An interesting question on one’s philosophy of Science
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

June 15, 2014

If summer is defined as the time to relax, I find myself in the dead of winter. With numerous projects, work, and papers on the go, I feel like a hamster stuck on the exercise wheel. As stressful as the work load can get, I enjoy the inherent feeling of productivity that comes with it. I do however look forward to a few weeks from now when I hope things calm down and I can find my way back to the hushed brooks and remote lakes of late summer… fly rod in hand.

Recently, I finished an application in which I was asked an interesting question that I thought relevant and worth sharing for this week. The question is as follows. What new perspective are you providing to sustainability research?

My perspective may not be new, but I do feel it has been forgotten in our modern times. Research and specifically biology is about observation over time. It is when we step back from a process and observe it, that we finally begin to understand it. There are many subtleties within a biological system that we often overlook due to our quick nature of moving towards development and problem solving. Most research I come across lies on the cutting edge of various fields where attempts to cure cancer and stop malaria lie in genomic manipulations and increasing connectivity of our society lies in packing electronics into ever smaller packages, able to run at ever increasing speeds. We seem to live in the age of the pursuit for the silver bullet where finding that one solution may solve all of our other problems.

My approach may be defined as the pursuit of simplicity. There is a saying that “the simplest explanation for something is often the most likely.” Although technology will continue to take us to new heights and help us to continue to push the boundary, reaching for that height puts us on sometime precarious structures. Take nuclear energy for example. Pushing the boundaries on energy production has yielded a fairly clean technology, yet when it has gone awry as we saw in the case of Fukushima and Chernobyl, we find ourselves completely helpless and out of control due to the shear complexity of managing a technology we have yet to fully grasp. If we observe our current climate crisis, one could argue the entire industrial revolution has created more of a problem than yielded solutions.

As with last week, I would not go so far as to argue against technology, but highlight the fact that some of the most successful inventions are those of design that have simplicity at their core. Crop rotation, the wind mill, and pulley systems are examples of simple technologies that have been around for centuries and due to their simplicity, are easily implemented and therefore still relevant today. Of course, simplicity should not be equated with the lack of sound research. Ecology for example represents infinite interactions within biotic and abiotic factors that requires extensive investigation. But even in our current biotech era, if we can approach difficult problems with simplicity as the goal of design, it may be possible to reach ever increasing heights of scientific knowledge from a more solid foundation than that of a house of cards.

I am excited for two scientific based projects I intend to throw my weight behind this year, both of which I believe maintain simplicity as their core philosophy.

 

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