November 10, 2003
Almost daily, at least one person asks me about the nature of my job. I think this is a question that all human beings over 20 years old confront, at least, once in their lives; however, I think the most difficult answer would be "I am a scientist", because immediately after pronouncing this phrase, a silence dominates by the side of our interlocutors.
I do not know the causes of this phenomenon, but I have several hypotheses:
- The person asking would be afraid on committing an error when talking at us; therefore, generally, people think that we scientists are some kind of prima donnas.
- The person who asked does not give a damn for everything linked to sciences (including scientists, of course).
- The person who questioned thinks that you are a snobbish idealist.
- The person who asked does not want to speak with an unexciting cold scientist with a four-sided mind.
These are some probable causes that explain us the sepulchral silence that follows to the answer "I am a scientist"; however, none of these qualifications describes what "to be a scientist" really is.
Then, what we scientists are? The answer is very simple; we scientists are normal persons consecrated to the study of the surrounding cosmos (as outer as inner with respect to us). Our essential objective is to know the truths in nature.
Scientist is a person "who cares deeply and passionately for truth and clarification, for the liberating experience of finding order and beauty in a chaotic jumble of natural events." (Leon M. Lederman, 2001).
This would be a less complex answer, but when we see a scientist emotionally involved with his task, it would seem that the thing would not be thus simple; because we would promptly ascertain that a scientist possesses the following qualities:
- Self-exclusion from the world, or something as well as an abandonment by means of which the scientist is wrapped into a shell isolated from perturbations derived from the exterior world.
- Intense fondness to truth and knowledge through the Scientific Method. Lies do not fit in sciences. Hoaxers exclude themselves from the scientific universe.
- Healthy skepticism that permits him to impugn dogmas, false ideologies and simulations through the Scientific Method.
- Failure-proof perseverance that prompts him to finish his researches, previously undertaken.
- Decentralization of ego that permits him to recognize his own errors and to be shown in agreement on the successes of others.
- Firmness to fight against the discredit malevolent plotted by those who always are opposed to scientific reaching.
- Simplicity, which captivates him toward humanism and scientific moral.
As you can see, it is not hard to be a scientist. Or… is it?