- To do my part to increase public understanding of science and nature.
- To share anything else science/nature related that catches my attention.
- Perhaps most importantly, to have a soap box available to use at my leisure.
- Discussing pseudoscientific and other anti-science claims, and their potentially dangerous or otherwise negative consequences.
Where did the name "Obligate Scientist" come from?
When I first did an internet search of “obligate scientist” while dreaming up a name for this blog, I was a little surprised to find only 1 instance of the phrase as I had envisioned it. I suspect that the phrase has been used in this sense before, perhaps by some science student somewhere after first hearing of “obligate anaerobes” or “obligate parasites” in some introductory biology course, then light-heartedly tossing the adjective around to describe him- or herself as a die-hard ice-cream lover, Yankee’s fan, or in this case, scientist.
Why science? I have always had this unyielding urge to understand the natural world, and I have found such understanding is in large part obtained through (1) the knowledge shared by millions of insightful people from the past and present, and (2) through careful observation and critical interpretation of those observations as a means of adding to that body of knowledge. To put it plainly, science (which includes using the scientific method, and the teaching and learning of scientific knowledge) is (almost by definition) the only effective means of acquiring a deep understanding about the natural world.
So what exactly do I mean by “obligate scientist”? Well, probably just what you think I mean. I assume scientist needs no explanation, so let us focus on the obligate part. To someone interested in biology, the word likely conjures up terms like those I just mentioned above: “obligate anaerobe” and the like. To quote wikipedia, “an obligation is a requirement to take some course of action.” A more appropriate definition of obligate comes from WordNet, which has a more biologically relevant meaning of obligate, as indicating that something is “restricted to a particular condition of life.”
Given all that, the notion of an “obligate scientist” gets at the heart of how science influences the way I live my daily life, learn about the world I live in, and how I have come to devote so much of my life (so far) to learning about and doing scientific research. Moreover, my parents instilled in me a strong belief in community service, and in doing my part to help people live better lives. It is that sense of public service that obliges me to bring the utility of the scientific method and critical thinking to the general public .
I hope this clarifies things somewhat, and gives you a little more insight into my motivations and intentions in creating this blog. Having only recently started to thinking more explicitly about the philosophy of science, I make no claim that some of the above thinking won't change, be revised or revisited! Wherever this particular experiment in blogging leads, I hope you find it to be as thought provoking and educational as I do!
(Originally a blog post, written 15 Feb, 2009)
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