Adam Rutherford

Dr. Adam Rutherford, science writer and broadcaster who works at the journal Nature, writes:

It helps me to think of why science is important by identifying two common errors that people, scientists and non-scientists alike, make when thinking about science.

The first mistake is to view science as a subject. It’s not a subject. Science is a way of knowing. It’s a process of thought - derived and supported by experimentation and observation - that gifts us the potential to understand the universe and everything in it. There may be other ways of knowing, but none is as robust, rational and self-correcting.

(I say all things because I find it hard to be agnostic about scientific knowledge. All things are knowable, given infinite time. I recognise that this is a statement of metaphysics, and therefore beyond the remit of science.)

The second mistake that some people can make is to think that science is static, a thing or statement about how things are. Science is a continuum of knowledge, ever changing and being refined. Some who criticise say that the fact that we said something once, but now say something different demonstrates the fallibility of science. In fact, that is its very beauty. The essence of science is doubt. Being wrong is a crucial part of being a scientist, and a crucial way to propel knowledge for all humankind. The process of scrutiny, of falsification, renders science a constantly self-checking system, never looking to where it is right, but always looking to see how it is wrong, and correcting itself. Good theories - gravity, natural selection, the standard model - stand firm for long periods of time, possibly indefinitely. But we continue to refine them and test them and make them ever more perfect.

The practical applications of science are easy to list, and the benefit to humankind incalculably high. These, though, are the results of men and women over millennia using the process of science as inquiry, as a way of knowing.


  1. Mert Kutlusoy
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Reply

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  2. mzlolwut
    Posted December 2, 2008 at 8:11 PM | Permalink | Reply

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  3. Mimi
    Posted April 29, 2009 at 8:21 PM | Permalink | Reply

    *Yay* Now, what job shall I get in science, lol. Well done Adam! Interesting viewpoint, which I have to agree with:)

  4. farny
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Oh!!!G..!that was perfect,I do love biology and medicine,actually i want to be a doctor...but i don't know where to start,i hope someone would help me!!

  5. Posted May 31, 2012 at 7:23 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Dear Adam

    Just heard a few minutes of the program you have done on BBC radio4 Extinct.

    You claim to be a scientist. Yet the word science means to know something through observation. You where not there when the world was made. Yet you provide information to gulable people on how you believe man has come about through varios changes.
    In fact the Judeo/Christian God created all things in 6 lieral days.
    I know I was not there either but God was. He inspired the Bible to written and in Genesis we read the account of the creation God made. You may not realise it but evolution is a religion. Yes it is because you believe it and put your faith in it as being the way the world was made.

    Let me ask you as a scientist. If you where to take nothing in your right hand and take hold of nothing in your left hand and through both of these nothings in the air in order that they might crash into each other what would you observe. I hope your aswer is nothing. You see some scientist try and tell us about a big bang that happend 18 billion years ago. But they forgot to mention where the particals came from. NO WHERE. It's ONE BIG LIE.

    Perhaps when you realise the truth you will be happy to go back to the BBC and tell them you made a mistake.

    Please see the video of why evolution is impossible. You will have to copy and paste link below.

    Appreciate your feedback


    Nigel Wright

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