adequate to contend with new observations.  Neither past nor contemporary history supports this.  It is conceivable that at some remote time in the future a set of summaries will emerge that seem are not invalidated by repeated new observations (Grobstein, 2004) but even this would not suffice to end the process, for the reasons given above.  What's more important is that there is absolutely no reason to believe we are anywhere near such a time (and some reason to suspect we will never be (Grobstein, 2004).  Physics, to take just one example, has recently found itself having to deal with the totally unexpected observation that the universe, rather than decelerating in its expansion, is accelerating, an observation that requires quite major changes in its summaries of observations prior to that one.   And the same holds in a whole variety of other realms of scientific inquiry.

 

What has changed, and can be expected to continue to change, is the way "scientists" pose questions, make observations, and develop new summaries.  The tools currently used by professional scientists, both technological and conceptual, have limits (cf Horgan, 1999), as such tools have always proved in the past to have limits.   It is not only inevitable but desirable that questions should be raised, by both "scientists" and others, about the adequacy of the tools used in science at any given time.  This isn't a challenge to or of science; it is instead a testimony to the core of science: a profound questioning essential to improved understanding not only of other things but of the know processes of doing science itself. 

 

In trying to summarize at this point, let me return to my several potential (and hoped for) audiences.  If nothing else, I hope I have made it clear to those who do not currently regard themselves as "scientists" why "researchers can't get it right".  I hope I have equally made it clear to those who do regard themselves as "scientists" that it is terribly important, both for themselves and the enterprise of science as a whole, to make it clearer to everyone that we neither claim nor aspire to getting it "right".  While we may (or may not) have ourselves thought deeply about what the limits of science are, we frequently present science (and allow others to represent it) in ways that are deeply inconsistent with what we are in fact about.  And in so doing, we not only generate unnecessary antagonisms to the scientific enterprise but isolate ourselves from the engagement of others who would be quite willing to support an ongoing effort to make better sense of things, and even to make useful contributions to it themselves.  This can and should be changed. 

 

Most generally, science should be playing for culture the central role of helping humans understand the value of skepticism.  It is NOT possible "to make people ... safe" nor to eliminate "doubt".  We, above all, know that the world was not made for people, and that we do not, cannot know enough to make people "safe".  And we know (or should know) that it is precisely "doubt" that is the most effective tool for becoming as safe as one can be, and the essential stimulus for humans to discover and expand their capabilities.  It is a message that can be conveyed and will be heard if we put our minds to it:

 

"Moving on, the prof asked a question in class. It was after our conclusion that doctors and scientists don't really KNOW anything. That there are no 'truths' and that everything is sort of dependent on other factors. He followed this conclusion with a question: how does that make us feel? I didn't answer in class, but I'd like to here. I really think that I feel good about knowing that. If I believed everything I was told by a scientist or a group of doctors, and acted on whatever it was that they concluded, then my life really wouldn't be my own. I would be controlled by this outside authority" ... college intro bio student

 

""We just discussed in class whether a conclusion can ever be true, definitive. Realizing that the answer is 'no' opens a whole new door to science which some students unfortunately will never be able to walk through. Science can be as analytically inviting as any novel or poem I will read in an English class because it involves opinions, guesses, and presumptions which can never really be confirmed" ... college intro bio student

 

"Oh, if we became scientists with sentiment and excitement [in] fantasy as well as [in] "truth" what a  world, what a universe!" ... middle school teacher

 

  

 

 

 

Science as a process and tool for all  human beings

(rather than a body of knowledge elaborated by a few)

 

I was never someone who enjoyed science classes. I found most of them to be pure memorization, and I generally thought that science should be left to those for whom in was natural ... . College intro bio student

 

in life, we make observations, test those observations, and then determine if those tests bring about results that support our observations. more often than not, these real life tests bring about unexpected results, but we learn from those results. the same is true for science ... College intro bio student

 

I've suggested some ways to think about the first of the questions in the title of this essay "What is science?" and those suggestions lead on naturally to some ways of approaching the second question of the title "Who/what is it for?"  Here again I feel it important (for reasons that I hope will become fully clear in the following section) to accept the complications and slight clumsiness of trying to speak simultaneously to several audiences.

 

I don't know whether it is true in all cultures, but certainly in the United States there are people who think of science, and their own involvement in it as "natural", and others who don't.  I believe this is, though, largely an artifact of how "science" is presented, in classrooms and otherwise, and that it is a concrete example of those things that we (all of us who are in one way or another engaged with science) need to make a deliberate effort to change if science is to fulfill its promise for human culture.

 

Science, in the terms characterized in the previous section, is not only not defined by laboratories or white coats, it is also not defined by knowing certain things (or having a skill at memorizing) nor by compulsive information gathering nor by the use of mathematical tools or logical rigor.  It is instead nothing more (and nothing less) than the dynamic combination of curiosity and skepticism that fuels virtually all productive inquiry, and is inherent in all humans from the time they are born.  Babies obviously do not arrive in the world as "scientists", but they do very much arrive in the world as scientists.  They "make observations, test those observations" and "learn" from "unexpected results".  In short, science is a tool for "life" for everyone, a tool that everyone comes equipped with and needs only to be encouraged to continue becoming better at using.

 

I can well imagine both "scientists" and others shaking their heads at this as too simple, as somehow missing the point (one or another point).  But sometimes the simple (and apparently obvious) is worth being reminded of as a foundation for other things.  This is, I think, one of those times.

 

It is very much not my intent to suggest that professional scientists don't need professional skills, nor that anyone and everyone should regard themselves as a professional scientists (or even want to).  It is, however, very much my intent to challenge the notion that professional scientists are, by either birth or training, an entirely different form of humanity than others and the reciprocal notion that others are an entirely different form of humanity than professional scientists.  There is a deep core of commonality between professional scientists and others, a commonality not only of intention but also of method.  Recognizing and building on that core could go a long way towards healing the two cultures rift and enabling science to play a more effective role in culture.

 

Some specifics may help here.  As professional scientists many (though not all ) of us have some tendency to equate science with quantitization and, more generally, with mathematics.  There is no doubt but that advances along many lines of inquiry have been greatly enhanced using these tools, and that anyone aspiring to work in these areas needs to acquire them.  But it is equally important to bear in mind that neither was central to other important areas of exploration (Darwin's work and Freud's come to mind immediately) and that mathematical ability, irrespective of education, is not even remotely evenly distributed across the human population.  To the extent that we equate "science" with mathematical sophistication, and so portray science or allow others to do so, we are disencouraging many otherwise able and engageable people in becoming involved with science.   One does not need mathematical sophistication to be engaged with science.  And science is depriving itself of valuable potential insights from those who are more comfortable exploring in other ways.

 

Let me illustrate another realm in which it is important to remember that doing science should not be presumed to depend on any litmus test other than the ability and inclination to be curious and skeptical.  In the United States, the issue of teaching evolution in the schools has been a major cause celebre and some quite disenfranchising things said by people on both sides of the divide.  Trying to talk about evolution as "true" or "fact" simply exacerbates the problem (for reasons discussed in the previous section).  In fact, of course, evolution is a "summary of observations" and should be talked about as such.  This can, and does, lead to exchanges about evolution more productive than arguing about what is "scientific":

 

"presenting it as a story is, I think, very useful and diffuses the potential for damage in espousing evolution as the version "smart" people believe." ... middle school teacher

 

"Story" = "summary".  Presenting science in this framework makes it possible for everyone to connect it to their own curiosities, and to become a part of the larger process of making sense of things, using their own tools.  By avoiding appealing to "smartness" (or any other of the litmus tests we frequently, if unconsciously, use, we can markedly increase the likelihood that everyone will become engaged, to one degree or another, with science.   

 

 

Science as a fundamentally social activity, dependent on human diversity

(rather than the activity of individuals or a narrower community restricted by its own homogeneiety)

 

no need for EVERONE to become professional scientists, nor for all professional scientists to become synthesizers, communicators, but IS a need for the professional community to recognize the importance of, endorse, support synthesizers/communicators

 

Is NOT the case that only professionals can pose questions that change "scientific understanding"