AstronomyScience

AI: Just Another Science Groupie

Blue and yellow make science.I, like many of the contributors to Mad Art Lab, am an artistically minded individual. I have a creative spirit; I love art and music and writing above all else. I was a complete band geek as a kid, my high school years culminating in my participation in five in-school music classes per day my senior year (don’t ask me how they allowed that!), but I paid almost zero attention in my science and math classes.

Becoming interested in skepticism has changed that attitude a lot. Those of us without science backgrounds have the necessity to brush up on our facts just to keep up with the multitudes of science-y skeptics we find ourselves surrounded by, not to mention in order to become better critical thinkers and detectors of BS. Not only has it made me more educated in science, but it has fanned the flame scientific wonder glowing within me that had previously become a tiny ember from the boring treatment of math and science in my classrooms.

One of the things I love about this site is that it takes the skeptical dialogue out of the solitary hands of the scientists and shares it with those of a different perspective. I used to feel like I had very little to contribute to the skeptical community, but this has given me a new, exciting outlet.

Women Thinking Free went on a camping trip last year where we got to hang out with rockstar astronomer Pamela Gay and check out stars and planets at the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin. It was a night full of awe-inspiring sights, but a lot of heavy science. Pamela especially did really well at explaining principles in a way us laypeople could understand, but inevitably the conversation went towards quantum somethingorother and gravitational whoosy-whatsit and it became harder to understand. At one point, I turned to one of my fellow laypeople and whispered, “I have no idea what they’re talking about!”

“I don’t worry about it,” she said. “Some skeptics are scientists and some aren’t. I just focus on the things I’m good at and leave the science to them.”

I’m not sure this is good enough for me. I want to know as much as I can so I can be as mentally equipped as possible. Yet, it’s possible that going into scientific issues knowing only a little bit about science is worse than admitting to yourself that you don’t know anything.

What do you think? Is it our duty as non-scientist skeptics to learn as much about science as we can, or should we leave it to the experts? What has skepticism done for your knowledge and/or love of science? If you have a science background, how has being a part of the skeptical community changed your approach toward educating the general population?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab
community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.

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Ashley Hamer

Ashley Hamer

Ashley Hamer (aka Smashley) is a saxophonist and writer living in Chicago, where she performs regularly with the funk band FuzZz and jazz ensemble Big Band Boom. She also does standup comedy, sort of, sometimes. Her tenor saxophone's name is Ladybird.

4 Comments

  1. March 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    You are right – not all skeptics are scientists. I think that’s OK — there are lots of places that would benefit from the application of skepticism. If anything, science already has probably the highest % of skeptics, so it’s great if there are skeptics focusing on other things also.

  2. March 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    “Some skeptics are scientists and some aren’t. I just focus on the things I’m good at and leave the science to them.”

    That’s exactly right. The only real skill set required to be a skeptic is to be skeptical.

    I had always had a secondary love for science (music and film being first). In college, I made sure to take as many science-based gen. ed. classes as I could. But that really wained after I graduated when the only science news I got was from cable news and the occasional copy of Scientific American.

    Skepticism really rekindled that love of science for me. Now I’m that guy at parties talking about recent science news items and studies (which sometimes annoys the crap out of my fiance).

    But a lot of it still goes way over my head, and probably always will.

  3. March 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Becoming a skeptic has enhanced my love of science, and made me realize that the world isn’t intuitive. Our senses can fool us. The real world is more fascinating than the astrolgers, psychics and alt-med people can imagine.

    Sure it means that I’m not the center of the universe. But I don’t need to be. Because I’m one of the few things in the universe that can appreciate it. 🙂

  4. March 4, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    I don’t think it’s our duty to the world to learn as much as possible – I just think the world is freaking fascinating, so I want to know as much as possible.

    I don’t think I have to understand it all as long as I have the skill to sniff out BS and point out harm when it’s occurring.

    And in other news – WTF has a camping trip? Dooood! I want to do that, that sounds like such fun!

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