“Your thoughts and your actions are fixed forever in their terms. That is slavery. I, on the other hand, brought you freedom. Freedom is expensive, but the price is not impossible. So, fear your captors, your masters. Don’t waste your time and your power fearing me.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Some Thoughts on Scientific Research

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I have a lot of respect for scientific research. It’s not an intellectual exercise or a theoretical stance. Every time I think about the physical tools I have and use … even the simplest ones … a screwdriver … I am in awe of the vast skills and resources that went into making it and bringing into my life and making it such an obvious thing. This is of course intensified for more complex tools such as power tools where engines in different configurations exert huge forces on my behalf … and well … I see it everywhere.

However I also come across a lot of quoted research and my impression of research has become very poor. Granted, I rarely meet directly the in depth research itself … and when my superficial impression of it is so negative I really don’t have much motivation or interest to learn more about it. At first I thought this is true mostly to social sciences … but that isn’t the case. The more I inquire into applied sustainable life practices the more I find that there are hard-sciences which are so misdirected and so wrong … it’s hard to believe they are sciences.

Here are a few of my typical responses:

  1. Boring – so tedious, so meticulous in being correct … that it simply demolishes any living interest and curiosity.
  2. Wrong – research can be executed to perfect logical/scientific/academic standards and still deliver wrong/garbage results because of the nature of the beast. We live in an infinitely complex world and a logical mind isn’t able to process more than a few variables tied in simple relations to each other. However most research I come across doesn’t seem to know/acknowledge this. Instead it is filled with arrogance … which is a key ingredient in bullshit.
  3. Trivial – research can accidentally hit on a truism and when it does it is usually on something so obvious that the fact it took research to discover it is … well … laughable.
  4. Interesting – it s rare but I do come across research which feels promising and I would like to see move forward.
  5. Complex – I don’t get this much because I don’t venture into specialized fields of research where complexity is usually found. Though when I do I rarely have the patience to delve deep. During my “logical” chapters in life I did learn that complex is usually an indicator of something gone wrong.
  6. Inspiring – this is a rare experience. From what I can recall this happens only when the researcher doing the research is passionate and inspired. When that happens, inspiration survives all the inhibiting technical drudgery and shine through.

I think that it may be that the only time I directly experienced beauty of the scientific mind was in the 10th grade. I had an old mathematics teacher who was sharp as a knife. I anxiously awaited every lesson and drank in all that she had to offer. I would always do more homework then was required because I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately she retired and the following year was replaced by a dull and angry teacher and I nearly failed in mathematics.

I had plenty of opportunities for mindful indulgence during my career but in retrospect most of it was games. It was kind of like solving puzzles. I enjoyed it but I believe I was mostly applying my existing skills of logic and not really developing them. My mind was getting entrenched in its own patterns.

Today I am grateful for my logical skills and scientific mind – but they are not as dominant as they once were. They are tempered by other energies – caring that comes from the heart … intuition that comes from the gut  … openness to an unknown which comes from my failures … and patience that comes from learning to live with those failures. I believe that without these complementary qualities a logical mind is a crippled tool. I know mine was and I am thankful that my life journey has gifed me with these other skills.

Maybe I am carrying around a kind of hyper-sensitivity to crippled minds 🙂

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