On July 4th, at 3 in the morning, I was awake in bed with Twitter and Wired’s live stream of the Higgs boson press conference open on my laptop. While I was up doing this, the thought crossed my mind: “What events lead me to this point?”. I’ve touched on how I’ve arrived at geology in the past, and I’ve talked a bit about why I wanted to get into science, but I don’t think I ever described my life before that decision and informed how I got there.
When I graduated high school in 2006 (I feel old typing that), I was making my disposable income doing freelance art and graphic design for bands and record labls and had every intention to get a degree in graphic design from a fancy art school while pumping out art on the side. Not being able to convince my parents to co-sign on the idea of spending $45k for a 3 year education, I instead went to a local community college to get an associates degree while trying to get my own art and design company/brand off the ground (My eventual client sheet would be a mile long and include a lot of national touring bands and labels such as (excuse my bragging, but it’s fun to reflect) Victory Records, Mediaskare Records, Eulogy Records, Hellfish Family, Between The Buried and Me, Evergreen Terrace, Foundation, This Is Hell, The Effort, Beneath The Sky, Ambush! and a myriad of small local bands that never did anything that anyone cared about.
The interesting thing about being involved in the design and production side of music, is that you start to learn a lot of the ins and outs about how independent labels work and who you need to talk to and what you need to do to get things moving. I was so close, so many times to pulling the trigger on starting my own record label (and it’s something I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at later in life, still) and buying a screen printing setup to start printing mine and other people’s work for sale (I actually started down this path with another person and I backed out, so sorry to them if they’re reading this for whatever reason). Fortunately for myself, I wasn’t doing booming business, and between working part-time, going to school and doing freelance on the side, I started to investigate other live paths.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when, but at some point during this time, I subscribed to a podcast called The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, a podcast about science, skepticism and critical thinking. Those were things that I was sorely lacking at this point in my life. I subscribed because I heard it was a cool science podcast and I was eager to listen to cool science shit. What I got instead was something that really, and actually changed my life. Critical thinking is not something I was exposed to much growing up, and this podcast was dismantling things I thought to be true, or never thought to question before on a consistent basis every week; UFO’s, ghosts, etc . and then blowing my mind by producing mountains of evidence against things that I never would’ve suspected to be untrue; chiropractic, homeopathy, acupuncture, and a million other types of ‘alt-med’ crap. On top of that they also had the cool science shit that I wanted initially.
Throughout that presentation of critical thinking and skepticism came the loud booming recommendation of Carl Sagan’s book ‘The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark‘. In my humble opinion, I think that everyone, not just people that are interested in science, should read this book. It’s one of the most important things to have ever happened to me, and I feel like if everyone read this book and took it’s message to heart, the world would be a much better place. This book is skepticism and critical thinking at it’s most accessible, and uses examples that remain relevant to provide a case for why it’s so important. The reason that I think the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe changed my life was that it introduced me to this book.
After that, I became incredibly interested in investigating and critically analyzing subjects. This period of my life involved me writing many long-winded passionate responses to climate change denial on various internet forums and lead to the reading binge that lead me to ‘The Weather Makers’, further fueling my interest in climate change, and finally geology.
It’s weird to look back at things like that. It’s kind of neat actually.