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A Scientist’s Manifesto

Science is the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.  Without science, we lack a systematically organized body of knowledge in many particular subjects (McKean, 2005).

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One specific subject, genetics, studies heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics.  My biology classes provided a basic understanding of the widely-known knowledge on genotype and phenotype, however my philosophy of science class exposed me to two conflicting articles about whether genetic information encodes for phenotypic traits. The different uses of language and dissimilar interpretations lead me to experience a moment of realization:

Scientists do not communicate in a concise language or share technological advances among members, thus not achieving absolute potential as scientists. Additionally, scientists fail to see nothing is 100% true and forget there can be several correct conclusions for the same hypothesis. Also, scientists shouldn’t lack the courage to stand against the norms in society or even engage with media about their findings in fear of rejection. As scientists, we should aspire to embrace our originality and be proud of our discoveries because each contribution gives rise to the significance of science. 

Science should inspire the discovery of unknowns, and society should not limit a person from the possible discoveries in the world. This Scientist’s Manifesto aims to establish standards for evaluative inquiry and accredit the evaluation of science (Pawson, 2013). I challenge scientists to think about their work in a different context, and to engage more with their own ideas and ultimately stand to be impacted by society – for good or bad. The following suggestions should be considered and immediately applied to the practice of science:

Communicate in the same language. To expand knowledge and developments within the science community, we need to strive for clarity not only when making statements or publishing work for scientific colleagues, but also in making our work intelligible to the average person. Learning to communicate more effectively will improve the quality of the science conducted and make science more relevant to the problems we are attempting to solve.

For example, consider the study of genetic information within an organism: an organism’s entire DNA (its genome) and how the products of regions of DNA interact with each other and the environment (Dunston, 2012). With a coherent and structured language in the study of genomics, many scientists can more effectively and efficiently investigate both the genetic differences between species and the genetic variation within a single species (Hickman, 2012).

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Share technological advances. In order to effectively communicate within the scientific community, there must be a common application of science. Practices, methods, and technologies within science must be uniform so different interpretations of information and data do not arise. As scientists, we need to be on the same page and communicate about recent advancements and the latest technology to promote a more coherent practice of science. In particular, sharing new technological innovation can allow for massive amounts of data from various individuals to be collected and analyzed (Frankel & Reid, 2008). In most cases, the combination of results from several individuals can be pieced together and have greater implications.

Modern genetics research can result in an increasing understanding of how the development and functioning of an organism is influenced by its genome. This updated knowledge can provide a current understanding of the world and provide opportunities for scientists to engage with the wealth of genomic information they are likely to encounter in the future. Furthermore, more developments in genomics research can result from the communication and combination of scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical ingenuity (Hickman, 2012).

 

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Welcome new technologies to learn about the current world. The pace of progress can significantly impact our future lives – from how we understand human health, preventing and treating diseases, feeding a growing population, and tackling pollution. To become educated about the current world and prepare for the future, we as scientists must encourage the division of new technological advances.

With the allocation of new technologies and a better understanding of genetics, genomic approaches can soon be applied across a wide range of biology, including evolutionary biology, anthropology, forensics, and many aspects of human health and disease. For example, framing genetics education in these contexts would provide society with a superior understanding of the nature and action of genomes (Hickman, 2012). Students everywhere would become more intrigued and thrilled, thus showing a greater interest in scientific advancements in the future.

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Nothing is 100% true. Reflect findings not simply as ‘the truth’ but merely a version of it because nothing is absolute true.  A scientific experiment may well ‘prove’ something, but a ‘proof’ may change with the passage of time as we gain better understanding.  Consider that sometimes two well-conducted experiments can have different pathways but the same results equally valid.  Science is not absolute, but often about uncertainty.

For example, the relationship between genes and phenotypic traits.  In the article Genes encode information for phenotypic traits, Sahotra Sarkar claims “genes are privileged over other factors as carriers of semiotic information involved in the etiology of traits.” He argues “genes encode sufficient information to specify a unique protein (in prokaryotes)” however his argument is limited by the information in genes because it does not provide a sufficient etiology for a trait (Sarkar, 2004).  In contrast, Peter Godfrey-Smith argues the common way of talking about genes is not a straightforward and concise summary of how genes work (Godfrey-Smith, 1999).  In the article Genes do not encode information for phenotypic traits he claims “it is indeed a mistake to say that genes encode information for phenotypic traits,” yet his argument lacks explanation and involves a distortion of what biologists have actually learned. Each explanation on the relationship between genes and phenotype is not 100% because there are limitations and weaknesses.

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Don’t let the norms of society construct science. Many scientists may be afraid to present a radical idea that rejects the norms in society. Don’t fear fellow scientists! By speaking our minds, we can offer new notions about scientific issues. Society does not aim to launch us into failure, but rather questions and encourages us to stand strong in our concepts. With good engagement that involves listening and responding to the ideas, questions, hopes and concerns within society we can more appropriately pitch our own ideas and notions. As mentioned above, Godfrey-Smith went against the norms to argue genes do not encode information for phenotypic traits and still was well respected for bringing something new to the scientific community. If he can do it, so can we!

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Collaborate values and incorporate them into science. Our science educators and classroom teachers often present idealized descriptions of science and religion in generalizations that are often over-simplified and inaccurate and can lead to misunderstandings of both domains (Smith, 2013). To have a superior understanding of the influence of religion on science,  try to better understand the role of scientific and religious authority in instruction and in practice. As scientists, are main goal is to do science. Religion may seem as a deterrent or obstacle that stands in the way, however be mindful of religious values and try to present findings to join forces with religion instead of colliding with major religious morals in science. Provide conclusions with only good intentions to contribute to advancements of knowledge for the world.

In particular, we should participate in understanding practices and inform discussions about how to manage research integrity, conflict of interest, and the challenge of modern genetics to human research ethics. Society cannot have the benefits of research without the risks. However, through the practices of science and religion as reflective of two different types of faith we can model together a framework within which they dynamically interact (Grinnell, 2008).

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Embrace originality and individuality within science. Just because other scientists travel in a specific direction to find conclusions to support their hypothesis, that doesn’t mean there is only one way to get to the that conclusion. It has been shown individuals behave, learn, and develop in distinctive ways, showing patterns of variability. Regardless of age and across all cultures, a person changes dramatically over time, and even moment-to-moment as a function of context (Fischer & Bidell, 2006). This dynamic systems perspective offers multiple pathways to the same outcome that are expected. Because science is based in dynamic systems and centered on individual patterns of variability, not adhering to the norms in society provides an opportunity to analyze a multitude of methods to obtain results (Rose et al. 2013). As scientist, we must embrace our individuality and uniqueness within science instead of letting the norms and standards of science take priority over completing science. We must be creative and innovative and embrace what you can develop within the scientific community!

One way to embrace individuality is to bring our own interests and passions to our work. By engaging in the dynamics between researchers and the research community, contextual understanding of science in place of the linear model found in textbooks with its singular focus on “scientific method” will emphasized and ultimately encourage future scientists to step outside from the conventions taught in science (Grinnell, 2008).

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Don’t fear engagement with media and society. With an increasingly complicated technological world, the media can bombard stories about the threat of genetic engineering, the threat of cancer from food additives and electromagnetic fields, the threat of biological warfare. We must encourage an education that teaches science as the need to make basic decisions about health, instead of complex scientific issues we read about in newspapers or watch on news-reports.

The book Science Matters proposes to solve this problem by helping its readers achieve scientific literacy. In particular, the chapter on genetics describes mutations and cancer in a basic sense that can provide society with a general understanding so no judgements or discriminations appear within the practice of science (Evans 1992).

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Be proud of discoveries, science is importantWe should be immensely proud of what we discover! The knowledge obtained from the unknown is significantly important within the scientific community and has major impacts on the world. Particularly, science touches all aspects of life from the homes we live in, the food we eat, our parents, and our health. For instance, science is important because it provides the framework for any improvements we hope to make to our economy, infrastructure, energy supply, communications, entertainment and indeed the operation of the many institutions on which a civil society depends (A Science Manifesto, 2008).

This Scientist’s Manifesto calls all of you to think, feel, read, and take action in the field of science so we can lead a more harmonious and advantageous society (Helmut Reich, 2012). If there is a widespread participation and engagement in emphasizing the significance of science, then there will be a creative advancement towards improving life.

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Conclusion. In order to end the depreciating of science, science needs to be noticed for its endless capacity to enliven, engage, and enrich peoples across all cultures. As scientists from various backgrounds, we should communication a multitude of hypothesizes, procedures, and conclusions in a concise and coherent language.  We should encourage exploration of various pathways and procedures, because a more efficient route may exist and greater impact the world from its discovery. We should confront the norms of society without and not fear rejection from society. We should believe in the impacting power of original ideas and embrace our contributions to the scientific community. If these changes are not implemented, the disconnect between the vision and reality of science in the world will prompt science into a worthless, indecent, and meaningless approach within life. As scientist we must act to make society fully recognize and realize the significance of science so scientists everywhere can pursue scientific and technological advancements to better the world.

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Bibliography 

A Science Manifesto Or Plan For The Recovery Of New Zealand Science. n.p.: Royal Society of New Zealand, 2008. Publications New Zealand Metadata. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

Dunston, Georgia M. “A Passion For The Science Of The Human Genome.” Molecular Biology Of The Cell23.21 (2012): 4154-4156. MEDLINE. Web. 4 Dec. 2013.

Evans, James. “Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy.” American Journal Of Physics 9 (1992): 861. Academic OneFile. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

Fischer, K. W., & Bidell, T. R. (2006). Dynamic development of action and thought. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Theoretical models of human development. Handbook of child psychology (vol. 1, 6th ed., pp. 313–399). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Godfrey-Smith, P., 1999, “Genes and Codes: Lessons from the Philosophy of Mind?”, in V. G. Hardcastle (ed.), Biology Meets Psychology: Constraints, Conjectures, Connections, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 305-11.

Helmut Reich, K. “How Could We Get To A More Peaceful And Sustainable Human World Society? The Role Of Science And Religion.” Zygon: Journal Of Religion & Science 47.2 (2012): 308-321. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Dec. 2013.

Hickman, Matthew. “Modern Genetics Education in School Science – Nowgen.” Nowgen Modern Genetics Education in School Science Comments. Nowgen, 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://nowgen.org.uk/education/projects/nsgp/manifesto/>.

McKean, Erin. The New Oxford American Dictionary. New York, N.Y: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Pawson, Ray. The Science of Evaluation: A Realist Manifesto. London: SAGE, 2013. Print.

Rose, Todd, Parisa Rouhani, and Kurt Fischer. “The Science of the Individual.” Wiley Online Library. Imboes, 16 Aug. 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mbe.12021/abstract>.

Sarkar, S. 2004. Genes encode information for phenotypic traits. In C. Hitchcock (ed.) Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Science. Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 259-274.

Smith, Mike U. “The Role Of Authority In Science And Religion With Implications For Science Teaching And Learning.(Report).” Science & Education 3 (2013): 605. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 Dec. 2013.

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