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Entries in Scientists (10)

Monday
Mar062017

War metaphor, what is it good for?

Recent guest blog posts by Dr. Jon Foley (@GlobalEcoGuy) in Scientific American make no mistake: it is a time of war. There is a war on science.

Metaphorically speaking, right?

In “How to Defeat Those Who Are Waging War on Science,” (Feb. 27, 2017), Foley and Christina Arena write, “America has a choice to make. A choice between advancing civilization or bringing it down. A choice between knowledge and chaos. Now, everyone must choose which side they are on."

Dr. Foley seems to be fixated on the metaphor in “War on Science” (Feb. 20, 2017) and in another article, when he warns: “The War on Facts is a War on Democracy” (Jan. 25, 2017). It’s clear he’s armed for confrontation, if not combat.

YIKES!

Dr. Foley is Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences — a beloved institution in Golden Gate Park where my career in development began in 2010. I now stay involved via iNaturalist and volunteer with citizen science projects that monitor tide pools along the California coast.

I can appreciate what Dr. Foley is trying to say and that he thinks in bold terms. However, while the war metaphor might “rally the troops” in military terms, does it really help advance science in realistic ways? Do scientists really want to be viewed as combatants in a war? How does this advance a culture of "safe spaces?"

Personally, I am deeply troubled by headline emphasis on war and it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Dr. Foley, I respectfully ask: Do we really need another war metaphor? Now? Aren’t we divided enough? Doesn’t this just perpetuate more “us versus them” thinking? Isn’t that dehumanizing?

It seems like certain generations of Americans love to talk in terms of war. They understand what that means and it speaks to them. OK, but I think a new generation is looking for better metaphors.

At best, it’s a basic metaphor that does what basic metaphors do: symbolize a concept by evoking imagery. However, at worst, the war metaphor implies indirect and direct violence as a proxy for opposing ideas and values. I highly doubt that Dr. Foley is advocating for violence in his war-on-science approach.

To be clear, I DO think there is a real war going on right now due to climate change, which has real victims and globally requires multi-national alliances and creative solutions fueled by innovations in science and technology, much in the same ways that surfaced globally in World War II — read “A World at War” by Bill McKibben.

But this literal war isn’t quite what Dr. Foley and others mean when they metaphorically talk about a war on science, which is another reason I think a better metaphor would suffice. By calling everything a war – war on drugs, war on poverty, war on (FILL IN THE BLANK) – we lose any effectiveness of the metaphor. It’s tired. I’m tired of it.

Further, conservationists in particular should be careful of "crying wolf” too many times. War as a metaphor is, in my opinion, overplayed and way too simple whereas the situation Dr. Foley is describing is incredibly complex. The war metaphor is also incredibly limiting and I implore life-loving scientists and theorists be more sophisticated than that, if less macho...

In looking for a basic critique of the limitations of the war metaphor, I came across a paper, “On revising conceptual metaphors for argument” (2016) by Erik Isaksson, a student at University of Gothenburg's Department of Philosophy, Linguistics, and Theory of Science. Isaksson argues that there are serious problems with using war as a conceptual metaphor for argument and discusses several limitations, including:

No Fallacies Argument: “Arguments based on the assumption that in war, anything goes. As long as the war metaphor reigns, nothing but winning matters — there are no fallacies in argument.”

Aggression Argument: “Certain types of people (perhaps those afraid of conflict) are driven away from serious philosophical discourse because of how aggressive it is. And " … it stands to reason that the loss of these people entails a loss in knowledge and competence.”

Blindness Argument: “… as we think of argument as war, we lose sight of some non-adversarial goals. We end up competing rather than cooperating."

Isaksson says, "... we would be well served by picking a metaphor which encourages cooperation rather than competition. Furthermore, the metaphor should aid us in accomplishing the primary goal of argument: arriving at the truth together. Testing one party’s idea against another’s in bloody war is certainly one way of doing this, but there might be other ways. Rather than finding the truth (and agreement) by attacking each other until one of us gives way, perhaps it is possible to cooperate towards finding the truth."

In summary, my reasons for opposing the war metaphor include:

  • It creates an “us versus them” dynamic that is dehumanizing.
  • It implies indirect and direct violence as a proxy for opposing ideas and values.
  • It is an overplayed and tired metaphor that is too limiting.
  • It emphasizes that nothing but winning matters.
  • Aggression alienates people and we lose their knowledge and competence as a result.
  • We end up competing instead of cooperating.

If recent marches have taught me anything, it’s that wit is more energetic and effective than the war metaphor. 

Make wit, not war!

At the San Francisco Women’s March in January, the wit levels were over the top! Thanks to the uplifting power of clever wit and humor, I was energized and inspired far more than any tired war metaphor could ever elicit. I’m excited for the upcoming March for Science – San Francisco, where I expect to see the best/worst placards my science-loving, creative community can come up with. I look forward to it!

Let's disarm the tired war metaphor and energize a new generation of FACTIVISTS!

“Out of our labs and into the streets!”

Let’s promote peace above all. Let’s talk. Let’s make our voices heard. And let’s find a better metaphor than war.

Will you join us?

Sunday
Mar052017

The March for Science - San Francisco

The March for Science - San Francisco celebrates public discovery, understanding, and distribution of scientific knowledge as crucial to the freedom, success, health, and safety of life on this planet. We are a nonpartisan group, marching in support of the following goals: Communication, Funding, Policy, Literacy, and Diversity.
 
Join us on April 22nd, 2017 (Earth Day 2017), as we March For Science!
 
RSVP on Facebook
For more information: MarchForScienceSF.com
Wednesday
Mar262014

BioBlitz and Biodiversity Festival

The three national park units that make up the Golden Gate National Parks encompass more than 80,000 acres and 91 miles of shoreline along the northern California coast. These parks are home to an amazing array of biodiversity, including over half of the bird species of North America and nearly one-third of California’s plant species!

To better understand, appreciate, and protect this natural treasure, the National Park ServiceNational GeographicGolden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and Presidio Trust are teaming up to host a 24-hour BioBlitz species count and two-day Biodiversity Festival, Friday-Saturday, March 28-29, 2014.

BioBlitz

BioBlitz 2014 will take place in several national parks, including Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site, and locations in Golden Gate National Recreation Area including the Giacomini wetlands, Muir BeachMarin Headlands, Crissy Field, Presidio, Mori Point, and Rancho Corral de Tierra.

The event will take place Friday-Saturday, March 28-29, 2014 and will bring together more than 300 leading scientists and naturalists from around the country, thousands of local community members of all ages, and more than 2,000 students from across the Bay Area.

Throughout March, BioBlitz collaborating organizations such as the Institute at the Golden Gate, California Academy of Sciences, Aquarium of the Bay, the American Cetacean Society, Marine Mammal Center, and Slide Ranch are hosting several BioBlitz-related events

Biodiversity Festival

The FREE Biodiversity Festival will take place at Crissy Field’s East Beach in the San Francisco Presidio, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 28, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 29. The festival features science demonstrations and exhibits, live animals, hands-on activities provided by prominent science and environmental organizations, National Geographic-led photography workshops, food, entertainment, and art. Explorers of all ages can enjoy the festival and “graduate” from Biodiversity University by participating in a variety of activities.

All festival events are free and open to the public, and no registration is required.

Download the event schedule to learn more.

Update! I graduated with a Doctorate of Biodiversity from Biodiversity University! 

Saturday
Mar152014

Citizen Science at the Academy

The California Academy of Sciences is partnering with iNaturalist to enlist an army of citizen scientists working toward conservation efforts. This Science Today video features several of the Academy's citizen science programs, a few of which I've been able to join. 

Citizen science (also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, or networked science) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, often by crowdsourcing crowdfunding. Formally, citizen science has been defined as "the systematic collection and analysis of data; development of technology; testing of natural phenomena; and the dissemination of these activities by researchers on a primarily avocational basis."[1] Citizen science is sometimes called "public participation in scientific research."[2]

I'm particularly delighted to see my Rocky Shore Naturalist, iNaturalist, and Naturalist Center colleagues profiled prominently in the video.

Keep up the good work!

Wednesday
Jul042012

Naturalist Certification

Summer 2012 University of California Naturalist Certification cohort. Photo credit: Dr. Christopher Pincetich.Many of my current professional and personal projects involve translating scientific research and STEM education programs into key deliverables, such as grant proposals, reports, and fundraising case statements. I communicate to diverse audiences, from established scientific research and government agencies, to philanthropic foundations and the general public.

To become better at communicating science, I’ve enrolled to become a Certified Naturalist from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The program "utilizes a science curriculum, hands-on learning, communication training, and community service to engage adults in interactive learning and provides them with scientific literacy and critical thinking skills."

I'm also excited about becoming certified because I'll be able to participate in a wide variety of citizen science programs, including those at the Academy's Naturalist Center. This certification and these programs are part of a growing field of public participation in scientific research (PPSR), in which members of the public engage in the process of scientific investigations:  asking questions, collecting data, and/or interpreting results.

Watch the video below to learn more about the program and be sure to follow the "Green Blog" - it's highly informative and effectively uses stunning visual images.

Saturday
May262012

Prepare To Be Moved!

Don’t miss Earthquake: Life on a Dynamic Planet, a major new exhibit and planetarium show at the California Academy of Sciences. Take a kinetic journey toward understanding these super seismic phenomena and how they fit into the larger story of our ever-changing Earth.

Visitors enter through an oversized crack into a 25-foot-diameter model of the Earth to find touchable geology specimens and interactive stations explaining the basics of plate tectonics. The exhibit highlights how the same earth processes that cause destructive earthquakes in the human timescale can also provide constructive conditions for life in the geological timescale. Live ostriches, ancient fossils, plants, and mounted marsupials (mammals with pouches) illustrate the shared legacy of India, Antarctica, Australia, South America, and Africa, which were once joined together.

The exhibit features an earthquake simulator resembling an old Victorian home in San Francisco transports you back to 5:04 pm on October 17, 1989 – the date and time of the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake. A sudden sustained tremor, followed by a brief aftershock, will give visitors a sense of what this ground-jolting event felt like.

Finally, hands-on activities address what you should do before, during, and after an earthquake.

You might be asking, "What do baby ostriches have to do with earthquakes?" Well, as flightless birds found on multiple continents that were formerly connected, they demonstrate how techtonic shifts have separated them across vast oceans. Plus, they engage the public in learning more about science because they're so darn cute!

The exhibit is now open!  Brace Yourself!

Wednesday
Apr112012

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

I recently watched this video (below) from Bioneers about traditional ecological knowledge. The mission of Bioneers is to inspire a shift to live on Earth in ways that honor the web of life, each other and future generations.

The Bioneers Indigeneity Program works to promote indigenous leaders and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as a critical path to support all people in learning to honor bio-cultural landscapes and reconnect to place-based ways.  Native peoples are keepers of the earth's "old growth" cultures, living in harmony with their Native environments for thousands of years.  This indigenous science offers a different way of knowing that provides a crucial complement to the tools of western science.

Over the last decade, Bioneers commitment to indigenous peoples' social and ecological issues has brought together some of the greatest indigenous leaders of our time in one place. 

I originally wanted to post a presentation by Melissa K. Nelson, Ph.D. (Anishinaabe/Métis [Turtle Mountain Chippewa]), a cultural ecologist, scholar-activist, writer and media-maker, is a Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and the President of the Cultural Conservancy, a Native American nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures and their ancestral lands. She is the editor of the Bioneers anthology, Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future and producer of the award-winning documentary film, The Salt Song Trail. She is the co-founder/co-producer of the Indigenous Forum at Bioneers and co-founder of the new Bioneers Indigeneity Program as well as serving on Bioneers’ board.

However, they password protected the video (why do they not want to share this?!?!), so I removed the link.  Hopefully, Bioneers will be more share-friendly in the future.

Thursday
Mar152012

Big Bang Gala 2012: Illuminate

Explore the tastes, sounds, and creatures of the night at the California Academy of Sciences during the Big Bang Gala, a special evening benefiting the Academy's research and education programs. The evening features Ira Flatow, NPR science correspondent and host of Talk Of The Nation: Science Friday; Dean Kamen inventor of the Segway and many other inventions; Salman Khan, founder and one-man faculty of the Khan Academy; and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google.

Big Bang Gala 2012: Party After Dark

April 19, 2012
8:30pm to midnight
For adults 21+

Tickets to the Gala are sold-out (!), but tickets are still available for Party After Dark, a post-dinner celebration featuring live music by Fitz and The Tantrums, late-night bites, and an open bar. Tickets for Party After Dark are $75 ($45 of each ticket is tax-deductible). For more information call 415.379.5411 or email events@calacademy.org.

Join me!

Sunday
Feb272011

Museums Advocacy Day

On Monday February 28 and Tuesday March 1 over 320 museum advocates – museum professionals, trustees, students and supporters – will be gathering in Washington, DC for the third annual Museums Advocacy Day

According to the American Association of Museums, it is important to remember that museums play a key role in education, job creation, tourism, economic development, historic preservation, environmental conservation, global competitiveness, and more. The museum community - which includes aquariums, art museums, children’s museums, historic sites, history museums, maritime museums, military museums, natural history museums, planetariums, presidential libraries, public gardens, science centers, zoos, and more – has worked together to develop positions on the vital federal issues affecting museums.

If you're like me and unable to attend the events in Washington, DC, you can be part of the action in your hometown:

  • Watch live streaming of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (a grant-making federal agency supporting museums and libraries of all types) Director Susan Hildreth's address (9:55 a.m. ET Monday) and the Congressional Breakfast (8:15 a.m. ET Tuesday)
  • Learn how to advocate from home —through economic impact statements, dear colleague letters and encouraging those in your community to write to their elected officials on the value of museums.

AAM Statement on NEA Funding Cut

The House of Representatives' 217-209 vote to cut $20.6 million from the National Endowment for the Arts budget for the remainder of FY11 would have a disastrous effect if it is enacted into law. The National Endowment for the Arts supports many of our nation's outstanding museums and plays a key role in building creativity, innovation and the skills necessary to compete in the 21st century. I urge the Senate and President Obama to reject this language as it finalizes the federal budget for the remaining 7 months of FY11. AAM President Ford W. Bell

I support the AAM in this effort because I strongly believe in the value that museums add to communities, informal knowledge and experiential learning, as well as the preservation of our cultural, artistic, and scientific assets. So many museums exist due to creative public/private/corporate partnerships, so their continued prosperity depends on such collaborative efforts. 

Support your local museums today!

Saturday
Dec182010

Serving Science and Society - Under One Living Roof!

California Academy of Sciences

Claude, the Academy's lovable albino alligator.

Although this site reflects my research interests – and by no means represents my employer – I am delighted to feature the California Academy of Sciences, where I recently began working in the development division.

Inside and out, this place is amazing.

The Academy has the deepest coral reef exhibit in the world, a 4-story tropical rainforest, a towering T-Rex skeleton, a colony of African penguins, a fully-immersive digital planetarium, and an albino alligator named Claude, along with 40,000 living animals!

The Academy was founded in 1853 (wow!) and today it supports 46 world-class scientists and hundreds of researchers in 11 fields of study. With over a million visitors annually, each year the Academy's accredited teachers, highly-trained docents and scientists share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the natural sciences with tens of thousands of children, teens, and life-long learners. 

The world's greenest museum.It’s new, living and breathing building in Golden Gate Park opened in 2008 and earned the platinum rating (highest rating possible) for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and is the largest public building with this rating in the world. This commitment to sustainability extends to all facets of the facility - with a 2 ½ acre living roof, an expansive solar canopy, an extensive water reclamation system, and walls insulated with recycled blue jeans. The building also houses the Academy science labs and administrative offices (shout out to my colleagues in the development division!), including an extensive library and scientific archive consisting of more than 26 million specimens.

The Academy holds a variety of educational events, such as lectures, in addition to many other public programs. For example, the ’Tis the Season for Science events include indoor snow flurries, an igloo presentation dome, special events and daily presentations. Young visitors can also meet “Santa Claude,” the Academy’s lovable alligator.

Each Thursday, the Academy holds an event called Nightlife, where 21+ adults can enjoy music, science, entertainment and cocktails, while experiencing the Academy’s world-class exhibits and having fun with friends. Each weekly installment features something new and different. For example, last week featured chocolate tastings from around the world!

The Academy also has a useful iPhone application: Golden Gate Park Field Guide. I’ve downloaded it regularly use it to navigate my way through the 1,000+ acres of the park. The app highlights the park’s common wildlife, popular attractions, and hidden gems. As an interactive tool, it invites users to engage with the park and by recording and sharing their experiences.

As a donor and nonprofit professional, I can’t think of a better place to serve or a better mission to support. On my first day of orientation, I was thrilled to see that the very first item on the slideshow was a simple and clear mission: to explore, explain and protect the natural world. 

However, as I learn more about the collections, I also understand that the Academy also provides profound insights into human nature. My experiences in the Academy are a reminder that all forms of life are connected, biodiversity is our greatest strength, and that science and society are fundamentally linked.

Friends, I encourage you to visit the California Academy of Sciences to see it with your own eyes. I also encourage you to become a member, to support this unique cultural and scientific institution, volunteer, and spread the word!