Archive for March, 2010

1. Does a true scientist (or any truly educated person) have the social responsibility to behave a bit more responsibly with more open, logical attitude outside of his/her area of work?
2. If the answer to my previous question is “Yes”, then, can we afford to continue compartmentalizing inquisitiveness and rational thinking?
3. Lastly, is it at all possible to become rational in some issues but not in many others?

Intrigued by this article at Nature Forum, and triggered by the author’s questions, I have now brought this topic out of my belly after holding it in for so long …
Truthfully, the trigger happened three years ago, when I had a conversation with a Vietnamese elderly – a healthy, lovely woman in her late 70s. I always commented how good and young she looked. It was quite pleasant seeing how she loved to dress up and take care of her self, while she was also such an active lady, gardening and doing houswork from inside out. She loved to talk about how she took care of her kids even now they are in grown-up ages, and share her family stories. She loved talking to me ( I think I am good with seniors). How many kids does she have? I think she said 8, older half of whom are girls and the younger half are boys. It was just one sentence she uttered during one of our conversations – “just being a (did she say “good”?) human is enough …” Wow, not all Asian parents can say that, I thought. A Vietnamese traditional mother can expect alot from her kids but to her, she realized that her kids are always hers and do not expect them to be perfect, I guess at some point after all the mundanes of life … She struggled with approving her son’s marriage with a Filippinos girl. She was proud of her son who is a doctor, who and another turned out to be gay men. She admitted having forced her daughter into being married at a young age (in college years) to an older doctor, then her tone changed as she did not feel happy for her daughter’s marriage life. How many more such Vietnamese mothers who could come out of that hard-shell and become so true to themselves. Not that many…
So back to the 3 questions above, here are my answers/comments:
1. Yes and No. First we have to define, what is “open” or “logical”; what or when to be considered outside of work. Traditionally, scientists always strive to be good examples, at least for their children and for their own values, serious and humble at the same time. We can hardly see a scientist who is dressed-down, bikes to school/lab, and has such characters nowadays… There is only one Isăc Newton or one Albert Einstein. Scientists do not make as much earning as their (working) peers do in the same profession. And there are amateur scientists and scientists. The competition and the desire to accomplish more have put more pressure on them and unfortunately, a minority of them has become greedy and dishonest. They are human beings, after all. They don’t call themselves “geniuses”. We the community of admirers praised them “genius”.
Is there such a condition as in “to be a (good) scientist, you have to be a good human being”? Another saying, “does preacher practice what he preaches?”. I notice that scientists do have good analytical thinkings, but sometimes some (but not all) have no common sense out of a life situation. As an adult, we are responsible for our own acts and words. Don’t we teach our kids not to lie, to steal, to kill? Then these are the basic principles. To a higher level, we all should have our own established principles. Practice makes perfect. Knowing that habit is the result of recurring activities, we should learn to train our thoughts, our daily acts and reactions into healthy habits. It would be ideal if we all keep our ethics consistent in all and every aspect of life. Someone, an anlyst or a reporter on a news channel recently broke out that “Humans are the only animal that has or is clearly aware of our own morality…” which then led to my another question, “what moraliti(es) do humans have?” What’s moral for one maybe not for other? We need exception rules here.
A scientist has no choice except to kill one mouse or one rabbit to learn how their brain reacts to certain concentration of saline intake, to help cure the high blood pressure and obesity in humans.
Does that define him/her as immoral or a bad human being?

2. “compartmentalizing” or “acting accordingly” or “multi-faceted”? I agree with another commenter. If a person is rational in true sense, s/he will be that way all the time.

3. Talking about rational again – What are those “some” issues? Define! Well, we’re human beings and sometimes act silly, or goof up a little bit, but have to define a fine line between what’s acceptable and what’s not accpetable. And simply, just being yourself, true self is good enough.
It is ok to be divergent, but keep your own values consistent.

Lastly, how about putting all irrational people in a rooom and hear them talk – it would be hilarious. A comedy show, I think. It was just a funny thought while sitting in a meeting and somebody mentioned having some staff go to a “Rational Thinking ” class.

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