Science? If you're anal.

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Mar 9, 2005
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#1
Long time no see everyone - I've been busy studying and haven't had much time to explore the boards as much as I used to.

This may sound strange coming from me, but science is really starting to get boring. Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe in empirical experimentation - science searches for answers in a testable way which usually leads to a greater understanding of the 'truth'. Two years through my PhD though, I'm finding it more and more frustrating - it's too clinical and reductionist and always follows a well travelled path from hypothesis to result. It teaches you what to think but only teaches you how to think in the limited sense of focussing on external processes, separating yourself from the world that exists within us all and turning the scientist into an automaton. I thus decided to set up a little experiment with my co-workers (without their knowledge) to see if their understanding of the world extended outside the lab and their own little bubble of specialist knowledge. I was rather disturbed with the results.

I began my experiment (for use of a better term) a few months ago. I discovered that of the three people I'd spoken to about philosophy in the past few months, none of them had any grasp on the topic nor knew the name of a single great thinker (i.e. Hume, Kant, Popper etc.). Each of the initial three knew little about politics, history and religion either. I wondered whether all scientists equally ignorant when it comes to life. Since my 'experiment' began, I've spoken to 16 people about topics that didn't concern science, and every person (with exceptions in certain areas) are completely ignorant of everything EXCEPT their science. Talk to them about their research and one gets the feeling that they are among the most intelligent people in our society. Talk to them about topics that don't involve science - philosophy, politics, religion, history, art etc. and most of them sound like dyslexic primary school students.

My supervisor is a perfect example. Every time I try to talk about 'real life', he quickly changes the topic to 'did you read the paper by Umi et al. - he showed that MBP is a good substrate for SnRK2 kinases', or 'Yamaguchi et al. has shown that ABA activates EF-hand containing transcription factors... interesting hey'. No, it's not bloody interesting, I don't give a shit. There are so many things going on in the world, so many different modes of thought, why would I want to spend my whole life revolving every thought around a minescule protein that may be involved in drought stress tolerance in wheat? Fuck it, leave that for the socially inept, uni-directional thinkers, those who are too scared to open up their minds, hiding from the world in their own little unpenetrable sphere of intellectual superiority.

I greatly respect the scientific process, and being a scientist for better or worse, things must be empirically proven before I'm willing to believe them (thus, I still doubt whether I'll ever believe in God, reiki and alternative therapies, etc.). Nonetheless, when dealing with the human mind, MY human mind, the words 'fact' and 'truth' are obsolete in an objective sense. Fuck self-analysis - trying to justify my thoughts, explaining them in a biochemical or evolutionary sense.

Time to lose my mind again, time to befriend the bong once more - I was a lot happier back then.
 

ThaG

Sicc OG
Jun 30, 2005
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#3
now seriously, you are god damn right that a lot of people in science are completely clueless about everything else and I can think of several reasons:

1. Especially in concern with philosophy: nobody in science departments is teaching philosophy of science and this is really sad, because you can't do science without knowing who Popper is. These things are just too relevant to be omitted from the curriculum, but they are. I am strongly against the meaningless type of philosophy that most of it belongs to, but there is some of it that has to be taught to everybody


2. A lot of people in science are there because for them it is a career as any other. I personally have seen a lot of them. You would think that this type of people will be exactly the opposite to what you describe - because they're doing it for their career, and not because they truly love it, they would be more educated about outside stuff, but it is exactly the opposite. Because if you sample people having "normal jobs", you would find something very similar. The real scientist is constantly on the look out for answers and he would read many things not directly relevant to his field; but if it's just a job, then what you describe happens.

I have seen people knowing in very good detail what is directly relevant to their research and in the same time absolutely ignorant about fundamental principles of science, even in the broader area they're working in, let alone philosophy.

3. Of course, there is the "total geek" type that knows a lot about science and little about anything else, but I think these are rare

Also, if you're into your second year of your PhD it might be the case that you're going through the crisis that many grad-students go through, and asking the obvious question "Hey, I am doing something, but does it really make sense?" and the answer is not always positive. I am very scared of the possibility of me ending up in a lab where I will feel the same way, because the fact that protein X phosphorylates protein Y on Tyr351 in model organism Z is not always as exciting as you might like it to be
 
Sep 28, 2002
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#4
HA HA

You will be 60 before you get to the horizon my friend thats where all of those single minded social-retards are focusing. Science is busy work....So get busy

Maybe they do know about things outside of science just not the things you are interested in. Maybe you seem totally inept socially to them. What you need is a crowd not associated with those cats. You want to talk about philosphy find a philosopher after you talk with him about Big Popper ask him about hybrid vigor or double blind randomized placebo multinational studies
and see what he has to contribute.
 

ThaG

Sicc OG
Jun 30, 2005
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#8
No, but you still need to know more about other areas of knowledge than the average person on the street

It is not OK if you're a scientist and you don't know who Popper is because his work is directly relevant to how the scientific method works and as a life scientist, you really have to understand the scientific method as you have the least control over your experimental system compared to other scientists

It is not OK if you're a life scientist and you have no clue of modern physics or abstract math, you might not understand all of it, but at least know that it exists and why it exists

It is not OK if you're a physicist/mathematician and you have no idea how the cell operates

and so on
 
Feb 17, 2005
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#9
why not? i mean seriously, a mechanical engineers job is not going to have jack shit to do with the cell usually. we need to know a lot of shit, but the cell? i dunno. For me personally I think its really interesting, and I have been reading up on it a bit lately (cuz of that paper), but I really dont think its necessary. We need to know about thermo, circuits, fluid mechanics, econ, manufacturing, machinery, materials, robotics, etc...throwing in biology on top of that is too much IMO.

edit: oh well if you are a physicist it would be fine, a bachelors in physics is pretty fucking easy to get.
 

ThaG

Sicc OG
Jun 30, 2005
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#10
why not? i mean seriously, a mechanical engineers job is not going to have jack shit to do with the cell usually. we need to know a lot of shit, but the cell? i dunno. For me personally I think its really interesting, and I have been reading up on it a bit lately (cuz of that paper), but I really dont think its necessary. We need to know about thermo, circuits, fluid mechanics, econ, manufacturing, machinery, materials, robotics, etc...throwing in biology on top of that is too much IMO.

edit: oh well if you are a physicist it would be fine, a bachelors in physics is pretty fucking easy to get.
a bachelor in everything is easy to get; good education is not
 
Feb 17, 2005
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#11
umm...I would say that a bachelors in mechanical engineering is legitimately twice as hard as one in physics. if you still consider that easy then well you are a smart mother fucker lol.
 
Aug 26, 2002
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WWW.YABITCHDONEME.COM
#12
why not? i mean seriously, a mechanical engineers job is not going to have jack shit to do with the cell usually. we need to know a lot of shit, but the cell? i dunno. For me personally I think its really interesting, and I have been reading up on it a bit lately (cuz of that paper), but I really dont think its necessary. We need to know about thermo, circuits, fluid mechanics, econ, manufacturing, machinery, materials, robotics, etc...throwing in biology on top of that is too much IMO.

edit: oh well if you are a physicist it would be fine, a bachelors in physics is pretty fucking easy to get.
I am taking Fluid Mechanics this Spring! :cool:

5000
 

MKB

Sicc OG
Dec 19, 2002
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#13
umm...I would say that a bachelors in mechanical engineering is legitimately twice as hard as one in physics. if you still consider that easy then well you are a smart mother fucker lol.
I would have to agree with you on that but it might not be the concepts that are easier it is just the competitiveness of the program. It is also more difficult because you are cramming in a bunch of difficult classes at the same time. In one of my programing classes we had 1 math major and he told us that we were all crazy for going into engineering (it was about half civil and half mechanical students) and that math was way more laid back because the required course load was lighter.

I am honestly interested in taking another Math class beyond the 5 lower devision ones that I have taken but being a transfer student at Berkeley in the CE program I have needed to take 15 units each semester and I won't have time to take a class just out of interest unless it is in civil engineering.

It would also be nice if they offered some type of class that was aimed more at the history of your major. One of my professors was really big on the history aspect of science and some of the stuff that he told us in class was really interesting but they were only quick side notes within his lectures.
 
Feb 17, 2005
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#14
well physics is a B.A. a lot of places, a B.S. in physics would probably be closer in difficulty to ME.

JLMACN have fun with that. I'm taking Thermo in the spring yay. I can hardly control my excitement.
 
Sep 28, 2002
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#15
No, but you still need to know more about other areas of knowledge than the average person on the street

It is not OK if you're a scientist and you don't know who Popper is because his work is directly relevant to how the scientific method works and as a life scientist, you really have to understand the scientific method as you have the least control over your experimental system compared to other scientists

It is not OK if you're a life scientist and you have no clue of modern physics or abstract math, you might not understand all of it, but at least know that it exists and why it exists

It is not OK if you're a physicist/mathematician and you have no idea how the cell operates

and so on
I think that if you are good in your area of expertiese say I dont know propulsion dynamics and you adhear to the tenents of critical rationalism in your work it is not necessary for you to know who Karl Popper was, Just like it is not necessary for an MD prescribing Nitroglycerine tabs to know who Robert Furchgott was. As far as having no understanding of nonlinear mathmatics or astrophysics if you are a life scientist and don't know anything about these two its like these other kids said you just got a shit education or are not a very inquisitive person but that doesn't mean you are bad at your job. To me the application is the important part.
But Hutch is right alot of science people are boring as fuck thats why I don't invite them to play paint ball with me and my auto mechanic/roofer buddies. I could see if you were not like them and had no outlet to really be yourself how you could begin to resent them.

As far as difficulty of Engeneering vs Physics it all comes down to the school you get into. An engeneering degree from fuck whole state is going to be easier to get than a bs in physics from blue blood U.
 

ThaG

Sicc OG
Jun 30, 2005
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#16
You say that the application is the important part, this is true, but if this was all that is about science, then scientists are no different than people working in companies and factories

There is more in science than getting the work done; the mission of the scientist is both to improve our understanding of the world and to educate; thus the scientist has to be well-rounded in everything. Now you really don't have to be an expert on differential geometry if you work on regulation of the cell cycle.

But I have seen way too many people working on cell cycle who think that math deals with numbers and are very surprised when you try to explain them that in fact mathematics has largely stopped dealing with numbers more than 100 years ago and it is engineers and scientists that work with numbers, not mathematicians...

This is just an example (a real life example) of very primitive understanding/total misunderstanding of other fields; it is exactly the same thing when mathematicians refuse to understand evolution...

And IMO it all comes from the narrow specialization and lack of broader knowledge about other disciplines
 
Mar 4, 2007
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#17
yeah, im starting to realize that philosophy is not a required course, and with all the constant distractions we have now-a-days then it is easy to be distracted by the mechanics of science and mathematics...

i actually believe philosophy courses or introduction to philosophy courses should be mandatory for high school students, we expect them to go straight into college and deal with all these emotional, and financial strains and not give them any kind of non-theological guidance?

its just a recipe for disaster....exactly what the government has been planning on...
to be completely removed of all other knowledge other than your "purpose"...
its easier to control and manipulate those of society.

well, this is all my opinion anyways..
 
Sep 28, 2002
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#18
You say that the application is the important part, this is true, but if this was all that is about science, then scientists are no different than people working in companies and factories

There is more in science than getting the work done; the mission of the scientist is both to improve our understanding of the world and to educate; thus the scientist has to be well-rounded in everything. Now you really don't have to be an expert on differential geometry if you work on regulation of the cell cycle.

But I have seen way too many people working on cell cycle who think that math deals with numbers and are very surprised when you try to explain them that in fact mathematics has largely stopped dealing with numbers more than 100 years ago and it is engineers and scientists that work with numbers, not mathematicians...

This is just an example (a real life example) of very primitive understanding/total misunderstanding of other fields; it is exactly the same thing when mathematicians refuse to understand evolution...

And IMO it all comes from the narrow specialization and lack of broader knowledge about other disciplines
IMO

I believe factory workers and scientists are actually pretty similar. Your area of expertise is your factory. And if discovery is your job then getting the job done is what is important and relavent.
Scientists do not have the responsability to educate that is the job of educators. Taking on all kinds of extra responsabilities is a personal choice not a requisite for research.
Most of acedemia is a shitty little backstabbing world where everybody is out for scientific prestiege which basically comes down to attaching your last name to an idea or enzyme or process its dumb as fuck. The chances are if you are successful in this atmosphere you are and asshole.
 

ThaG

Sicc OG
Jun 30, 2005
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#19
IMO

Most of acedemia is a shitty little backstabbing world where everybody is out for scientific prestiege which basically comes down to attaching your last name to an idea or enzyme or process its dumb as fuck. The chances are if you are successful in this atmosphere you are and asshole.
That's true, but there is a lot of research that simply can't be done outside of academia because of the economical reality we live in...

And if you happen to be interested in exactly that type of research, you hardly have any choice