Specs in the City: Use Science to Explain Science

Dinosaurs existed, everyone. A mammoth tusk was found this week in a Seattle construction site. As I perused through articles about the tusk, trying to figure out a column-provoking idea to write about today, I came across a statement about the future of the tusk: “the bone will be preserved for science,” reported King 5 News.

Ah. Yes. Science.

I forgot, momentarily, to even be excited about the mammoth tusk—which is actually really cool news, and you should also read about that.

But the part that stood out to me most (why it wasn’t the really cool mammoth remnant, I’m not sure) but the important thing to me was the way we explain all science-related phenomena with a simple drop of the word “science.”

We talk about complicated things like this often—as though things can be understood and fully accepted if they are scientific: things are “preserved for science”, or explained “according to science”, or proven “through science.”

Ah. Yes. Science.

When I hear phrases like this, my small insignificant humanities-geared brain can only really fathom a room of lab coat-clad scientists sipping black coffee out of beakers, looking at one another through their oversized goggles as they proudly wave around their complex, mammoth-sized dissertations. These are the people that know things. These are the people that can explain to me how the world functions. This, for us lowly liberal arts mongrels, is science.

And yet, somehow, the word science means very little to me. And not because I am entirely dumb to scientific terminology. I have studied my share, though limited, of mitosis and ATP and inertia. I can follow a conversation on photosynthesis or the respiratory system. Granted, I could much more easily explain to you a comma splice over any of those things.

But still, I know enough to recognize that when someone explains something to me by way of “science”, they are actually just doubting my levels of comprehension. “We can’t be bothered to explain this complicated process to you,” they think. “It’s just science.”

Which, ultimately, I have grown to accept. It has even become a common phrase among my friend group to respond to some complex happening by yelling “SCIENCE” really loudly. Gravity? Science. Pregnancy? Science. Mammoth tusk? Science.

So much explained by this simple word. If only professors agreed.

I guess, ultimately, it’s good that this mammoth bone is being preserved for science. Heck, I wouldn’t know what to do with it. As a journalist who is very much not a scientist, I would probably just look at it. Oooh and aaah for a few minutes and then I would sit down for a few hours and write about it.

Probably ending by attributing the complicated understanding of this piece of history to the well-sustained, uber-respected, carefully-constructed world of science.