I just moved into my new place in Portland, Oregon. The drive was long and tedious, broken up by a cold night in Three Island Crossing State Park, just outside of Boise, Idaho. I love it when I'm the only person in an entire campground. It makes everything feel so serene. (It probably means I'm the only one crazy enough to spend the night in sub freezing temperatures, too.) I did make it easier, however, by stopping into the Carmela Winery just outside the state park. It was a great mix of a classy winery and the local bar hang out - and the Southwest eggrolls were amazing.
I'm starting chiropractic school at the University of Western States this next week. It's been a plan of mine ever since high school, but things got in the way - poor grades, hobbies, uncertainty. In fact, I'm still not settled on the dissonance between the claims of chiropractic and the medical science. I mean, I know chiropractic benefits people – me included – but there's not a whole lot of scientific evidence that explains the mechanisms or even supports a lot of the claims. This was a key factor in my decision to attend the University of Western States, which is touted as one of the more evidence-based chiropractic schools.
In the past few years, I've become intrigued with science. (There's some irony here in that the classes I struggled with most were the hard sciences, but I never said I was good at it, only that I am fascinated by it.) I love listening to Neil Degrasse Tyson's Star Talk Radio podcast, reading tweets from skeptics and scientists, and trying to learn how the scientific method applies in daily life. (By the way, check out this Haiku Deck I made based on the BadAstronomer's blog post about why science is great - It even won an award.) This curiosity has actually led to some difficult life changes, particularly in my beliefs about religion and spirituality. You may have noticed my posts becoming more politically liberal in nature, and you possibly felt that I was becoming cynical. I prefer the term skeptical. Although it usually is used with strong, negative connotations, it simply means not being easily convinced, kind of the opposite of gullible. There are lots of reasons to be skeptical - avoid falling victim to financial scams, resist following the crowd and spreading rumors that are untrue, or to not fall victim to fears of the world ending. There are some potential drawbacks as well, like becoming a crotchety old curmudgeon who 'bah-humbugs' every potentially beneficial new discovery.
Lately, I've been following a Facebook page called "I Fucking Love Science" and last night saw this quote by Carl Sagan, another of my favorite scientific literacy evangelists.
In case you can't read the image, here's a summarized version (emphasis my own):
It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas. ...
If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you.
On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful as from the worthless ones.
Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.
So the challenge is finding moderation in skepticism and being willing to accept new ideas.
I think this will be my motto for 2013 and as I start chiropractic school - be a well-balanced open-minded skeptic.
Hmm... Maybe I'd better first confirm that Carl Sagan actually said this.