Why do Scientists do what they do?

This comic from Saturday Morning Breakfast comics is about potential solutions for solving global warming, and the purpose behind science. The artist makes good use of imagery to make his point. For example, the speaker is talking about global warming, so there is a picture of the Earth in a sweater to help visualize the idea. From there, the artist gets more and more creative. When the speaker mentions potential ways to block 5% of sunlight from reaching Earth, the artist illustrates this concept by drawing a pair of sunglasses on the Earth. From there, the artist goes even further, drawing the Earth smoking a cigarette to simulate a pipe removing toxins from the atmosphere, as well as sporting a pompadour.

The punchline of the joke “Science does not concern itself with ‘why’!” is referring to how scientists perform their research strictly in the pursuit of knowledge, with no other influences or qualms (such as dressing the Earth as some greaser from the 80’s). I think this is a very important philosophy in many scientists’ minds, but I often wonder how true it is. For example, many scientists are pressured into publishing their work, wanting to have their works published in scientific journals such as Nature and such.  With such publishing, scientists get recognition, which can lead to grants for further research. However, it is possible that scientists may publish just for their own recognition rather than in the name of science, and may fabricate results in order to have their work published. Likewise, scientists who work in the private sector, developing machinery and medicine in the name of profit can’t say that all their work was merely in the pursuit of science. Lastly, how far should science go in the pursuit of knowledge? Ethics is a huge issue in the scientific community, with multiple boards and regulations making sure that experiments are performed in responsible and humane ways. However, some may see those committees as a hindrance to the pursuit of knowledge, and believe that if scientists had more relaxed moral obligations, then great strides could be made in certain fields, such as medicine.

It’s possible that the author intended to ridicule the ideas by the presentation of the punchline alongside the comical picture of the Earth. By putting such a bold statement in juxtaposition to a ridiculous looking Earth, maybe the artist is trying to say that there’s more to science than just performing experiments and discovering knowledge. Maybe sometimes we need to ask the question why, otherwise we end up heading into strange and dangerous territory.

Picture from: ​http://smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=4061

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