The mother of all Inventions
Have you ever thought about it – the ultimate invention. Tearing the sky apart with its brightness and power. It took men to the moon and probes to Saturn. Last year I visited NASA in Florida and saw the mighty Saturn 5, but I am not here to talk about rockets – they are great and all that, but they don’t light my fire. They don’t save lives.
In the 18 hundreds, each year on average about four hundred thousand people died from Smallpox. By the time that the ultimate invention eradicated the disease in 1979, it had taken the lives of over three hundred million people within the 20th century alone. Vaccines are amazing, but I am not referring to vaccines.
The Wheel, the Compass, the Printing Press, Computers even, are all worthy of my admiration, but you can only ask so much of them. There is one invention, however, that I would like to talk about tonight. One invention that without it we would not have rockets, vaccines, or even computers. Only one invention that might truly be called the ultimate invention.
Many inventors have made outlandish claims about how their invention would cure the sick, feed the world, leave footprints on the moon! But only one has done all of this, and of it, we have asked far too little.
In the early sixteen hundreds, Francis Bacon invented the Scientific Method and the very essence of how we think changed forever. The scientific method, or simply Science as it is now referred to, is the process by which we gain knowledge through observation and experiment. It is what makes the difference between a reasoned explanation and superstition. Science is how we can know the difference between what just sounds right, and what is actually right.
We now know that Francis Bacon’s claims about his invention at the time way undershot its potential. Had he known that it would lead to the saving of millions of lives from disease, to the feeding of billions of people, that it would lead to footprints on the moon! Had he claimed these things, then surely he would have been considered to be the greatest crackpot of all time, yet his invention – science, is the most fundamental foundation of all these things, and without which none of these would be possible.
The Scientific Method is undoubtedly the ultimate invention! What else has taken us from the heights of outer space to the depths of the ocean, from the massiveness of stars to the minutest strands of DNA. Science allows us to know what we know, rather than just think that we know it. It allows us to move forward on a firm footing. It is the difference between superstitious conjecture and true knowledge.
Give a thought to Francis when you are driving home, calling a friend in Rome, or when you are texting on your phone. It is Francis’ invention that keeps us warm at night, that cures disease, and feeds the world, but what is most exciting, what lights my fire, is that we have only just started. We have only just started to test its worth. Nanotechnology, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, this is just the beginning of what it can do. And you know, I got this feeling that it is going to be awesome.