This is a repost from my personal blog. I wanted to post it here as well to encourage people from all backgrounds to contribute to Beasts & Leaves. Just as I believe we are all scientists, I believe we are all naturalists when we observe and research the natural world around us. .
At some point today, you asked yourself a question about the world around you. No big deal, right? Wrong. Questions are the gateway activity into science. Don't believe me? Think back to those early science classes of your youth. Recall the months leading up to the science fair when your teachers were explaining the necessary parts of your presentation. Do you remember listening as the teacher explained the scientific method in detail?
"Step 1: Make observations... Step 2: Develop a Question... Step 3: Develop a hypothesis... Step 4: Design an experiment... Step 5: Draw conclusions... Repeat."
Fast forward back to your question from today. Was it based on observations you previously made? Or, maybe your observations came from conclusions you made in a previous experiment? I know, I know. You don't DO experiments. I am sorry, but, again, you're wrong. Remember that time you tried a new brand of toilet paper because something on the package made you think it might last longer (and for a much better price!) than the stuff you were using? While, you probably didn't design the ideal experiment, you followed the scientific method to determine if that toilet paper really did last longer.
1. You observed it's "new technology" and it's price. 2. You asked whether it would last longer. 3. You predicted that it would because of its "new technology". 4. You bought it, used it, and compared it to previous toilet papers. 5. You decided if it really did last longer than the previous brand you used. If not, you may have repeated the process with another brand.
Science is simply the way of thinking that we use to navigate the world around us. In day to day life, you ask questions and test different predictions to improve your life. You may not explicitly be designing experiments; but, you've gotten through life partly because you asked questions, made predictions, and decided if your predictions were accurate. Now, imagine if you were to make that method even more systematic and ask even larger questions - you could improve the lives of many. This is one of the main goals of professional scientists.
Today, people are marching for science. Professional and nonprofessional scientists alike. Why? Because science is not and should not be affiliated with a political party and the knowledge that we gain from science should be utilized to benefit the common good. You may think - "Scientists should just stay in their labs and stop involving themselves in politics." However, if we want to see the world improve, we have to actively support scientific results being used to improve our world.
Imagine if you found that perfect toilet paper that both lasts a long time AND is affordable. You've maybe spent six months to one year testing many different brands. What if a family member disregarded your choice of toilet paper on the shopping list you gave them? What if they paid too much for toilet paper that your family will use up in half the time? Or what if they bought paper that you know is more likely to clog your plumbing? If you hadn't caught the mistake, you could have had to pay for a plumber to fix it.
Now, imagine this again on a larger scale with higher stakes than just your plumbing. This is where we are as a society. This is why professional and nonprofessional scientists alike should be advocating for professional scientists to be involved in government. Scientists spend lifetimes working toward creating the best shopping list. Is it perfect? No. But, should we then revert back to items that aren't as effective? I hope we can all agree the answer should be "no". Not incorporating the knowledge and expertise of scientists during policy making is like choosing to turn down layup advice from a professional basketball player. This is why citizens are marching.
Regardless of your personal feelings toward the march, or your political affiliations, my hope is that we all understand how important it is to have policy that is supported by science. This is how we will progress as a society. This is how we can continue to live long, prosperous, and healthy lives. Not by ignoring what we already know or trying to find ways to avoid our current understanding of our world. I also hope that today's march contributes to a future where science is acknowledged more as part of everyone's day to day life. Not just because of the medical and technological advances we all benefit from, but because everyday we rely on science to understand and improve our own individual universes.