I’ve been meaning for a while now to have a few posts on science… I don’t know how many I’ll have quickly flowing ideas for, so we’ll just keep it at “a few”.
I know a lot of scientists personally, and have met many more. Scientists have a few delightful things in common.
1) They’re curious. Scientists are scientists because they just keep asking questions. We want to understand the world, and we actually think we have a shot at grasping just the tiniest bit of it. This could lead to a small trend of scientists towards arrogance, but, scientists are more aware than anyone else of how little they know. We’re obsessed with long hours of collecting and analyzing data because we know just how much more data could be obtained, and just how little of a grasp on things we have. Which leads me to:
2) Scientists appreciate how complex the world is. Once you’ve attempted to even get a handle on one tiny question that pertains to one tiny topic in the world, you get how difficult it is, and how many more questions can come from your own question. That weird media image of a scientist explaining and understanding everything is just not accurate–the better the scientist, the more questions they realize are waiting to be answered.
3) Scientists know that other scientists make mistakes. Again, that media-scientist image of the all-knowing person in a lab coat is just not accurate. Generally, scientists seem to take a bit of pleasure in finding the mistakes of other scientists–it even has a fancy name, “peer review”. You begin the preparation for “peer review” when you get torn apart by professorial committees during graduate school, but it’s difficult to explain the level of intensity and debate scientists can achieve over topics of little general interest, full of equations and words that very few people could ever understand. The level of thrill a scientists achieves over proving another scientist wrong is also hard to explain. But it’s really just the process of science: one idea stands till more data and another idea comes along. And on and on the scientific method goes… we get more information, but it is a rare piece of Science that sticks around very long, which is what breeds that certain kind of scientific skepticism. It’s that awareness that most ideas get proven wrong that makes you a little hesitant to belief everything you read or hear.
4) Scientists are people. This should go without saying, but Science seems to get de-humanized into some sort of weird force from a futuristic movie. Scientists are people. Pretty weird and awkward people, for the most part… unintimidating, plain, simply dressed… rarely in the latest styles of anything. The stereotype of the scientist wardrobe holds true, and the better the scientist, the less they can be bothered with thinking about things like what outfit to wear that day. Perhaps one’s level of fashion is a measure of how much their brain is thinking about ideas that will long outlast their outfit choices? That’s a side thought, sorry… at any rate, scientists are human, they make mistakes, and each scientist’s perspective is a little bit different because each scientist is a unique person. Each has a unique way of seeing the world, and a unique contribution to make to our body of scientific knowledge.
In summary: Scientists embody human curiosity, fallibility, and uniqueness, and the awareness that the world is much, much greater than what we can comprehend.