Sunday, June 27, 1999

Is Science Old or New for Humans?

We hear that the number of students who wish to major in natural sciences is decreasing in Japan. In the age of science and technology this trend is deplorable.

Carl Sagan starts a chapter of his book, The Demon Haunted World (Random House, New York, 1996), by a question, "Why should so many people find science hard to learn and hard to teach?" Then he cites Alan Cromer's proposition given in Uncommon Sense: The Heretical Nature of Science (Oxford University Press, New York, 1993) that science is difficult because it is new in the history of human being, and show partial sympathy to this thesis.

However, Sagan describes next about the expertise of hunter-gatherers in tracking not only other animals but also humans. Comparing the method of hunters' tracking with astronomers' method of judging the age of a crater on the Moon or Mercury or Triton, he says that the former method is the same as the latter or what modern scientists do. He thus comes to the conclusion that scientific thinking has almost certainly been with us from the beginning.

Which do you think is more persuasive, Cromer's pessimistic proposition or Sagan's optimistic antithesis about the relation of humans and science? Apart from the grounds of their arguments, I would like to agree with Sagan in the hope of better prosperity of mankind.

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