Benlog

crypto and public policy

An Ode to Scientists and Explorers

Filed under: General July 14, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

My amazing fiancee defended her Neurobiology PhD thesis at MIT yesterday. Even though I’d heard her practice her talk a few times, I was still amazed and impressed by the quality of her defense presentation. I thought about what might lead me to such strong feelings about her work (beyond my strong feelings for her, of course). And it occurred to me: there is real beauty in the work of true scientists, and she is the epitome of the true scientist.

A scientist looks at the world with a thirst for knowledge and discovery. A scientist knows not to get excited about a beautiful hypothesis, because a hypothesis is nothing until proven by a well-controlled process of experimentation and empirical observation. A scientist often labor for weeks, months, and sometimes years, only to be left with the conclusion that the original hypothesis was wrong. A scientist must be comfortable with the fact that research is inevitably disappointing 90% of the time. A scientist is out to discover those things that are either true or false. A partially proven hypothesis is not partially true, it is nothing. We live in a world of constant spin and ulterior motives, but scientists know that some things in the world are precisely knowable. Through hard work and many failures, a scientist uncovers that which can be factually determined. A scientist chases these facts with the intellectual and emotional conviction that there is a certain beauty in the world that can be explored and described, not to deconstruct it, but instead to futher expose and admire its beauty.

A scientist is her own toughest critic, because she is not out to prove her pet theory. She is out to discover the true nature of the world. Her hypothesis is not an end in itself, it is a means to expand the world’s body of knowledge.

We, as a society, have much to learn (or re-learn) from true scientists. For scientists are humble enough to understand that they play no role in defining the world. They are the messengers, always striving to deliver a more detailed and faithful picture of the world to the rest of us, so that we may admire its beauty and better define our place and our function within it.

2 Comments

  1. Megan:

    This is a great post! I stumbled upon it while doing a Google search on “what is a true scientist” 🙂 Hope you don’t mind being referenced in my paper discussing whether or not Aristotle was a true scientist…I guess not…just saw your copyright notice. Thanks!

  2. Benlog » An Inconvenient Truth about the Left:

    […] yuppies, to you, and to me. Science has an annoying tendency not to follow any ideology, and a true scientist is one who can accept a failed hypothesis when confronted with the facts. You don’t get to pick and choose your […]

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