The study and practice of science increases our knowledge and it is knowledge and know-how (technology) that are the foundation of innovation. Innovation has provided the wherewithal not just to cope with an ever expanding number of people, but even to improve if somewhat unequally the economic well-being of that population.
I have been for many years a great fan of Richard P. Feynman. Dick Feynman was not only a Noble Laureate, an outstanding teacher, but also a person of insatiable curiosity. He had an incredible array of experiences, many of which are related in his book Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman. One of the many insightful observations made in that book is that integrity is the essence of science. In scientific experiments, he says, integrity demands that potential errors arising from approximations be fully and precisely reported so that others who want to verify or challenge or improve the theory behind the experiment may do so. Only in that way can theories be tested and refined. Contrast that with what passes for scientific “truth” in much of the advertizing for pharmaceuticals.
Theories can only be tested by experiments – the test of reality. But this “reality” is in turn a matter of being able to measure things to see if they fit the theory. A simple example is gravity. We all learned that acceleration due to gravity on earth is a constant. This “constant” has been continually refined for some 200 hundred years. Similarly the value of “big G,” the gravitational force between any two objects is currently accurate to about one part in 10,000. But using new measurement technology based on atom interferometry this can be refined and made more precise. The ultra precision of atoms interferometry, resulting from the tiny wave lengths of atoms, opens up a host of applications such as improving exploration for minerals, detecting underground bunkers, more precise navigation than is possible with GPS just to name a few.
Science is the continual search to improve what we think of as the truth. Measurement allows us to test theories and improve (or disprove) them. Integrity is the framework for that never-ending truth. In socio-economics we have a long way to go to even come close the paradigm that guides science.