The Ever-Persistent Questions in Science: Unsolved Enigmas
The notion that all major scientific problems have been solved is a misconception often expressed by young graduates. They may believe that their contributions will be insignificant and that their name will never be recognized in the scientific community. However, this perspective is not only lazy but also arises from the initial struggles and doubts experienced when embarking on a major project. To succeed as a scientist, one must overcome the temptation to pursue a more financially rewarding career and instead be driven by a sense of duty and ambition.
The Temptation of Quick Reputation-Boosting Discoveries
Many inexperienced researchers hope to make a quick reputation-boosting discovery that requires minimal effort. Unfortunately, they soon realize that the surface-level findings have already been exhausted by earlier observers. While it is true that certain scientific problems may be out of our reach due to arriving on the scene too late, we must also recognize that there are problems yet to be born.
In the past, great scientific discoveries often occurred in rapid succession following a chance discovery or the development of a new technique. This happened during the Renaissance when renowned figures such as Descartes, Galileo, and Newton debunked ancient theories and revealed the vastness of scientific exploration. These pivotal moments in the history of ideas made it easy for scientists to identify fruitful areas of investigation.
The Ongoing Development of Scientific Fields
However, we should not overstate the significance of these moments. Even today, science continues to build upon previously trusted theories. It is crucial to acknowledge that while some fields may seem mature, others are still developing, and entirely new areas are yet to be explored. In biology, for example, vital problems such as the origin of life, heredity and development, and the structure and chemical composition of cells remain unsolved.
Fresh Perspectives and Open-Mindedness
It is important to remember that no problems have truly been exhausted; it is the scientists themselves who may become exhausted by the complexity of their research. What may seem insignificant to one researcher can hold immense value for another. Fresh perspectives and an open-minded approach can lead to new possibilities and unexpected discoveries even in well-explored topics. Recent scientific advancements in understanding light, heat, and atmospheric composition demonstrate the inadequacy of our former methods and the ongoing potential for new revelations.
We must adopt a broader perspective when evaluating the importance of scientific discoveries. The hierarchies and judgments we place upon natural phenomena are anthropomorphic errors stemming from our own self-interest and limited view. Every link in the chain of life is equally vital and necessary, and what may appear small or unimportant to us can have profound implications. Even the simplest microbe holds profound importance to humanity. Microbes that exist in decomposing organic material play a crucial role in returning substances to the general circulation of matter, enabling life as we know it.
The Importance of Attention to Detail in Methodology
Biology exemplifies the utmost importance of attention to detail in technical methodology. Koch, a renowned bacteriologist, discovered the etiology of tuberculosis by simply adding a little alkali to a dye. This small modification allowed him to stain and identify the tubercle bacillus, providing a crucial breakthrough in combating the disease.
Even the greatest geniuses have often failed to recognize the true significance of scientific insights. Many seeds of great discoveries can be found in the writings of ancient philosophers and scholars, who treated them as mere curiosities. These overlooked observations and phenomena eventually led to groundbreaking discoveries in subsequent centuries. Nature is a harmonious mechanism where every part, even those deemed secondary, plays a cooperative role in the whole.
Nature’s Harmonious Mechanism
No problem in science should be dismissed as small or unworthy. What may seem insignificant is often a manifestation of our limited understanding. As scientists, we should classify problems as either understood or poorly understood, without assigning arbitrary importance based on size or immediate usefulness. We cannot predict the future relevance and impact of any scientific pursuit. Developing a meticulous and open-minded approach to research will allow us to uncover valuable knowledge and contribute to the vast field of science.