TITLE: The Split Mind of a Scientist AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 23, 2008 3:17 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Someone pointed me toward a video of a talk given at Google by John Medina on his new book Brain Rules. I enjoyed the talk and will have to track down a copy of the book. Early on, he explains that the way he have designed our schools and workplaces produce the worst possible environments in which for us to learn and work. But my favorite passage came near the end, in response to the question, "Do you believe in magic?"
Hopefully I'm a nice guy, but I'm a really grumpy scientist, and in the end, I'm a reductionist. So if you can show me, [I'll believe it]. As a scientist, I have to be grumpy about everything and be able to be willing to believe anything. ... If you care what you believe, you should never be in the investigative fields -- ever. You can't care what you believe; you just have to care what's out there. And when you do that, your bandwidth is as wide as that sounds, and the rigor ... has to be as narrow as as the biggest bigot you've ever seen. Both are resident in a scientist's mind at the same time.
Yes. Unfortunately, public discourse seems to include an unusually high number of scientists are very good at the "being grumpy about everything" part and not so good at the "being able to be willing to believe anything" part. Notice that Medina said "be able to be willing to believe", not "be willing to believe". I think that some people are less able to be willing to believe something they don't already believe, which makes them not especially good candidates to be scientists. -----