Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Critically Thinking

I recently read these two new papers in PLOS Biology here and here on migrations, and how the phenomenon of migrations can place species more at risk from anthropogenic forces. The species that migrate are more at risk for decreasing numbers and endangerment. They outline how people’s settlements and activities (forestry, mining, highways, etc) affect these populations, and underline how important it is that scientists open communication channels with communities and the governments in order to protect the animals.

However, to make informed decisions about these species’ populations, the people involved do not necessarily have the background in science needed to understand the subtleties. Which is OK, nobody can understand everything about everything, and this is why it is important to know WHO to trust, or at least know their real agenda’s. I do the same when it comes to investing my money, politics (to a certain degree), and world events.

So I have often wondered, can we inform future citizens while they are in school? Start in elementary; teach them how to make informed choices, what sources to trust, which to ignore, and ultimately how to think critically.

A not-so-recent example is the vaccination hoopla. Anti-vaccinationists have sexy campaigns that target the general population with limited knowledge of what vaccinations are and how they work. However, how many of these anti-vaccinationists are actual reliable scientists* that have studied vaccines? Do not just look at what they actually say, but understand their motivations. Are they looking for someone to blame? Are they looking for a conspiracy? Do they want your money? Do they want their 15 minutes of fame? Also realize that some information is correct, but taken out of context. Such as the claim that vaccinations don’t work all the time anyways, so why get them? Well, some vaccinations do not 100% for everyone, but this is not a problem usually because of herd immunity, which is kind of a communal vaccination. The more people that do not have the vaccinations, the more susceptible those individuals are.

So this post is not about vaccines or species in trouble, but being aware of where you get your information and becoming informed to make better decisions. The internet is wonderful, but only if you know what information to trust. And sometimes, it can come from a completely reputable place, but the science itself is sometimes wrong. And this is good. If it were never wrong, then scientists are not doing their job. So also look critically at scientific papers, at scientists, at EVERYTHING you read & hear! People that are reputable and trustworthy will help you understand, not just keep repeating the same things over and over. Use your own common sense.

So let’s start teaching our children how to learn and what to trust. Lets start teaching adults, politicians, anyone who will listen how to do the same. And next time someone says that they would rather you drive your huge SUV all over instead of walking/biking/busing, think of all the scientists that are warning you of global climate change instead of the politicians warning you of the economy. Economies can always rebound, but can the Earth? Do you want to find out? And think … would you rather get your financial information from a trained analyst or from an 8 year old on a playground?

End of Rant

* Reliable Scientists are those that actually study the subject; so NO I don’t mean those other CAM people (Complementary and Alternative Medicine Practitioners) that mostly are people trying to suck as much money out of you as they can.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

University Course Registration Done!

After procrastinating for a very long time (I was supposed to in the middle of May), I finally have registered in my courses for the Fall and Winter semesters.

And this year I have rockin' classes! I have evolutionary biology, a mass of botany classes, geology and my mainstay, french class.

Hopefully this year will give me lots of fodder for my blog, as well as a main venting area, when, halfway through the semester, I complain about my classes, teachers, classmates, & then I wonder why I ever quit my job in the first place to go into massive debt just to rule the entire world.....ahem, I mean get smarter :P

So anyways, I'll just get back to my summer reading program (ie. scienceblogs) and enjoy the freedom while it lasts, until 8am tomorrow morning when I have to be at work...


Monday, July 28, 2008

Language Laws??

For a while now, Alberta has had one official language. Now with this traffic ticket fiasco, will this open up these laws for amendment or change? Yes, I know, I know... the Alberta Government is now appealing the court ruling, so where will this leave Albertans?

First of all, I'm Albertan, was born Albertan ... and I happen to be a very liberal Albertan (didn't think that was possible didya?!) I also believe everyone in the country of Canada should be able to fluently speak BOTH french and english. Not because of our history, but because it improves our ability to travel & identify with other cultures, opens our opportunities, and provides all Canadians a basis of unity.

However, this guy failed to make a safe left turn, and if the ticket was in portugese, swahili, or russian it should still be upheld! I'm all for the language laws to be reformed, but this guy actually committed a traffic infraction & should be punished accordingly. Let's not lose sight of what this is actually about.

Welcome to my first post!

I hope to accomplish two different things with this blog. The first is the ability to show across a wide audience that botany (and science) can be fun, interesting, and easy. Trust me ... if I can do it, most people can.

The second is for my own benefit. As I read scientific papers & learn many things through school and the internet, my blog will be a way to disseminate and critically think about that information. If I benefit one person along the way, I have accomplished my goal.

That being said, this blog will not all be about science or plants. I have a wide array of interests that I hope to bring across as well. If you have any neat websites to show me, or science topics you would like to discuss, drop me some mail & I will get back to it ASAP.

Happy Reading!