Finding Solace in Science

Tomorrow (or I guess today, considering it’s after midnight as I start writing this) is a very important day. It’s Earth Day for one, and it’s also the March for Science in Washington, DC. Since I live in Northern Virginia when I’m living with my parents, I will of course be taking part.

Broadly speaking, science has been a hugely significant part of my life. From the time I was in the seventh grade taking my first biology class to now, as a real life scientist writing a real life research proposal, science has helped me to thrive.

When I went through a period of severe insecurity around the time I turned thirteen, learning about metabolic processes and anatomy helped me to respect my body for the perfect result of millions of years of evolution that it is.

When I started learning about philosophy the first year of high school, I started to search for what I believed in; maybe I still don’t know, but the Laws of Thermodynamics sure explained a lot when I started to think about it.

When I started to learn about the details of genetics that same year, I made the first (of what would become many) serious decision of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Having been a kid that was good but not great at everything else I tried, it was the first time I was truly skilled at something. I would later learn that the real skill I had discovered was simply pattern recognition, but being good at biology made me feel like a real person, like I truly existed in the world.

When I took my first psychology class two years later, I found my calling. There are those who would say that psychology is a ‘soft science’, or that it isn’t as important as, say, physics or chemistry, but the fact is that all of the other sciences come together in psychology. To run, read, and understand an fMRI, you have to understand more than basic chemistry and at least simple physics, not to mention brain biology and how they all interact.

Don’t get me wrong, literature and music have also given me an unimaginable amount of gifts. I’ve always known that. Now though, as a student and as a researcher, I look back and finally fully understand all that science has given me. It has given me confidence, taught me respect, frustrated me, educated me, robbed me of sleep, and most importantly, given me a purpose in my life. Some people find solace in going to church,  in praying, or meditating. Over the years, I have always found my solace in science.

I’m sure to many people this will seem grossly oversimplified, reductionist, and all other manners of mechanical, clinical, et cetera. But to me science is none of those things; there are so many theories and ideas and explanations that the way they can be combined to form ideologies and paradigms is artistic, complex, and completely the opposite of oversimplified. Tomorrow, or more accurately later today, I will be marching so that the next little girl like me will have the same or (hopefully) better opportunities than me, that she will be able to find herself in theories the same way I did, and that she will make the world better for it, the same way I hope to.

PS. Enjoy the picture I took at the last march on Washington I attended, the Women’s March. It’s not quite related to the topic, but I like it.

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