Saturday 23 September 2017


When you meet a new person, do you cut them some slack and give them the benefit of the doubt? Me, I try not to hate people because they are black or over-weight, I wait until I realise that they kick dogs, put the milk in first, have robbed a pensioner or driven a car while drunk. Even then I'll be quite forgiving because [yappy] dogs can be so annoying and the drunk took over the wheel to rush the designated driver to hospital when she had a coronary.  Peter Singer is on the planet to help us tease apart these ethical dilemmas. I was doing a little light research about famous scientists (as you do if your blog is called Science Matters) and in fairly quick succession turned up three Hot Properties, two of whom are on the cards for a Nobel Prize, who have something narrrsty in the woodshed. That struck a certain resonance because I've been there before with
Note that two of those three men had already collared a Nobel Prize. You don't get Nobel Prizes thrown at you as you drive through the streets of Stockholm; you have to be smart, lucky, hard-working and ambitious. I can sort of understand how if you are super ambitious, you might step on the faces of rivals and colleagues as you climbed up the ladder of fame and fortune. But I cannot easily imagine a scenario where bullying youngsters was instrumental in anyone's success in science. The bullying is not caused by ambition, it is caused by a character flaw . . . an unhappiness, possibly engendered by a 'troubled' past.  That is not to condone but to begin to understand.

Of my recent discoveries
  1. One a bit of shit, a narcissist whose grand vision and supreme confidence tended to trample subordinates and brush aside bystanders and be really impatient with other people's sensitivities. 
  2. Another seems to have been catapulted to fame by being the first to get a key discovery in neuroscience published although he was the second to have the idea and prove it was a) true and b) useful. That first person had publication troubles, possibly due to a humble and a retiring disposition and preference for doing the science rather than getting the kudos. The defence of #2 by his partisans has been more robust than it needed to be if his demeanourwas squeaky clean and lovable.
  3. The third was and is a sexual predator who uses his considerable fame and success in science to bed young, vulnerable people of both sexes. 
With whom would I least like to have dinner? Not sure.

Maybe it's because I have daughters, it riles me up, this urge to disrespect women because it is a) wrong and b) inefficient and so stupid [prev Caitlin Moran]. But I can sort of understand it if you accept that a large proportion of successful academics are on the autistic spectrum. I understand that to be counted as Specky you have to have trouble with establishing empathy and have certain traits of compulsive, persistent, monomaniacal engagement with solving problems and finding patterns. The National Institute for Mental Health NIMH thinks that these rather different traits are flip-sides of the same coin; and who am I to differ?  Solving Rubik's Cube as a nipper or knowing the tooth-count of every dinosaur that ever lived, strikes me a pretty sound foundation on which to build a successful career in science. When you grow up you may leave the Rubik's Cube aside as a desk ornament but the urge to solve problems remains. Trouble is that other urges start to manifest themselves, and as hormones sweep you towards sexual partners you don't pick up the cues that more empathic people have and soon enough you're getting a reputation for being gross. Or you push things too far or inappropriately and if there is vulnerability or a difference in social standing, tears [vide supra] result.

Is it true to say that autistic people tend to be a bit smarter than average . . . or smart enough to be educated? Then maybe a training course, rather than a punishment, could be implemented? Not easy because sex and sexual behaviour is still quite taboo. It's easier to be taught that students prefer if you face them, rather than facing the blackboard, when lecturing.  Anyhow cursing the perps does not really help except to raise the temperature to hot and bothered.

Footie: Spextroscopy? Not a totally new coinage: used more than it shd be as a typo - on Amazon for eg.

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