Apart from ideas, and the utilitarian, materialistic benefits,what can science offer to the society? This is a question I repeatedly ask myself in understanding a related question: ‘why I do what I do?’. This question, in my opinion, is also at the heart of social relevance of the pursuit of science.
A vital aspect which scientific research can indirectly teach and train its practitioners and its beneficiaries is the ability to empathize.
Empathy towards a fellow living creature, and not just human beings, requires oneself to suspend ones ego and understand something from a different perspective. This act needs patience, and the result is almost always enriching.
A quote (mis?)attributed to Plato puts it succinctly:
“The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self.”
One of the interesting aspects of scientific research is to study an idea or an object of interest from various different viewpoints. This ability to look at a particular thing from various conceptual angles enriches the understanding, and concomitantly clarifies the purpose.
Many a times one would be able to obtain an unexpected insight by looking at something from a different viewpoint.
The pursuit and the spirit of scientific enquiry essentially requires the same attributes as empathy, and hence the connection.
It is astonishing fact that we are witnessing a war among human beings in this day and age. Human beings are the most dominant creatures of our planet. This domination has already caused a severe problem in the form of climate change, and has drastically affected our own well being. War is the last thing you want at any circumstance.
If we have to overcome these problems, we cannot ignore science or empathy. In an essense, ignoring them is like reversing the benefits of human intellectual evolution.
We humans can do far better than this…