by Dr. Oakleigh Thorne, II
I love science. As a scientist myself, I have seen some amazing discoveries and advancements in my 88 years on this Earth. Have you heard of the Scientific Method? It is the basis of all science. It starts with observations from which you may think of questions that need to be answered. You then think that you have figured out a possible “truth” that needs to be tested. Scientists call this a hypothesis. The trick now is to test it, perhaps by creating an experiment or by making more detailed observations or measurements. We call this scientific research.
There is a lot of pure research that is needed to prove an idea or theory that you may have in your head or that you may have developed through observing, testing, questioning, or perhaps just thinking! Good scientists are always very thorough and are happy to work with other scientists to test or retest their results. Good scientists are always seeking the truth.
Luckily, Boulder has over 24 science programs for children, too many to list. Thorne Nature Experience, being the oldest, started 60 years ago! Their main purpose is to connect kids to nature so they can see science “in the wild.”
Nature is a great teacher. There’s a lot to observe when one is outdoors in nature. Early scientists made this connection. That’s how science got started. Aristotle noticed that “one bush does not house two robins.” What he was observing was territorial bird behavior. Male birds hold and defend territories and will usually not allow another male of the same kind into their territory.
In the USA, we have many of the best scientists in the World. We have great research universities and Federal support programs like the National Science Foundation, for example. Right here in Boulder we have research institutions like the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). This was the organization that originally discovered global warming and climate change decades ago.
Many scientists are working on climate change research and have proven that it is caused by humans with all the emissions that we pour into the atmosphere each day, burning fossil fuels in our cars, homes, factories, etc. Yet there are many nonscientists and politicians who still deny that climate change is happening.
An example of this is the case of Cody, Wyoming where in 2015 some members of the School Board tried to have references to climate change taken out of their text books. They said that “teaching about climate change was a betrayal of the fossil fuel industry.” The students strongly objected. After listening to six hours of testimony, my brother-in-law, the former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, a Cody resident, stood up and said: “There is climate change. It is real. I don’t know what the h--- it’s all about, but I know man is part of it, and anybody who sends someone out of this school system saying that it’s a hoax is goofy!”
This is where science is important in finding the truth. I hope that you will study science in school and maybe grow up to be a good scientist yourself. At least you should always have respect for science. It’s cool!
Dr. Thorne is founder and honorary president of Thorne Ecological Institute in Boulder. They have helped “connect kids to nature” for more than 55 years. For more information about Thorne Natural Science School classes for children, check www.thornenature.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (303) 499-3647.