How do we view science?
What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word “science”? Most likely, a lot of people would say that the words “rationality” or “objectivity” are the first terms that they would think of. But softer words, such as “emotional” or “subjective” never come to mind – these words are immediately put into the “non-scientific” category. We therefore miss out on the whole path that scientists had to take to find their answers– and as it turns out, that path is full of emotional ups and downs.
Isn’t it weird that when we read scientific papers or talk about science, very rarely the focus is put on the process of science, but rather we are always immediately informed about the results of science? For example, if we read about the results of a clinical trial, the paper only presents the results but not at all the journey that the researcher had to undertake in order to come to his conclusions. In other words, the processes behind science are rarely explained.
Being in the cloud
Uri Alon, a systems biologist, is a researcher who experienced a long period of demotivation during his PhD studies. He found himself in “the cloud”, as he calls it. The cloud, for him, represents an area that every researcher delves into at least once in his career. When one attempt after the other fails and leads to no discovery. In other words, Alon felt stuck and worthless. He could not see himself as being a good scientist.
But he soon realized that especially in the cloud there is hope. In fact, the cloud stands guard at the boundary between the known and the unknown. And what science is about is going into the unknown.
Going into the unknown together
But no one should have to go into the unknown by himself. Alon gives interesting insights into how his hobby as an actor in improvisation theatre helped him to become a better researcher and explains how building up on other people’s ideas and discoveries is a vital part of that.
However, one problem still remained yet to be solved – a certain fear that researchers have instilled a rigid, nearly 100% rational way of doing science.
“You see, science seeks knowledge, that’s objective and rational. That’s the beautiful thing about science. But we also have a cultural myth that the doing of science, what we do every day to get that knowledge, is also only objective and rational, like Mr. Spock.”
Alon’s answer to this problem? He takes out the guitar and conveys a message. He deliberately injects science with a dose of emotion and wit and with this simple act paves a new way for researchers to make fascinating discoveries creatively. Watch his TED talk here:
Cover image by Pixabay