ruthless compassion (aroraborealis) wrote,
ruthless compassion

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Life is a Miracle

I'm working my way, slowly, through Life is a Miracle: an Essay Against Modern Superstition by Wendell Berry. I've loved Wendell Berry's poetry for ages, but this is the first time I've read a longer piece by him. I'm in chapter 3, where he's taking on Edward O Wilson's Consilience, which I haven't read.

Chapter 2, titled "Propriety", really has me thinking. I've been struggling, recently, with the work that I do here at HSPH not only because it bores the daylights out of me (Guatemala, here I come!) but also because my dealings with professors and PIs has left me feeling very skeptical of science, scientists, and their connection to the "real" world.

"This religification and evangelizing of science, in defiance of scientific principles, is now commonplace and is widely accepted or tolerated by people who are not scientists. We really seem to have conceded to scientists, to the extent of their own regrettable willingness to occupy it, the place once occupied by the prophets and priests of religion. This can have happened only because of a general abdication of our responsibility to be critical and, above all, self-critical."

Pricipal Investigators, PIs, have this idea that they're doing "pure research" and that everyone they might want to study will, of course, be more than happy to BE studied, for little or no compensation. It's a completely absurd notion, and one that really makes me understand why it's important to have ethics boards to review grant applications where there will be human subjects involved, because PIs so easily assume that what they're doing is for the greater good! It's a sweet but totally misguided perception of the work they do and the way they treat their human subjects.

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