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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Being a citizen scientist.

Science is a rational approach to the world in which we examine items and phenomena by questioning what we see. We form hypothesis and test hypothesis. We seek the truth and not an immediate visceral response. Patterns are observed.

Yet that visceral response or gut feeling is due to millions of years of evolution that warns us of danger. Those subconscious cues that exist beyond our rational thought. Science is now acknowledging that we may have other brains in our body such as a smaller one controlling our gut. Hence that gut reaction is very real.

Ironically, it is that need for a pattern that we all seek that combines with the gut feeling that makes us a skeptic at times. Add to that all the contradictions in science. At one time, women were advised to not drink coffee. Now we know a little coffee everyday is good for you.

But as an education teacher I had said a way too many times, "Don't throw the baby out with bathwater.". Science has improved our lives immensely. Let's not let skepticism rule the day. So in your journey as a citizen scientist, keep the following in mind.

1. Slow down for the facts. 
I adopted two puppies. The black one was clearly bigger than the brown one. Looking over their vaccination records, the brown one weighed more than the black one. They had to have them mixed up. The next time, I monitored their weights. That bigger black dog did weigh less than the brown dog. Sometimes facts surprise us.

2. Step away from group think.
This is incredibly hard. When you take biochemistry or cell biology you study models of how systems in organisms are supposed to work. Then you learn, "The model describes the activity but the model really never functions exactly as it is supposed to.
Just like politics, sometimes everyone wants to all agree to get along. As a teacher, I learned I had to make kids like me to get the best out of them. This is a quandary. We all tolerate a lot of talk to get along with people. It's called picking your battle. But we pay a consequence when a conspiracy theory takes hold. Maybe it is time to call out nonsense. Think about all the fake news during the past election.

3. Pick your battles
I work on destroying invasive plants on my property. I call my property a 20 acre nature reserve. I mow tall grasses in sections each year. I never mow the entire area in a year. Because it is a home to birds, opossums, raccoons, deer, snakes, foxes and whatever else shows up. I've had a stray wild turkey visiting a lot. It's  a small place. But I do my part. I also recycle what I can. I dump plant material from the kitchen into the front field.

4. Be a builder.
I pick up litter along the road. I've thought about putting some huge barrels beside the river for trash and haul it out every once in awhile. It bothers me that people love to use the river for fishing and recreation. But they just throw their garbage out where ever. Sure paper rots. But the plastic, metal cans, tires, whatever.
I remember as a Girl Scout, a park ranger explained to our small group that the world is made up of two types of people builders and destroyers. We can't always be a builder. But when we can we should. Don't let someone else's lack of concern weaken your character.

5. Respect other beliefs.
We all have our beliefs. I am a religious person. But forcing your beliefs on someone else should not be considered science. Nor should you tolerate someone's beliefs controlling progress to make peace.

6. Keep an open mind.
A man fell off the side of the mountain and was hanging on for dear life. Another man reached his hand down for him to grasp. The man yelled, "My God will save me!"
The man fell further down the mountain. They dropped a rope to him to climb up. The man yelled, my God will save me. Then he fell a little further and was standing on a ledge. They flew a helicopter next to him and dropped a rope ladder. He shouts louder, "My God will save me."
He proceeds to try to climb down the mountain and gets caught up in a rock slide that he does not survive.
Getting to heaven, he files a complaint with the angel in charge. "Why didn't God save me?"
The angel gives him a sideways look and says, "We sent you a hand, a rope and a helicopter and you didn't take any of them."
Things don't always look like what you expect do they. ☺

Happy Earth Day. There is no planet B.

The Earth is a terrible thing to waste.


  1. Hi Ann - yes thank you for the reminder re Earth Day - I am aware and do what I can for the planet - as you say no Planet B. Lovely examples you've given us ... true to life ... cheers Hilary

  2. I can't stand waste, nor liter. Around here I've heard your joke as a man with flood waters rising. Same idea. Funny how some miss all the times in the Bible that God used plain, imperfect people to accomplish His will.
    Perspectives at Life & Faith in Caneyhead

  3. I'm late visiting for Earth Day, but I enjoyed the March For Science in my hometown. It was a wonderful get together with like minded scientists of many disciplines.

    I like your "pick your battles." And I agree that our rivers are sorely overlooked when it comes to clean-ups. Happy belated Earth Day.


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