Giving Thanks for Science

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Illustration by Lauren Luna

Sofia Lyon
Staff Writer

In a world plagued by global environmental crisis, political unrest, and communities living in extreme poverty, it’s easy to be pessimistic. Cynicism is inevitable when confronted by these grim realities; inescapable with the increased connectivity of the internet. However, it is vital we recognize the progress provided us from recent advancements in technology and medicine. When it’s easier to fall into despair, it is more important to maintain hope and optimism.

The withstanding paradox in attitudes toward scientific discovery is the history of doubt which pervades it. Entire groups form to prove the deception of science: that vaccines are dangerous, that the Earth is flat, that we did not go to the moon. All conspiracies are conceived from the same fear and pessimism. From an inherent distrust that seems to separate humanity in one way or another.

But there is potential for positivity. What if we suspended any inch of doubt, and allowed ourselves for a moment to feel impassioned on how far we come? How incredible that we can prevent and eliminate diseases which eviscerated populations; how marvelous that we can explore the stars beyond imagination, to know the Earth from the outside and to step on the surface of the moon. It is so easy to convince oneself that mankind is cruel and deceitful, yet so much more powerful to acknowledge the boundaries we’ve crossed. 

Aside from denial, the sheer amount of information available in a moment poses detrimental consequences. There’s no denying the imminence of climate change globally, nor the countless instances of social injustice we continue to see. Constant exposure is bound to lead to a dark worldview, an issue particularly young people across the world face. 

But the Internet simultaneously promotes togetherness and community like never before thought possible. Consider massive activist forces which bring unite motivated people all over, inspiring change on a great scale. Fridays for Future, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo: impactful and powerful movements which act everywhere possible, utilizing the Internet’s function as an organizational tool and a vessel for the spread of knowledge and ideas. 

The advent of fundraising sites allows humanitarian work to happen effectively anywhere. It brings to surface suffering which otherwise would go invisible and unnoticed. And perhaps we develop a cultural dependency in how we integrate technology into our lives, which has its own risks. If we practice the healthy use of technology, we can manage the emotional symptoms of living in a modern society. 

Humanity’s relationship with technology will forever be a balancing act. While at times woe seems the only path to tread in a world which only grows more complicated by the day, it remains ever more crucial to hold on to gratitude. Modern medicine grants us the ability to live longer lives, and the ease of machinery gives us the privilege to turn our passions into a career. And despite a convoluted world, we understand it more than ever. Choose gratitude over cynicism whenever possible.

Find a moment to appreciate humanity’s progress in understanding a deeply complex world this holiday season. Take comfort in our ability as a species to problem solve and come together when required. In the words of cosmologist Carl Sagan, who embodied the mantra of gratitude towards science perhaps more than anyone:“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”