How do you measure the state of our scientific knowledge? The answer varies. For instance, Ernest Rutherford, who discovered the nucleus of the atom, was the only author of his 1911 paper. In 2012, however, the paper describing the Higgs particle had more than 1,000 authors. That’s a big jump. From 1911 to today, the average size of research teams has quadrupled. The reason for this growth is that many research questions require larger teams of scientists and expensive equipment.
Scientists typically justify their work with health arguments, economic benefits, and social sustainability. But the truth is, science is constantly revising what it knows. Every scientific theory is under scrutiny as new data or theories are discovered that challenge its validity. No other knowledge system has this dynamic property. In contrast, the defenders of faith-based systems are typically the ones who use medical and technological facilities. While this dynamic nature of science is unquestionable, it’s important to remember that the scientific community is continually in flux.
As humans have evolved, we’ve created a set of interconnected and validated ideas about the world. These ideas have enabled successive generations to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the human species and its environment. These ideas were developed by humans and were validated by other researchers. The methods of discovery, experimentation, and validation are fundamental to science. In addition to these methods, scientists also use instruments to observe nature.