The leaders of science throughout history have come from affluent backgrounds in Western cultures. This trend is not a coincidence, but rather supports the notion that science exists as a societal and cultural structure. It is a school of thought and practices that are held in high regard by a specific group of people in a geographic area.

Anthropologists define culture as “the full range of learned human behaviors.” Culture is integrated, patterned, and an elaboration on natural biological urges. The concept of science fits neatly into this definition. Curiosity is a natural biological urge in humans as a result of being self-aware creatures. We tend to seek answers to questions and we are naturally intrigued by exploration. Science is the learned behavior that responds to our curiosity in Western culture. In school we are taught from a young age to follow a certain procedure when executing scientific experiments, and then taught to support our ideas with evidence in writing. The universal scientific method is a pattern of behavior that organizes our curiosity into a structure within culture.

Science also cannot be separated from culture because it is not a priority on a global scale. Only the affluent have the time, security, and resources to make significant contributions to or engage in the scientific community. Tracing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, science falls within the uppermost levels of the pyramid: with esteem and self-actualization. According to the pyramid, only those who have achieved their most basic physiological needs, feel safe and comfortable, and have a sense of belonging within the society can reach the levels where science exists in it’s accepted form. In most parts of the world, humans have been able to rise above those bottom three levels, and thus their cultures do not place much emphasis on science.

Because many people in Western culture are capable of reaching overall security, the principles and practices of science can thrive in our culture. However, science can not be perceived as an institution that everyone has access to, but rather should be viewed as a privilege and used to help the society that generated it.

Sources:

https://www2.palomar.edu/anthro/culture/culture_1.htm

https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html