Citizen Science: The New Patriotism

In which we appreciate the efforts of science hobbyists making the world better for all of us…

There are two ways of doing science: 1. using the Method combined with seeking peer critique when results are obtained, or, 2. find every possible shred of “evidence” which supports the hypothesis you set out to prove according to certain biases or prejudices, even if those proofs are fictional.

Rene Descartes is famous for a lot….the Cogito ergo sum quote, analytic geometry, and is typically considered the father of modern philosophy.  What many don’t know is that he worked within the early “biological” field to determine if animals had feelings. While he fillets animals live and without numbing agents, he concluded that animals are incapable of feeling pain as humans are, despite their writhing and noises on operating tables.  His is a case of wanting to believe humans have superior brains to such an extreme that our way of “feeling” pain is unlike an animal’s, who, or which, according to Descartes, are not capable of such advanced mental activity.

On the other hand, we have been impressed with efforts made by modern day citizens  practicing a form of science, and generally aiding awareness of some animal populations as we coexist with them.  We ran across this idea of “citizen science” via Glenn Nevill’s blogsite whereby he supplies peregrine falcon photos to the Chronicle newspaper. The Peregrine is considered endangered.

One of the reasons we are highlighting Nevill’s work is due to our dissatisfaction, or feelings toward, with our local wildlife management practices, in addition to other practices of wildlife management which may be deemed unpatriotic.  For those of us practicing citizen science the right way, we can be considered scientifically patriotic by extension of the term “citizenship.”   Recently there were either 3 or 5 Mountain lions shot in the locale of central Oregon because a man’s dog was attacked, and there had been several sightings.  You can view Jim Anderson’s article in the Nugget here.

These migratory predators, as noted by Anderson, are following Mule deer, and homes have cropped up within their usual migratory range.  Since the “what if” question of “will these animals start attacking humans” is part of the debate, the modus operandi for combating the problem was to eradicate the offending population “just in case.”  This disturbs us because of what appears to be “bad science practice” and the fact that three, or more, of these complex organisms lost their life for reasons we might consider un-well-thought-out.

We wonder about the unintended consequences of such actions.

Jim “Raptor Man” Anderson deserves a special nod for his lifelong citizenry.  See this OPB special on this man’s field work and lifelong citizenry.


3 responses to “Citizen Science: The New Patriotism

  • gnevill

    Thanks for the mention in your blog. Sorry to hear about the Mountain Lions, it is always disheartening to hear things like this.

  • philosopheriturist

    I think you are doing good stuff. Thanks for the sympathy for the cats, I cannot really just let this brush off my shoulders this time. I try to be “philosophical” about such things, but I guess I can’t quite get back to my reptilian brain-function when it comes to mammals…well, I just have a hard time actually being “classic scientist” when it comes to the things I comment on…hopefully not too “preachy?” It is good to kep emotion in mind though…

    Birds are cool though…dinosaur-like. I stalked three different ones on my walk today: a Pygmy nuthatch (I think…my (bi)glasses went kaputt…so might have been a White-breasted), a Red-winged blackbird (with 4 different songs/calls/warnings to boot!) and a little brown bird I have yet to id. I learned so much in an hour!
    Citizen science.

  • gnevill

    Doesn’t sound preachy at all. I think the best scientist have passion for their work.

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