The education system in our country has been carefully and meticulously crafted to completely shut down objective or assertive thinking. The short essay below authored by a UC Berkeley trained PhD (chemistry) tells a very important story straight from first hand experience. This essay is an exceptional exposé of university programming methods and pressures. It is imperative to read, understand, and consider. My most sincere gratitude to Penny Teal for authoring this excellent report for geoengineeringwatch.org.
The Rise of Science and the Death of Philosophy
There is a joke, apparently told to most incoming graduate students at most universities, that, "When you get here, you're given a lobotomy; and 4 years later, when you're finished with your degree, they cut out your heart – and then you're ready to be a professor." This is told by older grad students, of course, not by the professors. It is, unfortunately, true.
The lobotomy was accomplished, in reality, throughout the years of one's schooling, during which all young people are taught to compartmentalize their thinking. The process is described succinctly by John Taylor Gatto, lyrically by Jonathan Kozol. It is easily understood by anyone who reads these writers and who has maintained even a shred of self-understanding, after the brutal attempts of modern education to remove self- and all other forms – of understanding from the mind of the unsuspecting student. More than a lobotomy, this process called "education" entails the segregation of all knowledge into virtually hermetically separated areas of thinking, such that one can discuss geography as if it had nothing to do with politics, and science as if it were utterly distinct from ethics.
The "removal of the heart" is an all too apt metaphor for the removal of most shreds of common decency, such as any concern for the lives of one's students, and the acceptance of a dog-eat-dog, survival of the pushiest, mentality. Because as a university professor in the sciences, one will compete for grant money, and one must publish several papers per year. The student is constantly reminded of this harsh reality; I was told in my second year as a grad student at UC-Berkeley that I was "too timid" for the field of chemistry, and that I should consider quitting with a master's degree and finding a more suitable career (which made me, of course, determined not to leave without a Ph.D.) Another student was given the more blunt version: "To be a good scientist, you have to be a mean son of a bitch."
Sadly, most (but certainly not all) of my colleagues in grad school were willing to go along with this demand. One, an incredibly intelligent man with (in a better world) great potential as a musician or poet, actually stated with great relish that he couldn't wait till he was a professor, so that he could be the tormentor rather than the tormented. Afterward, he was one of the most successful graduates of my class. Professionally, at least. It's impossible to claim success with that kind of an attitude.
For my own part, I left academia the instant I had my doctorate in hand. I would love to have taught, but in the modern world even 4-year, liberal arts colleges require that their professors publish several articles per year. The one college at which I bothered to interview made it clear that an incoming prof would be expected to work at least 80 hours per week, and most of that in the lab. Obviously, that leaves very little time for keeping informed about the condition of one's world, even with regard to the real-world impacts of one's own research. Obviously, that is not merely by hazard.
The main reason I left, though – or rather, that I didn't consider going back (because at graduation time I was pregnant with my first child, and determined to be at home with her during her childhood) – was due to the pervasiveness of military involvement in my chosen field. I should have known before getting to grad school that such would be the case, but I was unbelievably naive. I thought that, since I was interested in theoretical chemistry, I would be working on abstruse problems with no possible applications for the defense industry.
Excuse me while I pound my head on the desk…
The reality is that even research funded by the National Science Foundation is directly linked to defense work, and that all research projects will be scrutinized for their applicability. Bernard Eastlund may have been whitewashing when he said he hoped his HAARP prototype would be used for beneficial and strictly peaceful ends; but regardless of his intentions, HAARP would never have been allowed to function otherwise, had it had any utility for those who tirelessly strive to dominate the masses.
Funding is only half of the problem with university-level science. There is also the ironic fact that an education in science actually stunts one's ability to think clearly.
Teaching was not only devalued at Berkeley, it was despised. One veteran professor was overheard telling an incoming prof, "Don't worry about teaching; they don't care at all about that here." The nicest professor I met, by far, at Berkeley (who was, not coincidentally, one of the most popular teachers) was denied tenure.
At all so-called elite universities, undergraduates are taught mostly by grad students, who are expected to spend as little time as possible on teaching. Which means, in perfect harmony with modern education objectives, that students are left to memorize and regurgitate material. Helping them understand it would take time away from research, you see. Grad students are there to promote their advisor's career first, to gain credentials second, and to take and teach courses as a distant afterthought.
I wrote the above, not because I am wallowing in resentment about the way we were treated in grad school (that would be giving the tormentors power over me even after the fact, as well as being a monumental waste of time). Rather, I hope that it will convey to readers who had the good fortune not to choose a career in science some idea of the digestion process via which the "scientific experts" of the world are excreted. Humaneness is not compatible with success.
Does that sound like a good way to produce scientists who have the well-being of the community, or of anyone at all, in mind?
Of course, one can be a consummately dislikable person, or a total misanthrope, and still be honest, ethical, and decent. But fear not, the academic system has ways of effacing those qualities as well. First and foremost is the fierce competition for funding, which is not by any means guaranteed just because one has been hired by a university. Second is, indirectly, the sources of funding. When a microbiologist knows that the paycheck is coming from a pharmaceutical company, the incentive to find a new drug safe and effective is immense. Data might be reported honestly, but the interpretation thereof, and conclusions drawn, will favor the source of funding. Even Wikipedia admits to the prevalence of confirmation bias in academia.
Lack of understanding may seem like a minor flaw in science, as long as one can solve the exam questions and obtain good results in the lab. But the inability to reason beyond the mechanical level is a major contributing factor to the way in which, for example, an engineer can fail to grasp the environmental impact of the products of his or her research. The combination of years of indoctrination and compartmentalisation in school, with the pressure to ingest facts devoid of comprehension at the university level, results in a debasing of science from the joyous pursuit of understanding of the universe to a factory-like cranking out of "products". Worse, it results in researchers who have not the slightest inkling of, or (often) concern for, the abuses of their work by the paymasters.
Here is one incident for which I still harbor some rancor. In my third year at Berkeley, my advisor was offered a great deal on a laser (typical cost: several tens of thousands of dollars; typical energy waste per second: don't even ask). The deal entailed his helping the laser manufacturer to produce a lengthy commercial for their product. My adviser happily accepted that condition… and decided for me that I would take part in this project. I objected, and even refused, but was effectively bullied into going along. The worst of which was that only a couple of my fellow grad students thought that I was justified in feeling exploited and deprived of my rights. Which goes to show that most people can rationalize almost anything when they want to be given a job.
If the easily corrupted scientists are the branches (and the university the trunk), the sources of funding are, of course, the root of the problem in academic science. The Department of Defense, the pharmaceutical-medical monolith, Monsanto, Google, et alia: it goes without saying that these entities do not exist to make our world more livable or pleasant or good.
So why are they the ones deciding which research projects will get funded? Sadly, a huge part of the problem is that the general public has been convinced that science is "hard" and is best left to the "experts". Scientific illiteracy is a modern day crisis, the most tragic aspect of which is that it is absolutely unnecessary, not to mention indefensible.
When I say that scientific literacy is necessary, I most definitely do not mean that every one of us needs to go to university and get a degree in some science-related field. Quite the contrary, as that would mean getting trained not to think, and that in just one minute area of the whole realm of knowledge called science. All I mean is that people need to develop and rely on their innate ability to reason, to apply their inherent (but often repressed) curiosity to examining the world around them, and to take responsibility for struggling through as many readings as it takes to understand the facts in front of them.
I assume that everyone who is reading this website has mastered all of the aforementioned skills; thus, our task is to convince others that they can and must do the same.
Many people, though, even within the geo-engineering community, are afraid to present themselves as experts. If I have accomplished nothing else in writing this article, I hope that at least I have convinced you that the supposed experts are not really the best-qualified to speak on any given issue. What is a qualified scientist? A qualified scientist is one who looks up, and wonders, and eventually understands. Someone who has far more authority to speak out than a mere credentialed scientist.
Do you think you hate math? Then you have been brainwashed. The human mind is designed to think mathematically. Was science a drag for you? Only by design (the design of an educational system which wants more than anything to control you). Watch any child (in a natural environment) playing with dirt and plants, and you will see that they are experimenting.
We are so very much more than we have been told! More intelligent, more creative, more capable… And it is vital that we accept the fact that we are experts, that we don't need to play second fiddle to those who have a (mostly meaningless) degree. We need to assert ourselves. For the sake of all those life-forms that can't articulate their understanding in ways that most humans can grasp.