In today's world, the term "scientist" is loaded. Even the definition for a scientist has come under fire and become a sort of misleading term. To some, a scientist must be an expert, but even that isn't easily defined. Typically, an expert is someone with a professional degree, i.e. MD, JD, PhD, etc. I suppose that is what I consider an expert, but somebody mustn't be an expert to also be a scientist, while an expert must be a scientist, no matter what field of their expertise.
To me, and I believe most in the scientific community would agree with this, a scientist is less a profession or title, but rather more of a way to govern the way we assess a topic. Science is fundamentally unbiased; the results are where things get a bit muddier. The results of a scientific study have no biases when considered alone in a vacuum; the way a scientist looks at them can unquestionably skew how they're interpreted, however.
Science, and by nature being a scientist, entails being a perpetual learner. It requires one to be a cynic and a skeptic, but still an optimist. It's incredibly frustrating and still rewarding. Nearly every problem encountered becomes a new potential for a solution. Evidence is the underlying guide. Researching the topic to understand how other fields influence it is a necessity.
I regard science so highly because science is what allows me to feel some semblance of control over the nearly-impossible-to-control weight on my life: CF.
(A bit of a side note: my worldview is obviously predicated on my experiences of CF. CF permeates every aspect of my life, so in new circumstances, the neural habit loop in my brain tries to relate those new experiences to the ones I'm so familiar with: the CF ones. My experiences with CF have influenced on views on political, ethical, moral, and scientific issues. How could it not? I am a part of a small community that has hugely benefited from scientific-based evidence and phenomenal fundraising.)
One of the most natural reflexes of the human condition is trying to assume control when there's ultimately no control to assume. When we feel like we're not in control, we feel powerless. The feeling of powerlessness is paralyzing, so naturally, we want to hijack control back. Growing up, once I learned of the magnitude of CF – that it was terminal – I shut down. I cried. I was furious. Pissed off at God and the world. It felt unfair and I boiled with rage. When I listen to music from that time of my life – Eminem, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit – I feel that rage well up inside me yet again.
Eventually, I found some relief. I'm not sure what it was. Maybe I just stopped thinking about it, but I certainly never "came to grips" with it. I still haven't fully accepted that my life could be cut short because of CF. But I've thought about it, and I'd assume I've thought about it more than most people my age and probably more than most people of all ages that don't have a chronic or terminal condition.
It was at this point in my life that a young scientist started burgeoning. I was interested in science from a young age, but I don't recall being that into science. My first distinctly scientific memory was an elementary science fair. I owe Big Frank a lot credit for this one, but the project was to study how the enzymes that I take to help digest food in my stomach digested certain food in closed conditions over a set number of days.
I don't want to speculate on how I became the way I did. A lot of credit is owed to both my parents nurturing different characteristics of mine, as well as genetic predispositions for certain traits. I didn't realize it as it was happening, but I used the scientific process in my battle against CF once I learned that CF would eventually lead my lungs to utter failure. I learned everything I could and began to understand why I needed to do my treatments. I became the aggressor in my care; I spoke with my doctors to always learn what new treatments or strategies I could do to slow the progression. I exercised and played sports with friends, not only because it was fun, but because it was concurrently slowing the bronchiectasis in my lungs.
Developing a scientific thought process is beneficial to everybody. I learned from a young age that using evidence-based strategies to influence our decision making – exercise and compliance show huge results in CF – is a better way to health and happiness. As you learn more – understanding why an eclipse happens, how other governments work, or even just learning how people from different cultures do things – you become more emotionally complex, more intelligent, and just a deeper and more interesting person.
Right now, science is chic. Remember, science isn't just learning boring physics (I love physics! not boring to me but to some others it is); it's understanding the natural world around us.
There is an emotion that I don't know the word for but I believe most people know exactly what I'm talking about. The emotion that one feels when standing on the side of a cliff, when looking at the ocean, or when one is deeply entranced in the natural world. No matter what's happening in our lives, when we immerse ourselves in the natural world, there's an overwhelming feeling of comfort. That's why I believe in the power of science and learning.
It's eased the burdens of CF and other existentially painful experiences in my life. I implore you to learn something new today.