Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Skeptical view of science.

Ilana Yurkiewicz has just written a piece The downside of politicians talking about science which includes the following passage:
That mentality just doesn’t work in science. Those who are new to a subject are intimidated from asking questions and afraid to disagree. Rather than reason through ideas themselves, they are pressured into accepting conclusions presented as settled and thereby indisputable. But the thing is, nearly everything in science is disputable. The nature of discovery means trying to find the absolute truth – and exposing inconsistencies, thinking through how to reconcile them, and critically analyzing data are all ways to get there. We can’t get very far when curiosity and open inquiry – the hallmarks of good science – are stifled. We are touting the bottom line while discouraging the very steps of the scientific method that get us there.
What we have to realize is that science and politics have fundamentally different goals, and it’s damaging to conflate them. In politics, the aim is to convince others that you are right. Scientists, ideally, should be seeking objective truths. To do so, they need to be receptive to dissent and open to the possibility of being wrong. Science thrives when diverse ways of thinking are welcome.

Monday, 6 August 2012

My Batty Past is in the Can

College Lake Reserve (more photographs)
At the end of July I went on an evening safari around College Lake (a nature reserve near Tring, Hertfordshire) the idea being to see bats (which have been hit by the unseasonable weather) and glowworms (which were reasonably plentiful). Then today I went again - but just for a day time exercise walk and a sandwich lunch.

Lesser Horseshoe Bat in Devon Cave
(Devon Wildlife Trust)
As I was about to leave one of the volunteers called over to ask how I had enjoyed the safari. I mentioned how interested I was in the electronic bat detectors - which had not been invented when I first worked with bats. This started some reminiscences  about some of my early involvement in research started nearly 60 years ago in Devon and my involvement in the foundation of the William Pengelly Cave Studies Trust. I also mentioned how I got involved in bat ringing with the pioneering work on Horseshoe bats in Devon caves with John and Winifred Hooper. John was also interesting in filming and I described the first attempts to film bats in Beer Quarry Cave, possibly in about 1956. These disused mines were chosen because they were easy to access - with a level floor - and the lesser horseshoe bats, which we planned to film, showed up well on the light coloured walls. My brother and I were filmed looking for the bats - as was the Hooper's young daughter - who was just starting to talk - and so one of her first words was "bat". A year or so later the film was shown by the BBC - perhaps on Blue Peter.

At this point the person I was talking to said that recently he had seen seen the film - as part of a number of early bat films shown to a meeting of the North Bucks Bat Group. The person showing it had made some comments about the youngest member of the party, pointing out that then no-one was concerned about Health and Safety legislation! 

So some of my early batty research is still "in the can."