Author Topic: Science Debate #1  (Read 1367 times)

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Offline igmillichip

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Science Debate #1
« on: November 10, 2009, 01:01:15 AM »
So, what do you think about science?

In a thread in general snake chat, there was a discussion developing that started with a question on ‘heterozygous’ and ending up being a bit of a discussion about how different people approach the subject of science in herpetology (or any similar subject such as fish keeping).   See http://www.reptile-community.com/smf/index.php?topic=8385.0

I, for one, approach fish keeping in a very scientific manner (for good reason); but I tend to keep the science in herpetology to rather basic science (even though I am always ready to jump into the deeper science if required!). So even from one persons point of view it is ‘horses for courses’ and ‘courses for horses’ with respect to the appliance of science.

The Herpetological Society of Ireland is bound by aims to collate and disseminate knowledge of herpetology at all levels….and that will include science and technology.
The notion of science will be via levels (starting at the basics and leading through to more in-depth science).

But, it is always useful to get feedback on people opinion or perception of science and Science (noting the capitalisation of one of the words).

As a scientists, I have strong philosophical views on science; different scientists belong to different philosophical schools of thought. We may not all agree on the conclusions drawn from observations, and different scientists have different beliefs on how science should be disseminated or otherwise taught.

I believe that Science is an integral part of herpetology and the keeping of reptiles etc.

SO: what are the opinions of Scientists and Non-Scientists?
(remember…dignity and respect to all opinions. H.S.I. members and non-members please contribute. I won't know who has chosen which option in the poll)

Ian


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Offline lisafay

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Re: Science Debate #1
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2009, 13:20:50 PM »
hmmm, seems like a particular type of person is being drawn towards this thread so far!
I'll come back on and give my very boring views on this later when i've more time!
But great idea for a thread, Ian :)

Offline igmillichip

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Re: Science Debate #1
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2009, 01:08:39 AM »
hmmm, seems like a particular type of person is being drawn towards this thread so far!
I'll come back on and give my very boring views on this later when i've more time!
But great idea for a thread, Ian :)

Hoped to see you back here Lisa, but no sign yet.

Anyway.....I'll put in a mini-case.

The thread is titled Science Debate with a Poll.

But maybe we could even look at the meaning of the word ‘science’.
To some people, science is that awfully stuffy thing timetabled at school as ‘Chemistry’, ‘Biology’ or ‘Physics’.

Others may even see it as a subject that ‘certain types’ of people may be drawn towards.
And maybe even seen as being taught under a strict fact-based knowledge regime.
If that is the case, then that is fair enough as all too often science has gone under the umbrella of ‘Science’ (note the capitalisations again) and not given the justice it deserves. Hence, part of the reason why I put this thread up. We scientists (whether paid for that or not anymore) are aware of some public perception of science.

To me, science is:
the observation of nature, encapsulation of nature and the observations of nature, attempting to understand and explain those observations, attempting to see if we can apply rules to explain nature and to attempt predictions, and having to accept that the rules we apply are tentatively based upon our present understanding.
(My fuller definition would actually lead us into a debate on scientific philosophy…I am of one school of thought, and many other scientists belong in different schools of thought, but that debate is not the intention here).

Here are some questions (I don't want the answers unless anyone wants to comment on each)..….
1.
 “We know THAT….UV light is required for Vitamin D3 synthesis”,
but do  “We know WHY…. UV light is required for Vitamin D3 synthesis” ?

2.
“We know THAT……5+4 =9”, but do “We know WHY…..5+4 = 9”?

3. “We know THAT…..life exists in the form that we know it”, but do “We know WHY…..life exists in the form that we know it”? (umm, that’s interesting….could even have asked HOW)
 
For some of us, we want to get the nitty gritty of each statement; for others, science may be simply be about “knowing”. It is a philosophical argument to determine which approach is correct.

In Reptile Keeping, science is intrinsic. But so are Art, Engineering and Technology.
Science tells us an animals requirements (eg UV light of specified wavelengths); it may go further to tell us why (eg UV light for Vit D3 synthesis).
But that alone is no use to a keeper: is science saying “install the Sun in a vivarium?”.
Well, science didn’t specify that little detail…and there is only one in the solar system but it is going free to anyone who can transport it home.

The input of engineering can make a device that is not the sun and produces UV light according to the scientific specification. But is an 2 ton industrial arc welder of any use in someone’s front-room 3 foot viv, not to mention the potential damage to animal?

Art kicks in…the idea of ‘fitting something in’…the UV source needs to fit inside a 3 foot vivarium, not obscure the animals, it needs to be possible to run it on a domestic power supply and within the budget of the average domestic electric bill, and not incinerate the animals.

SO: back to the drawing board….and this is where Technology with its emphasis of the scientific study of ‘fitting in’ (or study of crafts or art) steps-in.
Using scientific knowledge, and the realistic wants and needs of the consumer (the Keeper), engineering can develop a technology that can provide a usable solution to the problem of supplying UV light to captive reptiles.

Is that not what Keepers want?….but it is based around science at its core. Like it or not.

Just wondering......do people find analogies useful in having science explained?   
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Offline rmg

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Re: Science Debate #1
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2009, 01:41:53 AM »
I.M.O, regarding science's role in herpetology and keeping herps in captivity, whether you're a "scientist" or not you can't avoid science... rather you can limit how technical you want to get and how much you want to question..

Everything you do on a daily basis has it's grounding in science, from making a cup of tea (chemistry) to breeding corn snakes (animal husbandry).

It doesn't take a "scientist" to study science.

A good question answered will always lead to many more questions. This is, in my opinion, the essence of science, in all it's many shapes and forms.

And this stands true for all aspects of Herpetology




Offline Leviathan

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Re: Science Debate #1
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2009, 17:03:40 PM »
Also, herpetology and herpeculture are different.

Personally I love the scientific aspect of the hobby, and as an amateur wannabe herpetologist, I found it opens a whole new and massive world into the animals we keep.

That said, I think it is important to keep one from the other, so that those just interested in keeping their animals well, don't get swamped with science to the point where people feel outside 'the loop'.

Offline igmillichip

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Re: Science Debate #1
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2009, 17:37:10 PM »
Being in or out of the loop is an important item here.

Yes, it is so easy to get bogged down with detailed science. But what may be worse than that is being bogged down with over trivialised science or science presented within the wrong context (and I'm holding back from actually saying "stuff put forward as science but in fact is not correct"....but at a push may go that direction.)

Maybe the presentation of science needs to be reviewed: eg present it in stages (but that takes time to get to the point); or maybe review the visual presentation (such as using aside boxes with detailed info in them if anyone cares to read that).
Maybe even collate together all known mis-informations/fallacies/laymans terms etc and list them with a scientific address to each one. Synonyms would also be usefully thrown into that collection.

IMO, confusion with science often starts with misconceptions or mis-information gained from prior 'teachings'.....it is when Science (with a capital S) starts to explain the science that confusion sets-in as the mis-information/fallacies etc previously understood tend to put up a barrier. If you see what I mean.
There is often a double edge to getting across the science in that myths have to be dispelled first.....double the work effectively.

But in the above, I'm only really addressing the formalised Science....

As RMG said, science is not necessarily something that a Scientist does.
Nature does science, and she never went to University. :)

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Offline Rob

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Re: Science Debate #1
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2009, 17:40:29 PM »
As has been mentioned, you don't have to be a scientist to "get" science. Personally I think most people who keep animals will eventually engage in the study of animal behaviour without even realising it. Take dogs as an example. Most of us have learned to recognise the most commonly seen reponses in dogs. We can identify threatening behaviour, submissive behaviour, social hierarchies etc. We can even pick up on the subtle differences between play fighting and genuine aggression. A lot of science is understanding concepts. Once you understand a concept you've overcome the biggest obstacle.All the fancy words are just for showing off afterwards. ;D
I think the main reason people are "afraid" of science, is that those in the know tend to have an uncanny ability to make those who aren't feel stupid for asking questions. Science doesn't have to be scary.I always admire people who have the ability to explain things in terms that the layman can understand.It's a skill that many scientists are sadly lacking in.
I'm gonna worry about swine flu when pig's fly...coz then it'll be an airborne virus.

Offline igmillichip

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Re: Science Debate #1
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2009, 17:50:01 PM »
As has been mentioned, you don't have to be a scientist to "get" science. Personally I think most people who keep animals will eventually engage in the study of animal behaviour without even realising it. Take dogs as an example. Most of us have learned to recognise the most commonly seen reponses in dogs. We can identify threatening behaviour, submissive behaviour, social hierarchies etc. We can even pick up on the subtle differences between play fighting and genuine aggression. A lot of science is understanding concepts. Once you understand a concept you've overcome the biggest obstacle.All the fancy words are just for showing off afterwards. ;D
I think the main reason people are "afraid" of science, is that those in the know tend to have an uncanny ability to make those who aren't feel stupid for asking questions. Science doesn't have to be scary.I always admire people who have the ability to explain things in terms that the layman can understand.It's a skill that many scientists are sadly lacking in.

Some good points.

many of the worlds greatest scientists.....darwin, arthur eddington etc were very eloquant in their use of poetic language to get their ground-breaking ideas across. When you have such ground-breaking ideas, a scientist even has to revert to 'laymans' terms and poetry to explain things to other scientists. (Both the guys I mentioned where also brilliant observers of what was in nature).
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Offline igmillichip

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Re: Science Debate #1
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2009, 02:11:58 AM »
So moving off the philosophy of how science is put across, which bits seem to be most confusing and have so much conflicting info flying around?

Without thinking too hard, a few come to my mind.
a) Lighting (but there are a few unknowns in that as well) especially wrt UV (science and technology)
b) Genetics....and I'm not on about the different theories on why something is green and red in colour (that is a debate in itself)

What others?
How do we, as a society and as a reptile forum, tackle some of the mis-information or confusion that is out there (and the web and wikipaedia and google may even make things worse)? (given that we don't have an army of authors willing to put pen to paper)
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