INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

An Unscientific Assessment of Scientists

Sya, an Ivy League grad student in science, and author of a most enjoyable blog, Syaffolee, expresses some discomfort over the potential for exposure that confronts all bloggers:

“Writing in public? I feel very self-conscious . . . .

What I'm deathly afraid of is that someone I know who's in science will stumble onto my little hobby and not understand. Scientists should be solely obsessed with science. No one really says it, but I always get this impression that if you're not stuck in lab for every minute of your life, you're not truly dedicated to science.”

Much as I normally respect Sya’s insights, I think that in this case she may be seeing things from a constricted, student perspective. Having lived in Berkeley for thirty years, it's inevitable that I've known a number of scientists in that amount of time. Sya may be skeptical, but in my experience, these folks are often more well-rounded than some of the arts-and-letters types—a group who enjoys the reputation of being more eclectic because it’s the presumed nature of the humanities. In practice, some of these types can be quite narrow. They don’t get called on it, however, because they’re able to hide under the protection of the reputation of their field.

Scientists, on the other hand, by their very nature, have a relentlessly curious quality of mind. Their curiosity takes them in many directions. I think you’re more likely to find Renaissance types in the sciences than in the arts. I hope that Sya will temper her concern about being thought of as insufficiently dedicated to science.

As for fear of being found out, it's universal. At my advanced stage of life, what the hell do I have to fear from the "wrong person" reading my blog. But guess what? I still have the fear anyway.


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