San Diego, California
I know we haven’t spent much time together yet; after all I am only just getting this blog off the ground. However, today I cannot suppress my outrage with the recent course of events. As someone who has based a career about trying to understand natural processes, I take education very seriously. Not just academia, though I do believe there is a time and place for institutionalized learning, I take education in any of its many forms very seriously. As I’ve said before; if you ask a question, and you seek out the answer(s), then by default you are a scientist.
As a scientist I rely on both formal and informal education. What I have attempted to glean after all of these years is a certain sense of critical thought. If you take everything at face value, if you don’t question the inner dynamics of a given mechanism, you won’t be able to grasp its full meaning or potential. Therefore, being critical of any given “fact” that you are presented is incredibly important for making sound decisions.
Within the last week a dynamic power shift took place in the United State’s government. Now, don’t get too excited, this is an phycological blog, not a political blog (that’s algae, not politics). However, the recent receivers of this new power have already taken their first running steps down a dangerous path. And this path can’t possibly lead anywhere worth going. Within the last week the current US government has been caught in a bold faced lie by presenting erroneous data. What I mean by that is that they made a claim, and that claim was proven false. This happens from time to time. But, rather than admitting their mistake, they presented what they called, “alternative facts”. Whatever that means, it undermines the topic at hand, and is downright insensible. This isn’t a forum for morality, but denying fact, denying truth, is wrong.
Yet, that wasn’t far enough. As of January 21st, 2017, the US government officially banned the United States Department of Agriculture from posting on social media; days later that ban was extended to the Environmental Protection Agency. This is startling unethical, for several reasons. Primarily because history shows us that government censorship, especially within the government, is the start of something very ugly. Secondly, for reasons that defy explanation, the US government is currently, figuratively, at war with the scientific community. Specifically, the scientific community that is directly supported by public funds. This war is over the environment, how the human species interacts with environment and how the environment interacts with the rest the planet. The last time I checked, these were some very complex issues. However, it is overwhelmingly clear that humans have interacted with the planet’s climate system in a disproportionate way.
The issue is not that some graduate student is currently upset with the government. The issue is that the government is attempting to deny its citizen the right to think critically.
Regardless of your national, political, religious, academic, professional, scientific or cultural affiliations, you should never give up the right to critical (and free) thought. If anyone attempts to take this right away from you, challenge them and their motives. Have the strength to admit when you’re wrong. It happens, we don’t grow if we’re always right. But. if anyone challenges your convictions, allow yourself to think critically before you act.
Most importantly, never let anyone get in the way of your pursuit of knowledge, and education.
But that’s just one graduate student’s opinion.
Until next time.
-Baron von Urchin
December 6th, 2016
Somewhere, in the Atlantic Ocean
To those that have visited this site before, you might have noticed a few changes. Mainly, while I’ll still be writing under the alias ‘Baron von Urchin’, I have decided to rename this site as ‘Lowercase science’. This decision was reached after many long conversations I’ve recently had with colleagues aboard a research vessel. Born out of a desire to increase interdisciplinary, and international, collaboration, some fifty-odd scientist-students sailed on a research expedition together on a one-month voyage from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Cape Town, South Africa, aboard the Russian research vessel Akademik Tryoshnikov.
While we all came from many different backgrounds, both academically and culturally, nearly all of us, in some way, shape or form, are studying the affects that humans are having on the Earth’s climate system. Although we’ve had many lectures, discussions and workshops related to our various fields, we also spent a lot of time discussing climate change from a science-communication perspective. One of the main points that came from these lengthy discussions was the perception of “Science” and of “Scientists”.
Most people have no idea how we do what we do, how we spend our time or what motivates us to keep on keeping on. More often than not we’re perceived as Scientists, with a capital S, in our ivory towers. Here, I would like to break down that barrier, and talk about science without the pomp, without the vain terminology, without the elitism or mystic vail. We’re people just like anyone else; brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends, truth-seekers. And we would love it if you joined us on this journey.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s what truth-seeking is all about. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand, or your voice.
This blog will still serve as your destination for anything phycological (remember, algae are always interesting!) but with more of a science-communication twist. So, please feel free to join the discussion, and write in at any time.
Baron von Urchin
Pike Spector is currently a Research Operations Specialist with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary