Chad Orzel of Uncertain Principles Says...

In his inaugural address, President Obama pledged to "restore science to its rightful place." Following up on that, the Corporate Masters have launched the Rightful Place Project, asking bloggers, readers, and scientists to define the rightful place of science.

Many of these responses will focus on narrow matters of policy, but as many have said with regard to the economic crisis, this is no time for timid measures. It's a time for big thoughts and bold action. With that in mind, here's my take on the question of science's rightful place, which, in the end, boils down to defining what science is:

Science is the most fundamental human activity there is. In fact, I would go so far as to say that science is what makes us human

Some people will object to this claim, saying that science as we know it is a relatively modern invention, too recent to be a fundamental human activity. To my mind this is like saying that art is not a fundamental human activity, because perspective painting didn't get nailed down until the Renaissance.

The problem is one of context, and thinking too small. Science as a set of well-defined activities and institutions is, indeed, a modern invention, but that's not the essential core of science. Science is a process, not a collection of facts or institutions, and the essential elements of science have been with us from the dawn of the species.

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