Being in Science and Global Change has without a doubt had a larger impact on my way of thinking than any individual class that I have taken. I am a science major (Physiology and Neurobiology), so science classes in the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics have dominated my course load. I have enjoyed all of these classes, and have found the information learned in these classes to be very interesting and useful to my future career. But SGC has gone a step further than what my other classes did. I learned some interesting fact along the way, mostly on the topic of climate and the evidence behind how our climate is changing. But unlike my other science classes, SGC didn't just teach me about the facts and processes of the world, but it taught me how to really examine the evidence in front of me.
Its one thing to learn about some great new scientific discovery, but even greater is the ability to look at the methods to determine if the discovery is really true at all, or just the product of either poor science or international deception. SGC has taught me how the facts of the universe are independent of people's hopes, desires, fears, and self interests. As we go through life we will be bombarded with facts, figures, ideas, and opinions; SGC has shown me that skepticism is not a dirty word, and only with that mindset can we truly, objectively find out what is true. Information is never a bad thing; it is what we do with that information that matters. Scholars has helped me to develop a mindset to look at everything from a scientific mindset and to realize that science is not just a research method, but also a way of life.
Throughout the past three semesters, I have gone on several field trips, most notably to the Washington D.C. Museum of Natural History (fall semester 2014) and to the Washington Zoo (Spring Semester 2015). The common theme that I found at both places was the tremendous impact that people have on the environment. The museum and the Zoo were both dominated by exhibits about how various habitats and ecosystems are being affected by civilization, either directly or indirectly. This really hammered in the point that our actions really do have a major effect on the world, and despite what some people like to ignore, this effect on the environment is not theory, we see it happening currently, and something must be done about it.
Throughout Colloquium, we examined cases of science gone wrong, from the crazy experiments of the Nazis, to the suppression of science by the Catholic Church. We discussed what happens when evil people pervert real science, and when people use poor methods to propagate bad science, even with the best of intentions. These lectures really gave me a solid understanding that only when science, in its true form of objective, unbiased, falsifiable, and repeatable results can society truly move forward. It has been shown time and time again that the most sustainable, advanced, and progressive societies and the ones with the most objective form of science and the greatest free flow of ideas. Using logic and reason, coupled with strong ethics towards people, animals, and the environment, we as a civilization can truly progress. Problems can only be fixed if they are understood. SGC has shown me that only true science will allow us to understand the problems that we face.
I do admit that many of the concepts taught in SGC were not totally foreign to me. For my whole life I have tried base my views of the world on the best evidence in front of me. But there was one aspect covered in both colloquium and the required literature that really changed my views on the reality of our world. At various points throughout lecture and with the assigned literature, I came to the realization that the vast majority of people in this world actually really like science. Many people don't really understand a lot of aspects of it, and many skeptical of scientists’ motives and honesty. Some of this is due to past incident (the Nazis for example) or due to misinformation from conspiracy theorists. Despite this misunderstanding, most often, when people are taught the truth about the natural world and all the wonders of modern science, they become fascinated. Most people want to learn the truth, but simply don't have the necessary avenues to be taught. This has shown me that the responsibility is on the educated to spread this knowledge, and never give up against the constant resistance of conspiracy, bad science, and general ignorance.
This really tied into one of my supporting courses, Communications 107. In my Communications class, the main theme of the class was issues in communication. It varied across many fields, but the big idea was identifying areas where communication is poor in society and potential solutions. This plays right into what we had talked about in SGC. There is a tremendous amount of incredible information about nature and the universe. At the same time we have a population that, while vastly uneducated on many of these topics, has a general interest to learn about the wonders of the universe. It is imperative to figure out ways to communicate these things with the population, because of populace that dons a scientific mindset is much more likely to produce a sustainable society with a culture that breeds innovation and conservation of this wonderful home we call Earth.
Another supporting class that really tied into climate change was Biology 106, which dealt mostly with ecology. One of the main topics discussed was of course evolution. There were a lot of similarities between this discussion of evolution and SGC's topic of climate change. In both cases, we were dealing with what could, in layman's terms, be called SCIENTIFIC FACT. We have two cases where mountains of scientific evidence points in a particular direction, with no real contradictory evidence borne of scientific method. Yet in both cases, there is a large amount of people that reject the science due to its conflicts with personal beliefs, special interests, and being misinformed by deceptive people with their own agendas.
It was very interesting to see these parallels, and it really taught me that no matter what the topic is, there will always be a certain group that for whatever reason finds it necessary to argue with logic and reason. The most important thing that I took away from this was just how important it is to never give up trying to convince people of the truth. When it comes to science, there should always be room for discourse and various theories that try to check and double check each other, falsify claims, and produce different results; Science can only flourish when this discourse is allowed. But while that is all very true, it is also true that there can be no compromise when it comes to the truth about the ways of the universe. There is only one right answer. Damn political correctness, and forget about compromising with other people's beliefs. We must trust in the process of the scientific method, and we must fight for what is true, regardless of how that truth effects people's personal beliefs and feelings.
Overall I very much enjoyed this program. I always tried to give my input and participate in class, trying to give my thoughts and perspectives. While many of the people that I met in SGC had similar scientific mindset as I did, it was always interesting meeting people from different backgrounds and hearing their perspectives on certain discussions that we had in class. In particular it was a big help to be around people with backgrounds in computer science when I had issues with certain projects for scholars, a la writing HTML code. It was a great experience to be able to get help from them, while using my knowledge on other subjects of science to assist any peers that needed my help.
While I had come into college with a scientific mindset, SGC really reinforced that for me. I learned just how strong the evidence for climate change was, and I learned just how badly people would deceive others and pervert science to their benefit. SGC showed me the value being a skeptic on EVERYTHING. I learned that you should always follow the evidence, and if your intentions are good and you follow the scientific method, then a great discovery is just waiting for you. The truth doesn't change for what we want to be true. It simply is. Information cannot by its nature be bad; it is how we choose to use that information that matters. Most people don't understand science, but our knowledge and the vastness of evidence demands that we communicate these ideas to all, and create a society where the spread of ideas and challenge to authority promotes better ideas. Where science thrives, society thrives. It is my full belief that the scientific method is the greatest invention in human history, and the ONLY reason to believe that, is because the evidence points that way.