Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.
I grew up thinking some people are born with science and math competence, but many are not. I long ago concluded I am stuck in the “not” group. Not surprisingly, I performed badly in the two science courses my high school forced me to take.
When I went to college I honored my mother’s fervent wish by declaring a pre-med major. That didn’t last long. In my freshman year I got a D in inorganic chemistry, a “gentleman’s D” that should have been an F. I switched my major to American Studies. I instantly felt relief because history and literature classes were fun and almost easy for me. I regretted being such a dunce in science classes, but it seemed obvious that I was never meant to be a scientist.
Life has ways of challenging our prejudices. As an outdoorsman and outdoor journalist I was a passionate advocate for intelligent management of the planet and all things that live on it. And guess what? I couldn’t fight for sound wildlife management without considering the science used to defend different management programs. When thoughtful people began dreading climate change, I realized that ignorance about science was a luxury our society cannot afford.
Writing about wolf management obliged me to confront tricky science issues. The state of Alaska has long been enthusiastic about lethal wolf management. Alaska’s game managers claim scientific research proves that killing wolves will boost populations of caribou and moose. Many wolf biologists disagreed. I was forced to consider whether Alaska’s wolf studies were sound science or just excuses to kill wolves.
At about the same time, I met wolf researcher Dave Mech, the most dedicated scientist I’ve known personally. Dave helped me see the dangers of sloppy science. After working with him I realized (to my astonishment) that I respect the scientific method. It is an intellectual discipline that makes it possible to test ideas about the world we live in.
My personal odyssey of coming to admire science has been boosted enormously by the way so many politicians have decided that science is their enemy. The current occupant of the White House hates science. He dismisses the wisdom of genuine experts, favoring the whims of his “gut.” As recently as 1990 many Republican politicians supported science research, but that seems like a distant memory now. I’m convinced that the anti-science culture so prevalent today is anti-intellectualism in a form that threatens all the values I hold dear.
I once would have cheerfully admitted to “hating science.” No more. I dream of a time when science and its rigorous style of problem solving is respected again. If we are to make America great again, that would be a smart place to start.
Does science touch on your life now? Do you have feelings about science?