Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Cheat off an English Major's Test

Despite being so much less important, verbal intellectuals cast a much longer shadow than scientific ones. The reason should be apparent: verbal intellectuals do all the talking. Their tools are writing and rhetoric; the tools that spread ideas. No one thinks of the scientists and engineers who made possible the electronic devices they're reading those words on - just the words themselves.

The things verbal intellectuals say are also much more understandable to the average person than scientific premises, ensuring their output reaches many more people. And no one is going to sentence me to sensitivity training for saying verbal intellectuals usually have better social skills than scientific intellectuals, so naturally the public is more eager to hear them out.

Because verbal intellectuals rightly feel the need to justify themselves (cinema expertise is less demonstrable than geology expertise), they do a lot more campaigning for themselves and their like. Scientists (apart maybe from those in string theory) give talks about their theories and methods, not about the overall validity of their field. The world of verbal intellectualism is so malleable and easy to play in you don't even have to be a doer to be taken seriously. You can simply be a critic. There is no such field as geology criticism. Not surprising then that there are so many more persons masquerading under the verbal intellectualism banner than the scientific one.

The plight of the scientific intellectual is that there are fewer of them and their voices are drowned out by the bluster of verbal intellectuals and a public that applauds that bluster. Maybe what they need is for a really dumb "scientist" to take up residence at a high profile outlet. If anyone knows of any Tom Friedmans stumbling around the scientific world, tell him there is a position available.

Feynman learned everything he knew from my Twitter feed:

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