Scientists are working around the clock to find treatments for COVID-19. In today’s fast-paced culture, everyone wants a cure right away. But is fast always best?
Scientists first must understand the virus before they can offer viable solutions. To do that, they build on scientific research performed years or even decades ago. Then they propose treatments, test their ideas, track results, and submit their work for review by others. This process is called the scientific method. We can’t treat human health carelessly. The multi-step process is necessary to ensure good science.
Nobel Prize-winning discoveries from 20 years ago are going to be key to treating and preventing COVID-19 next year, says Sudip Parikh, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “That was made possible by basic research,” he says.
The coronavirus was sequenced in weeks. Testing became available quickly. Vaccines that normally take years may be developed in a year or less. Scientists and medical workers were able to do all this so quickly because of the foundation built by other researchers over the last 30 years.
For example, a process called polymerase chain reaction, which allows for multiple copying of precise DNA segments, was invented in 1985. That discovery won the 1993 Nobel in chemistry. More than 35 years later, it is used in studying COVID-19.
God’s scientific laws are always true. But we don’t always know exactly what they are. That’s why thoroughly studying God’s creation and figuring out how it works is so important.
Scientists build on each other’s research to make discoveries and find solutions. It’s slow—but that’s a good thing. Scientists need time to do accurate work. When scientists publish their work, other experts in their field evaluate it. This process is called “peer review.” To be accepted, others (peers) must approve the conclusions reached. That helps keep science truly objective. That means “true” and “without bias,” not subject to someone’s expectations without verifiable evidence.
The body of accepted scientific knowledge is used to create new technology, inventions, medicine, and more. Putting that knowledge to work in such practical applications is called applied science.
Nobel prizewinner John Mather says nearly everything we use exists because of applying basic scientific principles. Engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, architects, and others use accepted scientific knowledge to improve their efforts. For example, he says, “Airplanes are designed at the very edge of what is possible. Even cars are completely dependent on basic science.”