Although I’m probably ending my career as a researcher, I hope in molecular biology, I want to talk about what it is like to be a scientist in general. I know I’m not “officially” a scientist yet and I’ll still need many years to gain the right of being called that, but still, wanting to be a scientist is not something you gain with a PhD.
I was thinking about my life this weekend and there were the Elections for the European Parliament. It happens a lot to me that in these occasions I find myself being told I’m not interested enough in subject like politics, literature, history, arts and so on.. It’s true: I don’t find myself stimulated by such topics. Often I don’t watch the news, I don’t inform myself about the latest political issues. There was a quite popular artshow near my town but I didn’t want to go. I don’t quite understand art so I struggle appreciating it. I find history, as a subject, boring and little informative; and sadly I have a bad sense of orientation and a bad knowledge of geography. Economics and politics are a real tough issue in my country, especially in this period, but still they don’t move me like a simple scientific news does. I like literature a bit, particularly italian and english literature and poetry, and lately I promised myself to read some masterpiece (I started recently with Hard Times).
For these reasons many people could think I’m not an all-around person, I’m not informed or educated enough. Someone could think even I’m a bad person. And I’m kind of struggling with myself trying to explain why these knowledges, so boring and hard to me, are so commonly distributed to the common person. Everybody you ask know something about art, music, history and politics, why don’t I? Of course it’s because I don’t look into it and I don’t inform myself; but I want a deeper answer, why so many people seems to like this stuff?
I could keep this as it is: an opinion, a difference in interests, or a lack of spirit from me. But I kind found another answer that more represent my feelings. I’m trying not to be close-minded or ignorant but I really struggle with it.
If I have to explain why I chose the scientific career instead of something else, I, of course, will say that I’m in love wih science, especially biology and physics. But there is another reason that, I feel, answer a bit even my existential problem. I’m looking in front of me and all I can see is a changing society. I find myself quite off with younger people because they’re different: it’s really hard to find young boys or girls whose life ideals are not partying, drinking, traveling and being a ass. I don’t really mean it but, believe me it’s really hard. I don’t find myself confortable with younger kids because they’re different. I can’t help to think there is a tendency in my society going down. Their parents are always excusing and pampering them and it seems to cause many damages. I look to economy, politics and sports. Everything is corrupted, vicious and manipulated. Even if I want to find a job I have to be recommended by someone. Politicians are clowns, economists are thinking only about themselves, and sportsmen are paid more than politicians themselves. Soccer/football in my country is becoming a symbol of our society: Fair-play, honesty, sane agonism, good showing are no more. I look at industried and factories around myself and I see corruption and reccomendation. Probably 80% of commercial activities are evading and hire only under reccomendation. What happened to our society?
Of course, there are exceptions. But how, I say, should I be interested in such a world? I’m looking at people trying to solve political problems that we caused, to teach history to not repeat wars that we provoked, to restore nature that we ruined, to manage industries we built wrongly, to rebuild an economy system that we deceived… Maybe they are the ideals that are wrong. The whole society should be changed mentally and that is really hard to achieve. Even if I would do something I’ll probably end doing nothing because I’m simply not an expert. I’m humble and I recognize my limits, so I turn to something I can change.
So I found myself thinking about what is still sane, genuine and not human-corrupted? I’m not talking in an absolute sense, but for me that safe island is science. Do not misunderstand, corruptions and reccomendations are well present even in this world, but I still think that the ideals are right. In the scientific world if you have an opinion you have to change it if new facts emerge. I don’t want to solve problems we created, I want to explore, study and discover the world as it is, with or without us. I want to know how nature developed, how physics built the universe, I want to know how we breath, how trees grow, how we stand and so on… I don’t want to waste time in knowing that a species (us) emerged some years ago and started to ruin the planet like nothing matters. Because things we created that work well are already well done and don’t need more thoughts, and people who are trying to destroy things that work well are just fools. Because the only absolute thing we have is our planet, our universe and probably life. We should explore these issues while we have time and not waste it making problems there weren’t here before us.
I want to research just for the pleasure of it. If that can, and it will, solve some problems we have, well that’s fortunate. Curiosity should drive the world, not selfishness. More science in the world but more importantly more scientists in the world would do much good to our temporary passing species.
Maybe the majority of people like (or pretend to like) arts, politics and history because is simpler. Debating, discussing and talking about “serious stuff” feels good and no one can say anything.If you are not an expert you can’t do much; you feel satisfied although ignorant. Maybe I’m reasoning in a too abstract sense and I can’t see the reality. I’m more a daydreaming guy, I guess. Maybe I’m just a stupid that still try to believe in his ideals and don’t understand why a cultured person is somebody that knows all Chopin’s tracks or can recognize all Picasso’s paintings.
I want to be a scientist. I like science and maybe I find other issues less interesting. But there are reasons, I only feel that any other way to pass our life is kind of a waste of time. Liking scientific subjects is important but that’s not all. Be a scientist is a mission and you must feel it. To prove it to you let me tell you another story..