There was a question in (Quora) which went like this: “What can be done to significantly reduce the arrogance of scientists nowadays?” Here is my answer:
Maybe we can openly treat them as arrogantly as they secretly feel about laypeople—and you can be sure of that for most of them. Is it possible? Let me try!
NB English is my second language.
To begin with, I can tell them how desperate they make me feel when I listen to their accurate descriptions of the world’s problems, without ever being able to present any workable solutions for them. And how disgusted I am, for instance, when I hear one of their “Internet stars” jokingly stating in front of a laughing “academic audience” that “we’re all fucked.” See below.
(You can quit at 3:00, the rest is irrelevant for this paper. I have stopped listening at this point, after six seconds of sickening laughter, which tells me a lot about academics’ crass ignorance regarding our survival.)
“Normal” scientists upset me, firstly, because they completely ignore the fact that it is the mass of specialized knowledge accumulated during the twentieth century that is now causing the collective intellectual and psychological inertia preventing them from offering solutions to the global problems of humanity; and, secondly, because they have amassed their knowledge, and for some of them their riches, while the natural world was impoverished as a result of their progress-inducing activities.
The graph in black is the one by which I have been accepted for a Master’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Guelph in 1989, without having followed one course in any of these subject matters in my two previous general BA..
If can be that upset at academics, it is because I intentionally “jump off the wagon” of “normal science” in in the mid-70s, simply because I noticed that 80% of the bodies of water in which I had swum during my adolescence had already been polluted by “progress.” This realization about the side effects of progress did it for me. It is then, after five years of formative hippie life, and an eclectic BA equivalency acquired after these, at the age of 27, that I became convinced that there must be something fundamentally wrong with humanity, and that I decided to complete my university formation to find out what it was and what we can do about it. At first, I was looking for a Master’s degree. However, I decided to undertake a second general BA to become a generalist at the advanced age of 33, after having read in Buckminster Fuller’s Manual for Spaceship Earth (1968) that:
“Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking.”* (My emphasis)
Throughout all my early and middle adult life, before and after having become conscious of the problem of specialization, I have acquired two general BA, revolving around biology, psychology, and economy, among many other subjects, in three Colleges and three Universities, and one unspecialized MA in zoo-anthropo-sociology, independently pursued between the age of 42 and 46 in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the University of Guelph, while covertly focusing my research on where we stand in evolution, and while mainly working with a zoologist.
After having thus lived as an independent researcher for almost 15 years among “engaged” scientists, in what I can now call the “Zooversity,” I already could confirm Buckminster’s apprehensions that it is “specialization [that] is the primary cause of our failures [as a species].” Believe me! I know! I have seen up close myself many of these “non-human failures.” Of course, for “normal science” which focus on progress, these scientists are not failures, and neither not human. In the university system, they are the epitome of $uccess. However, when one look at them “comprehensively” and from the point of view of our survival, as I have for at the least 30 years, it becomes evident that it is their “successes” that are the “metastases” of the “cancer” that human societies have become for the environment. If they have lost their humanity, for me at least, it is because humans are by definition “generalists.” And that it is only quite late in the event of science that we had to specialize ourselves to live in a world of consumption, which is at the root of all our environmental problems.
There are generalists and philosophers at the University, of course. However, they are all parasitic on science, and as such they are incapable of criticizing it like I do. They all make their living off it, and I never have… Regardless, I am not a “generalist,” but a “comprehensive thinker and a self-proclaimed “artisan of global thinking.” Generalists have “light specializations” in some related subjects; I do not have any. I am a complete “learned ignorant.”
On another note, I have of course never actually considered them like nonhuman, even if it has always been uneasy for me to enter into eye-to-eye discussions with many of them in the confine of their “office enclosure.” I have come to consider this period of my life as my anthropological/scientific “Malinowskian” fieldwork, among tribes of “Trobriand specialists” living in isolated departmental islands; which is a lot closer to reality. And, as Bronisław Malinowski was the first cultural anthropologist to work among his subject of study, I am the first paleoanthropologist of science to have lived a full life incognito among scientists. (Don’t worry if you don’t understand this last allusion to Malinowski, anthropologists will.)
“The road to hell is paved with good corporate donations!” And, I would add, and lined with scientists’ submission. Who, by the way, are running away from their responsibilities toward the world, by conveniently and cowardly making their livings in a “value-free environment.” When knowledge is the ultimate foundation of our survival, for Christ’s sake!!!
It is because of these realizations of mine, to which I hinted in my Master’s thesis, that I had to work in absentia in the safety of my loneliness afterward for the next 20 years on my Ph.D., at the U of W (the University of Wikipedia). Always trying to understand, as a contented outsider of science, while surfing the Internet, what prevents these brilliant “normal” scientists to formulate our existential problems in solvable terms.
It is through this convoluted “career path” of mine that I became, with the help of the Internet (our nascent collective consciousness), an adept “comprehensive thinker.” Moreover, it is this “extraordinary” university formation that makes me distinctly perceive normal scientists’ limitations regarding our survival; notwithstanding their brilliance, whether they be Chomsky, Krauss, Green, Dennett, Buffett, Gates, and all the others, or even Einstein or all of my readers for this matter.
It is not that what you know is wrong or what you do irrelevant. What you know could be perfectly right and what you do adequately relevant. However, even if right and relevant, it is, from a human understanding perspective and for a species facing an “existential crisis.”
It is this “normal” understanding of modern science, the understanding that has given us the resources that we are presently selfishly misusing, which we now need to transcend, to control the force of nature that we have ourselves become. As we had to transcend our belief that the Earth is fixed at the center of the universe, to discover gravity and later the other forces of nature.
Bateson himself has mentioned something similar in Mind and Nature in 1979, when saying that:
“While so much that universities teach today is new and up-to-date, the presuppositions or premises of thought upon which all our teaching is based are ancient, and, I assert, obsolete.”
This reading of mine, in “Mind and Nature,” has been a lifeline for me. It is indeed the “original fallacy” at the root of these “obsolete premises of thought” that I was uncovering in the course of my research. And since I had assumed from the outset that this original fallacy of thought was made millions of years ago in the Savannah, when we first “objectify” the outside reality and our inner self, long time before the Greek and the “giants” on whose shoulders modern science has been erected. I also assumed that it had affected all great thinkers, from the very outset of our rational proto-thinking as Homo, up to Thales, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, to Bacon and Aquinas—who did not know about evolution—to Einstein, Chomsky and all modern knowledge workers, whether they be philosophers, physicists or entrepreneurs, who don’t care where we stand in evolution or are wrong about it.
It took me a while; I am not that fast intellectually. However, I finally found out, in my early 60s, what this fallacy was and how it affects our understanding depending on who we are. However, as soon as I had uncovered what it is and how it affects our understanding idiosyncratically, I knew that I could not mention it directly to anybody until I formulate my theory of Universal Evolution*, since, as Einstein said: “It is the theory which decides what can be observed.”
*This theory of mine is indeed as different to Darwin’s as quantum mechanics is from classical physics. One think that has supported this contention of mine is this passage from Max Planck: “None of my professors at the University had any understanding for my doctoral dissertation’s content, I found no interest, let alone approval, even among the very physicists who were closely connected with the topic. Helmholtz probably did not read my paper at all. Kirchhoff expressly disapproved … I did not succeed in reaching Clausius. He did not answer my letters, and I did not find him at home when I tried to see him in person at Bonn. I carried on a correspondence with Carl Neumann, of Leipzig, but it remained totally fruitless . . . .
I could use the same words while changing the names, but I will not, since I would leave unnamed too many of my teachers. None of them ever understood what I was doing at the university. However, they have an excuse, neither did I…! Since it is only later, fifteen years after I received my MA, that everything came together for me.
As we had to understand that the earth is not fixed at the center of the universe to enter the era of progress in which we stand at present, to control the force of nature that our societies have become, we will have to understand why “objective knowledge” is an anomaly of evolution. And this is what my Theory of Universal Evolution will show you.
Through all these years, I have inadvertently become a self-proclaimed “paleoanthropologist of science.” And as such, at 70, I can tell you all that it is your “belief” in specialized science that has become problematic… that has “fucked” us. Indeed, the human problem is so universal that none of the specialized sciences can ever come close to dealing with it. “Normal scientists” are as limited in their capacities to control the destructive force of nature that humanity has become, after the event of science, as the Medieval scholastics were to discover gravity, before Copernicus Kepler Galileo and Newton.
To reorganize the misadapted outcome of evolution that modern science has inadvertently contributed to produce—The global post-modern economy—we need a new “human paradigm,” (Edgar Morin, Le Paradigme perdu: La nature humane, 1973) which will be wholly “incommensurable” with everything we have learned since the Greek philosophers, who were also ignorant of this original fallacy of ours.
And it doesn’t matter who you are, or how much you know; the more you know or, the richer you are, the harder it will be for you to accept. It is not that you are not brilliant, on the contrary; it is your own potential “brilliance” that dazzles you and prevents you to perceiving in solvable terms the present existential problem of humanity. As Konrad Lorenz was already foreseeing in Beyond the Mirror (1978) when saying that: “Specialists, by knowing ever more and more about less and less will finish by knowing everything about nothing.” Indeed, even if individually you potentially know a lot in your respective domain, none of this knowledge will be useful “for our survival” until a new human paradigm is defined and adopt by all of the humanity.
All these years, I have consistently worked at the elaboration of such a paradigm, a new way of thinking based on a new understanding of our role, i.e., the role of objective knowledge, in “universal evolution,” and I am ready to present it to the whole of humankind. Indeed, we will save ourselves altogether as a species or not at all. Normal sciences start by making discoveries, firstly made and understood by few individuals, before being accepted by the scientific community and later collectively applied by societies for the benefit of progress. Conversely, the discovery that I have made, as an “extraordinary scientist” about the real place of the human understanding in evolution, has the potential of being firstly understood and accepted by all (“Think collectively”), before being applied individually for the benefit of our survival (“Act locally”). And this, once we will have a correct theory allowing us to see what is confronting us, without anybody having to be coerced by any laws, as no evolved creature conscious of its self-preservation needs to be constrained not to step over a Visual Cliff.
These mention that nobody knows where we stand in evolution and what to do when it comes to deal with our survival may be offensive to brilliant academics such as Chomsky, Krauss, Dennett, or the myriad of others. However, don’t forget that the Renaissance scholastics, probably the most intelligent people of the time, were also offended by the same Giordano Bruno’s contentions about our actual place in the Universe, to the point of burning him at the stakes.
However, don’t take me wrong; I am sure that we can succeed in solving the present existential crisis using the same resources that have created it: the vast reservoir of your specialized knowledge. You just have to use it all together for the only “valuable” evolutionary reason, our survival.“You are at your very best when things are worst.`(Starman)
Since it as been proposed that species are individuals, rightly according to the theory of Universal Evolution, what this theory of mine can do is supply humanity with the “scientific adrenaline” it will need to survive the present existential crisis. Like the adrenal medulla of single individuals does for them when facing mortal dangers. And if you tell me that things are not that critical, I will retort that you are supporting the primary diagnostic of my theory, that humanity is presently suffering from a “bowling-frog syndrome.” To which syndrome, Normal Science and modern economy, both obsessed by progress and growth, are the conjoint heating substrate. Moreover, don’t ever forget that if we ever put all our human resources in common towards our survival, that “space-time is the limit.” However, we have to act fast; we are forty years behind, according to when I first became convinced that something drastic has to be done about the present situation of the world.
If you want to learn more about what we need to understand individually to survive as a species, and have an overview of the new human paradigm that I will be proposing in my dissertation, you can read: The Emperor Has No Clothes, where the “Emperor” stands for normal science. It is the prolegomena of my Ph.D. dissertation De evolutionibus res naturas, an essay defining the actual role of “objective knowledge” in universal evolution, which I am writing in absentia as a counterpart to Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium about our position in space. I plan to publish it on the Internet when completed at the end of this summer.
Is that “pretentious” enough for you?
Andre Gaudreault © 2016