If you are a graduate student and you are reading this, I am almost sure that you know which role you play in this world as a researcher. We are expected to answer the questions that nobody can still answer in order to improve the quality of human life, in the most diverse ways. However, there is another duty we should convey in our lives; one more discrete but not less important work.
Photo by Luis Villegas-Armenta
Lately, as I get more involved with scientific work and all my supervisor incentive me to find the ultimate truth behind every statement, I started to do the same with every small thing I find on the internet. This drives me to be more skeptic with many things that were simply unquestionable for me. Unfortunately, if you look at your everyday social media interaction, nowadays some people tend to create all kind of hypothesis and statements about the real world that should worry us all. This could be harmless if we talk about some mean comments in Facebook or YouTube, but if you think about it, in some countries this will be reflected in the population vote, the aversion of people towards vaccines, climate change countermeasures or any other important subject. Even if we are respectful of everyone’s beliefs, we live on the same planet and often country; then their points of view will affect us.
Changing the point of view of people is a very dangerous activity, as sometimes even our own judgment can be deviated from objectivity by our personal experiences. Also, you should not try to make other people think like you. Then, what could be the solution? In my opinion, as graduate students working hard to prove or disprove scientific facts, we can try to make people raise questions about smaller and less important subjects first. If you try to hit the big targets, you will force people to close their minds and see you as another ideological opponent. The idea is to make them question the information whirlwind around them, in a more objective and fact-checked way. For example, is dangerous to use a microwave? The sports drinks are as good as they say? That post in Facebook is really that reliable? These small things could make people curious about more and more things until at some point, they start to really investigate about important things. The idea is to become a society that takes well-informed decisions and not only goes with some radical website or hate speeches when it comes to big decisions.
In summary, as science emissaries, we must encourage a change in the way of thinking not the beliefs themselves. I hope that in some decades we will reach a point were self-learning and rational thinking, will demonstrate that there is a way to co-exist without boundaries someone else built; boundaries that we accepted just because we were too afraid to learn a little bit more.