A little bit of science, a little bit of thinking


It is la fête de la musique here in France! There are instruments everywhere, and concerts on every corner of Paris until 6am in the morning. Unfortunately it has rained all week, and I don’t know how well a piano works when it is wet….

Anyways I have spent the last three days at the lab in Cachan. Wednesday I grew some bacteria and went to the group meeting, Thursday I went to a conference on lab safety and today I am running a PCR and a digestion. Lots of science!

At the group meeting on Wednesday I asked everyone who is a part of Bianca’s team if they have ever encountered or heard of integrating the physical sciences with the humanities. Everyone except for one girl said no. (Some added that they still don’t even see the point of my work…. I’m still trying to convince them.) The one girl who spoke up did not seem to understand what I meant by integrating science with philosophy, or embedded humanism. She explained that at a lab where she had previously worked, there were some complications concerning the necessary paper work to study stem cells. She said that the lab realized that they needed to have someone outside of the sciences to take care of the paperwork. The scientists did not have the time for that kind of work….

While yes, that is an example of integrating science with non-science, it is not the point of embedded humanism. The scientists here have a closed-minded idea of how philosophy can help science. Only when it is completely obvious that a non-scientist is needed, like in the case of stem cells, do the scientists understand that they need to work with society or different disciplines of academia.

Here is example of what I mean by claiming that the scientists are closed-minded in regard to the philosophic implications behind their research. Scientists usually think that stem cell research, designing bacterial mutants and cheating are the only issues that might be philosophical. And even then they don’t approach these issues in a philosophic, mindful way. They are strictly scientists, and they do not want to consider the multitude of directions that each of these issues can branch into. Each of these subjects in science have caught the attention of the society in the past, and so scientists know that they need to consider these issues from different prospectives. But what about all the subjects in science that are not important enough to be discussed on CNN? What about the simple philosophic questions behind the purpose and use of a pipette? Scientists are not interested. I am.

I hope that it does not look like I am looking down on science and researchers. I have a lot of respect for their work, and I understand the difficulties that present themselves in the lab (one of the ideas behind embedded humanism). It is not that they are less dedicated to intellectual questioning; they have just programmed their brains to scan the issue for possible complications, instead of digging deep into each complication to understand every possible impact of each problem and solution. Philosophers too could learn a thing or two from how scientists approach issues. The two different mind sets are complementary, and if combined a there is no telling what we could all find out together….


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One Response to A little bit of science, a little bit of thinking

  1. Robert Frodeman says:

    that’s to say, scientists have been trained to respond in a disciplinary way….

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