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10 Reasons Why We Should Explore The Deep

Among both scientists and non-scientists there is skepticism about James Cameron’s “Deep Sea Challenge” dive into the Marianas Trench on Sunday and what it really achieved for society.  We keep getting asked: why should we do this and what do we get from Cameron going to the deep?  Deep-sea exploration is expensive, difficult and dangerous. Why should anyone go, let alone he?

One of our more cynical colleagues on Twitter stated:

“Rich asshole builds his own sub and dives really deep. Yawn. Gullible scios and journos mistake such vanity tourism for important discovery”

And one of us [Dr. M] admits that he was also skeptical of the importance of all of this to begin with, but that was before the exciting events of Sunday evening.

Yesterday, we spoke to some of the reasons why Cameron’s dive was important, while acknowledging that some of these reasons may not be direct scientific gain. And this brings us to the difference between exploration and science. Deep-sea scientists are probably more comfortable moving back and forth between these two fields than most other scientists, given that the vast majority (and we do mean vast) of the deep-sea is unexplored. In other words, deep-sea science is still in its infancy. Exploration is for when we lack anysystematic knowledge about a subject and seek to gather in this most simple fashion. We seek to define the unknown. Pure science, on the other hand, has a more explicit goal of the eventual prediction of pattern and process that arises out of the testing of formal hypotheses. Of course, the two need not be a dichotomy; exploration can be a subset of science. Some take a stricter view in which science is restricted to deductive approaches (theory yielding hypotheses that are tested with observation and experiment). We, on the other hand, feel the inductive approach is a valuable part of science as well (observations eventually emerging into a pattern that yields hypotheses).

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