Scientists as mere humans

Having read many biographies of scientists and mathematicians, after my school and university days uncritical admiration of scientists, I know they are a mixed lot of personality types like any other grouping of people. From Galileo to Newton to Einstein one finds behaviour that is not always admirable. Newton was especially ruthless in trying to eliminate rivals; the comment about standing on the shoulders of giants (in a letter to Robert Hooke) that is often used to show his humility was also a put-down for Robert Hooke who was a person of small stature. Newton is thought to have destroyed the painting of Hooke at the Royal Society. Etc.

The revelations about scientists studying climate change is therefore no surprise to me: Climate scientists shut out sceptics by turning down data requests. See Simon Jenkins in full swing too: Scientists, you are fallible.

But Newton and others did have deep insights that have proved true (rather partially true in the way that all science is) inspite of their personality failings. So just as some sports people have unorthodox personal lives but play amazing games, let us not throw out the science when focussing on the personality frailities of scientists.

I agree with Simon Jenkins that the humanities are being seen as mere entertainment value yet they are also vital to our survival.  The human natures that we can explore though literature and history are neglected to our detriment: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq showed a profound lack of historical perspective. Here is sad news that another world-view has been lost; that which comes with each of the world’s different languages: Ancient tribal language becomes extinct as last speaker dies.