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Unread July 11th, 2006, 03:21 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default Re: Emotions versus Reason?

I would add that scientists are trained to have a belief in (and almost always adopt a belief in) scientific objectivity - especially in their field. I think many young scientists generally exhibit this open-minded objectivity early in their careers.

As they get older, some scientists yield to the strong emotional rewards provided by applying their scientific skills and connections - toward justifying some set of ideological beliefs. Sometimes this ideology is scientific, sometimes it's political or religious - often it's a combination of those.

However, for many older scientists the objectivity they learned as young scientists becomes a way of dealing with life in general. I greatly admire these scientists because they have traded in the emotional rewards that come from a more ideological life-style - for a less exciting life - in the service of scientific truths that can potentially improve all our lives. I see parallels with a celibate priesthood and with some judges who have a true calling for their profession.

I can see in these scientists' discussions and debates a general suspicion toward emotionally made positions - they carefully avoid them themselves (it become second nature to them I think) - and they are alert to and dismissive of them in others.

However, all scientists (and all non-scientists) have beliefs with which they make important decisions in life. The difference between scientists (and non-scientists) is largely the humility with which they hold their beliefs - how careful they are not to attach their beliefs to strong emotions - how willing they are to re-examine their beliefs logically when new evidence comes available.

It's a more difficult life to live because one's beliefs will require constant editing. And it's not nearly as exciting as harboring a strong belief system in one's mind that can provide continuous emotional rewards and clear (belief based) directions - if not always intelligent directions - for behavior decisions.

I believe that the strong emotions of ideology are contageous. It's important to be wary of the use of strong words and strong emotions in support of positions in a discussion like this, even if we agree with the position - or soon, all ability to have a discussion will be lost - a very unsatisfactory outcome, IMO.

I offer these observations to encourage more high-quality discussions like those that have generally occurred here recently.

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