Science Questions from 10 year olds #IASUK

So I am involved in a science outreach programmed to get kids talking to scientists, it is pretty awesome. Here are some of their questions and my answers.

Question: have you always liked science?

I have always liked science, but I didn’t always want to be a scientist. I was an IT administrator (I took care of different companies’ computers) and for a while I was a video game tester for PlayStation2. I had originally returned to University to retrain as a programmer and I was going to get back into gaming as a programmer. BUT! While I was at university I got involved in a research project helping people recover from brain damage and I learned that I LOVE doing science and research. I love figuring things out and solving puzzles (what gamer doesn’t??). So with that knowledge I started to look for a PhD degree (the university course that teaches you to be a scientist). I found one that allowed me to combine my love of computers with my love of evolution and that is how I became a scientist.

It is kind of funny how things work out. I never intended to be a scientist (though I have always loved science) but sometimes opportunities happen and you need to be flexible in your life plan to take advantage of your life opportunities. I still have friends that make video games so I get to hear about all the stuff that is happening, but I think that doing science is more fun than making video games. I still get to play them all the time!

Question: why aren’t apes still evolving into humans now ???:)

Humans and apes share a common ancestor. This means that millions of years ago in the past there was a species that gave rise both to us and to the apes. For instance 6 million years ago we split from the Chimpanzees and Bonobos. So for the past 6 million years the Chimpanzees have taken a different evolutionary path than we have. So they have a bunch of different mutations than we do including we had two chromosomes join into one so we have less chromosomes than chimpanzees do. This is why chimpanzees cannot become humans, they don’t have the right mutations. However this also means that humans can’t evolve into chimpanzees because we don’t have the right number of chromosomes or the right mutations.

But did you know that chimpanzees can learn sign language? It is true! They are so closely related to us that they can learn how to communicate with us using sign language! Check out this chimpanzee, Washoe, for some awesome details:

Washoe even taught another chimpanzee how to use sign language!

There is a less well known group of apes called the bonobos (who are very cool) who are an offshoot of chimpanzees (so they are just as related to us as chimpanzees are) and they have learned some amazing stuff. Kanzi the bonobo can make and use stone tools! Just like a cave man!

Kanzi can even use fire and roast marshmellows!

Then there is another bonobo that can drive!

Question: If all life came from a tiny spark millons of years agois everyone and everything related?

Yes! All life is related. 3.5 billion years ago the first life forms evolved in the oceans and over the past several billion years these life forms have evolved into every life form on the planet. So we are related to apes, and dogs, and fish, and lizards, and plants, and bacteria. Everything has a common ancestor!

Question: what do you believe in more science or Christianity

Well, I’m not a Christian so it isn’t too much of a problem for me. I am what is called a Humanist. I believe that morality and ethics (what we think are right and wrong) are best learned from human compassion and empathy. The world would be a much better place if everyone really worked at trying to get along and be better friends to each other.

On the question of Christianity and science. There isn’t any real trouble between science and Christianity if you think that God created the universe and science works to discover how God did it. Yes there can be some problems between the Bible and some parts of science, if you believe that the Bible is 100% fact instead of a story that describes man’s place in the world. But if you think that the Bible was written by people that loved God and were trying to understand their place in the universe and maybe they got some of it incorrect. But can there really be a problem between God and science? I don’t think so.

Science is the process of learning about how the universe works. If God made the universe then this is how he intended it to work. So by learning about science you are learning about the world that God made. By becoming a scientist you are increasing the understanding of God’s universe.

You don’t need to choose between Christianity and God if you think that science is just discovering things about God’s universe. The authors of the Bible didn’t know about dinosaurs or the Big Bang, but we do and we understand more about the world than the authors of the Bible did.

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