Science Is the Engine That Pulls Humanity Forward
Naval: Welcome, Brett, to the eponymous Naval podcast. The topic that we started out on was the timeless principles of wealth creation. And then we touched a little bit on internal happiness and peace and well-being.
I’m first and foremost a student of science. I’m a failed physicist, in the sense that I loved physics, I wanted to pursue it, but I never felt I was going to be great at it. I was more pulled into technology, which is applied science.
Nevertheless, I remain a student of science. I remain fascinated by it. All of my real heroes are scientists, because I believe science is the engine that pulls humanity forward.
We’re lucky to live in an age when scientific and technological progress seem not likely, but inevitable. We’ve gotten used to this idea that life always gets better.
Despite all the complaining about how productivity growth is stagnant, the reality is, anyone who owns a smartphone or drives a car or even lives in a house has seen technology improve their quality of life over and over again. We take this progress for granted, and it’s thanks to science.
To me, science is also the study of truth. What do we know to be true? How do we know something to be true? As I get older, I find myself incapable of having an attention span for anything that isn’t steeped in the truth.
The background on this particular podcast series is that I thought I knew a lot about science. And there was a lot about science that I took for granted, such as what a scientific theory is and how scientific theories are formed.
Most of us have a vague idea of it. Some people think science is what scientists do, which has a definitional problem. What is a scientist? Other people think science is making falsifiable or testable predictions, and maybe that’s closer to it. Sometimes people say, “It’s the scientific method.” And what is the scientific method? And then they start describing their junior high school chemistry experiment and lose the trail after that.
Especially these days, when we’re told to “believe in science”—which is an oxymoron—people respect science, but they don’t understand what science is.
The idea of what science is gets hijacked, sometimes by well-meaning people who want to convince you of the science and sometimes by not so well-meaning people who want to influence the way that you think and feel and act.