Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan

The Meaning of Science, or What is Science Good For?

Where do we have science in our lives as a society? Do scientific studies have any place or do they bear any traces in the modern social life styles that we live? Well, is there an essential correlation between the concepts of life, science and criticism? If so, what kind of a correlation is this? Let’s try to find some answers on whether science changes and improves our lives.
Science is present in all aspects of life through its concrete practices even if it becomes difficult to be aware of it in the fast pace of daily life. Scientific outputs and social life have been integrated. We are living with the results of scientific studies on quite a wide spectrum from electronics to Internet, or from transportation to energy. (The tense relation between the social benefits provided by science and the evil that occurs as a consequence of the abuse of scientific products is not the topic of this article.) Let’s continue with this topic by giving examples over the most important problem that has been (and that should be) in the agenda of Turkey recently. Earthquake. It is unpleasant to even mention its name, but all the same, it is urgent and necessary to do it now more than ever.
Scientific studies executed with the intersection of various scientific branches clearly show that the region, which includes Istanbul as well, is in an earthquake zone. Istanbul and its surroundings are on an active fault line. Thus, a major destructive earthquake is highly probable. Researchers are making statistical models for this. This topic is as clear as daylight in company with scientific data: There are no controversial or ambiguous sides to this.

It is incumbent on the scientists to put this forward in a comprehensible manner. It is probably the duty of a scientist to explain this topic through clear expressions, eluding the extremely technical language of science. In a scientific field, the technical language of the field constitutes barrier-like problems. This way, that barrier can be removed to ensure more people have access to it.

So, despite this crystal-clear situation, what have the administrators of a relevant region and central governments done about this, and what are they doing now? The data set forth by science must prompt communal decision-makers to take action. To accept this is quite simple but a necessary first step, a vital prerequisite. To take action: Science cannot do this; it is the matter of another level. It is unfortunately not a complicated issue that the decision-makers are not doing serious things on this issue.

Ignoring the data that are clearly set forth by science is a public negligence and a major crime in that sense. Because under the light of these data, an earthquake, which can be considered “natural disaster” is not the one to blame for any possible major destruction and deaths. The common “natural disaster” emphasis is a non-scientific interpretation. It is an absolute fact that the occurrence of an earthquake is “natural” and cannot be predicted. This is where the scientific part begins. Nevertheless, what makes it a “disaster” is caused by humans. A probable “disaster” part is the total of the things that have not been done to that end, which makes it both political and communal.

In this regard, nature does not cause any “disastrous” situations for humans. The things that happen in nature do not work this way; therefore, disasters occur as a consequence of what humans did or did not do.

This is also the fundamental difference between the method and language of science and fatalism. If the event of disaster that occurs as a result of an earthquake were to be fate, the earthquake, for instance, would be destructive in Japan, which is a highly active earthquake zone. Everyone should ask themselves and those with administrative power the question of why there are no “disasters” over there.

At the communal level, however, those with administrative power are the ones who share “get well soon” messages the most. There is a logical error here. One should naturally say “get well soon”, why would it be objectionable? However, while it is required to proclaim a communal mobilization under the light of scientific data, what are sympathetic wishes supposed to do with it? Is it possible to solve material problems through sympathetic wishes? For instance, can a physician cure a disease through sympathetic wishes? The earthquake problem is not essentially different from this. What problems can an empty sympathetic wish solve? What would you wish to get well when there are no concrete attempts?

Decision-makers should speak of the duties, responsibilities and what needs to be done, and they should base themselves on critical and scientific data. The complexity of social life can be solved with models designed with scientific data, not by goodwill. Wishes seem to be extremely weird in the face of the situation experienced while there are problems related to construction permits, earthquake emergency program of the cities, status of durability of the buildings, unlicensed constructions, etc. It is required to take concrete steps urgently instead of offering emotional wishes. (The Earthquake video by “Tree of Evolution” offers important information on this matter at a scientific platform: )

The correlation between science, social life and criticism have the determinant effects over human life in the sense mentioned above. Recently, taking power from scientific data, billions of people from all around the world have been on the streets in the face of the climate crisis. And one of their main slogans finds its meaning within the context of this article: Unite behind science!

This seems to be the fundamental principle that we need to remember once again in many fields from climate crisis to probable earthquakes. Because, otherwise, the scenery seems to be quite bleak both for nature and for the entire life on it. To be realistic is, in fact, a first-step principle of science.

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