Sunday, February 9, 2014

I Love My Job...But It Comes At A Price

I've been thinking a great deal about my last post, mostly because events in my country have transpired that have crystallized the fact for me that there are some communities in which science is not welcome. Where educated people (who aren't doctors or people who supply medications) are not welcome. These are the communities where the people use the statement "I'm not an educated person" as a boast and a badge of pride. It's fine to admit you don't know something, but a completely different cup of tea to willfully resist any opportunities to learn. These are the cultures in which "college educated" is used as an insult to insinuate a person is isolated from reality and surplus to requirement.

Being one of the useless college educated group and female to boot, there are certain personality traits I am expected to exude in the presence of these cultures. I am supposed to:
  • Be quiet when the "real world" people are talking. People look like they've been slapped when they approach me and assume I am the more quiet, soft-spoken version of my husband, and look equally kicked in the nuts when I cut through their language of ignorance.
  • Not ever correct misinformation being spewed by the "Real-Worlders." I'm an educator: that's what I do. If someone if making decisions based on faulty information, I will immediately correct them. Does it hurt their egos? Probably, but I'd rather hurt an ego than have a discussion proceed and conclude on a faulty premise.
  • Not express any opinion with confidence. I don't do passive-aggressive. I don't fish in muddy waters for compliments. If I know something, I say it. I jump in.
  • Respect ALL opinions. Nope, sorry. I can't respect opinions founded on logical fallacies or willful ignorance. Faulty logic leads to faulty solutions. A person has the right to believe whatever they wish, but that right does not protect them from critique. 
My career in science is the result of me having the confidence and the knowledge that I have today, but those benefits come at a price. I will never be viewed as a "regular person." For better or for worse I will always represent the "Ivory Tower", and my point of view will be forever excluded from that of the "average citizen." I accept this, and I also have to accept that because of my educational background I am more likely to be ignored than those of the Fallacy Flingers and Science Rejectors. Oh sure, they will come to me when they want to be entertained: after all, to these groups paleontology is nothing but a source of amusement. However, when it comes down to the cold, hard, and sometimes inconvenient facts, the science viewpoint will be considered less than valid and worthy of scorn.

Knowing this makes me extremely appreciative of the science community. This is the one community in which (close friends, my dojo, and family are the exceptions) where I feel it is perfectly fine for me to be a scientist and a person. It's not a community without its own peculiar faults, but it is one of the few places I feel as though I belong. Perhaps I'll live to see the day when "scientist" isn't a dirty word to the general public, but right now I feel as though I'm experiencing a modern Dark Age. All I can do is science on, and hope that my small efforts will contribute to the little spark of knowledge that will survive these times and shine bright and strong in the future.


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