What is the one thing everyone should learn about science? Spiked asked 250 scientists – here we bring you some of the most provocative responses:
Richard Dawkins Charles Simonyi professor of the public understanding of science at the University of Oxford, and a science writer and broadcaster
I wish everyone understood Darwinian natural selection, and its enormous explanatory power, as the only known explanation of “design”. The world is divided into things that look designed, like birds and airliners; and things that do not look designed, like rocks and mountains. Things that look designed are divided into those that really are designed, like submarines and tin openers; and those that are not really designed, like sharks and hedgehogs. Darwinian natural selection, although it involves no true design at all, can produce an uncanny simulacrum of true design. An engineer would be hard put to decide whether a bird or a plane was the more aerodynamically elegant.
Susan Blackmore Science writer and broadcaster, and visiting lecturer at the University of the West of England in Bristol
Frighteningly, most people do not understand Darwin’s great insight. What people miss is the sheer inevitability of the creative process. Once you see it —copy, vary, select; copy, vary, select —you see that design by natural selection simply has to happen. This is not like Isaac Newton’s laws, or quantum physics, or any of the other great theories in science, where one can ask “why is this so?” It simply has to be the case. Then, the scary implications follow. If everyone understood evolution, then the tyranny of religious memes would be weakened, and we little humans might find a better way to live in this pointless universe.
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