The question of why a scientist (or wannabe scientist) studies science does not need to be answered. If you’re one of those people who understands science, there’s no need for an explanation. Most likely, you already possess at least some of the scientific abilities required for such a vocation, and the purpose of education is to acquire the skills you lack.
However, for people who are not seeking a career in the sciences or technology, science classes of any kind can sometimes feel like a waste of time. Foundation in physics courses in Malaysia are generally avoided at all costs, with biology courses filling in the gaps to meet the requisite science requirements.
The Argument in Favour of Physics
In his Chicago-based educational innovations, Trefil mentions Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman‘s “physics first” approach. For younger (elementary and middle school) kids, Trefil believes the more traditional biology first programme is acceptable.
In a nutshell, this method emphasises physics as the most fundamental subject. After all, biology (in its modern form) is applied chemistry, and chemistry is applied physics. Zoology, ecology, and genetics are examples of biological applications.
But the point is that thermodynamics and nuclear physics are fundamental physical principles that underpin all of science. Galileo established essential physics concepts at a time when biology was still reliant on several spontaneous genesis beliefs.
Because physics is the foundation of science, it makes sense to teach it. Thermodynamics and nuclear physics principles, for example, naturally lead to chemistry, while mechanics and material physics principles lead to engineering.
From ecology to biology to chemistry, and so on, the path cannot be reversed. The smaller the knowledge sub-category, the less generalizable it is. Knowledge can become more specialised as it becomes more general. As a result, physics would be the most helpful scientific knowledge if forced to choose.
This makes sense because physics is concerned with the study of matter, energy, space, and time, without which no reaction, growth, life, or death would be possible. Physics concepts underpin the cosmos.
Why Non-Science Education is Important for Scientists
While we’re on the subject of well-rounded education, the flip argument is equally compelling: someone studying science must be able to participate in society, which necessitates an awareness of the entire culture (not just the technoculture). The beauty of Euclidean geometry is not fundamentally more beautiful than Shakespeare’s words; it is just more lovely.
Scientists (and physicists in particular) have a diverse range of interests. Albert Einstein, the violin-playing physics expert, is a classic example. Medical students are one of the few exceptions, as they lack diversity owing to time restrictions rather than a lack of interest.
Without a solid foundation in the rest of the world, a person’s understanding of the world, much alone appreciation for it, is limited. Political and cultural issues do not occur in a scientific vacuum where historical and cultural considerations are not required.
While many scientists believe they can objectively assess the world in a reasonable, scientific manner, the truth is that serious societal challenges rarely involve solely scientific topics. The Manhattan Project, for example, was clearly more than a scientific endeavour; it also raised concerns that went far beyond the area of physics.