On August 21, 2017, all the live broadcasts of media the world over and the internet were preoccupied with a single astonishing event up high in the heavens.
Some part of the earth had gone dark for minutes, uncharacteristically in the middle of the day, in a phenomenon that is known as a total solar eclipse. Apart from its aesthetic value, it was also hailed as the manifestation of the laws of nature, as theorised and then witnessed centuries before.
The exact timing and place of the total eclipse are, though they take place ones every couple of years or decades, nonetheless precisely predicted by physicists; hence it did not come as a surprise to everyone.
Therefore, people waited eagerly outdoors in the forecasted time and place ready with their safety glasses and cameras to watch, embrace and record this once in a life time natural phenomenon.
But what would have happened if an extraordinary event such as this took place in a time when science was still on its knees?
It would not be far from the truth if one assumed that such a phenomenon would be taken as a sign of a supreme being, an apocalypse or some other message from the heavens that is open to the whims of interpreters.
In times such as this, where ignorance reigned and superstitions dictated, everything was a miracle. A beautiful natural occurrence instilled fear and insecurity in the hearts of men, instead of bringing happiness and wonder.
Is this not an immensely sad turn of events?
Praise be unto science, the ultimate panacea to all the forms of ignorance and unnecessary fear. Now the world has various fast means of communication and scientists from overseas can explain natural phenomena. They can address it in an easy and understandable way, leaving us the choice of whether believing it or not. Of course, backward societies would rather believe the words of a local witch or priest than what a scientist has to say, but, unlike our ancestors, at least, we have a choice.
Unlike any other human knowledge, science, as defined by Thomas Crump in his book ‘A Brief History of Science’, is “the aggregate of systemized and methodical knowledge concerning nature, developed by speculation, observation, and experiment, so leading to objective laws governing phenomena and their explanation. The process is one of trial and error, so that the ‘objective laws’ are not necessarily correct, hence the historical process consists very largely of established laws being replaced by new ones.”
But, what has scientific knowledge brought us so far?
Let me explain easily. We, humans, get 80pc to 90pc of our information by looking, using our eyes, but that is hardly enough to understand who we are or what our universe is.
Imagine how much knowledge we will have of our universe without the help of any scientific instrument?
The thought is scary. If it were not for science, we would have been living oblivious of the objects and events that are too far, too small or occur too fast for our minds to comprehend.
The invention of the telescope made it possible to observe, study the behaviour, motion and nature of objects in our universe that are too far away. The invention of the microscope brought the existence of micro-organisms to our attention and opened a door for an advanced study of germ theory and genetic materials. The invention of the photograph and video helped us record transient events so that we can show and share with others or watch again to study. All of these are unthinkable and hard to imagine without the scientific and technological advancements we take for granted today.
Science is making our lives longer, healthier, filled with happiness and free of insecurity. Nowadays, catastrophic natural disasters, illness and epidemics can be either prevented or controlled easily with the help of science. Fast communication, transport, modern agriculture or advanced nutrition systems are also among the fruits of science.
Science has become the best means of survival in this infinite universe; hence those who embrace it survive and thrive better than others that do not.
Therefore, if science is of great value to our survival, why are we, Ethiopians, giving it so little attention then? Are we not supposed to raise this issue again and again?
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