I was listening to a TED talk while working this morning and caught a quote from the speaker that encapsulated a couple key aspects of what I love about what I do (base-line biological research). Here's the quote: "It's unexpected results … that make bioprospecting so exciting and worth while; it frees us from the constraints of our imagination." - Dr. Cheryl Hayashi
First it highlights the thrill of discovery. Particularly in arthropod (and other non-charismatic taxa) studies, there is a lot that we simply don't know about the basic biology and ecology of many, many species (and higher level taxa). This means that there is a lot yet to discover; new (to us) species, new behaviours, new interactions, etc. Finding something new, or gaining new insight into something that was previously known, it absolutely thrilling, and sets the imagination soaring; what else is out there, what else can we find out? It's really a heady sort of experience, and one that many overlook with the basic thought why would anyone want to look at that??
Second, the latter half of the phrase is demonstrative of an important aspect of what science is all about... it frees us from the constraints of our imagination. That's an utterly beautiful sentiment and, ultimately, the basis of our ability to know or understand reality. Our imaginations, our perspectives, have bounds; they allow us to conceptualize, but they also stymie what we can know, unless we take efforts to expand beyond, to bypass the limits of what we think we can know. For millennia human knowledge has been constrained by our imaginations and perspectives, we had no reliable means of assessing our knowledge objectively; until the scientific method. Since then, the barriers to our knowledge have been smashed, pushed further ahead, opening doors of inquiry and enlightenment all along the way.
It's very easy to approach questions with only our limited scope and incredulity to guide us... but we can only hope to attain real answers if we move beyond our limitations, our stances from ignorance. The truth is out there, even if we don't yet know how to see it.
Here's the video for context
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