Monday, December 12, 2011

Scientific Progress & Human Relationships

A friend of mine recently noted that I write about my mentors and that I seem to have many.

I know what I know and I know what I don't know.  And I am not ashamed about what I don't know.  When I am stuck, I think to myself, "who can help me now?"  Then I reach out.  It surprises me and restores my faith in humanity every time an expert responds.  That is how I collect mentors.

I am finding that brilliant folks are really accessible, down-to-earth and willing to share their God-given talents and hard-won lessons learned.  So grateful for that.

When I mention I am meeting with one mentor, another mentor will note, "Wow, he's a serious scholar" and I will think, "Yikes, I should have known that" or "Yikes, I am glad I didn't know that before I asked all those silly questions."  But the truth is, I would have asked anyway, because that is how I learn.  And fortunately, no matter how brilliant the mentor, I have always been treated with respect.

Thomas Kuhn wrote about the process of scientific revolution - how we go from one set of accepted truths to a new set of accepted truths.  It is highly influenced by a political process. Privileged "normal science" shifts when sufficiently challenged and no longer socially accepted.

Scientific discovery and progress is highly influenced by a network of human relationships.  In the same way that artistic or literary circles influence each other, so do multi-disciplinary scholars.  Imagination inspires me but it is in the context of human relationships and mentoring that my ideas become tangible manuscripts and studies.

"We can only evolve in a cooperative society.  Cooperation and need for contact are built in.  There is no genetic basis for individualism.  Individuals die and cooperative groups evolve and survive."

Collectively, we push things forward.  Finding your wolf pack is essential.  Thanks for lunch, Maria, and inspiring this post.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, too, Alex. I have reflected on that conversation and the one today too at Descanso Gardens. You have given me a fresh perspective on how I look at mentors and mentoring...realizing that they appear in ways that are outside of the framework I originally thought. Looking forward to our next adventure!



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