Scientists are Assholes

I’m a scientist. I’ve been in my field for over 25 years, employed at the same place for the vast majority of that time. I’ve got a many peer-reviewed journal publications, and have been around science and science publishing long enough to realize that…

Scientists are assholes.

Scientists have egos. I think for any successful venture, including scientific research, you HAVE to have a healthy ego, a confidence in your own capabilities, and a confidence in what  you’re doing. But underlying the “confident” form of ego is the seedy underbelly of scientists acting like assholes.

The New York Times posted a wonderful piece that focuses on social psychology, but the same general storyline could have played out in any of the sciences. In short, a young scientist published an article in 2010 that summarized one piece of her research. That led to notoriety, and even a 2012 TED talk that become one of the most widely viewed talks ever. After basking in the glow of the work for a short time, other researchers began to question her methodology, and question her results. Even worse, it got personal, with scientists and science bloggers taking the young woman to task, making unfounded and hurtful accusations. In short, the young woman DARED to experience success…which triggered a backlash from other scientists, a group of human beings that love NOTHING more than to tear each other down.

Scientists are assholes. At least there’s a segment of the profession that act in this manner. Many of them have built careers not on perfecting their own new, original research path, but instead by tearing apart the work of others. Even in my own field, there are scientists who I am only aware of because of their published “bakeoffs”, assessing the collective work of OTHER scientists, and meticulously picking through the work to find (perceived) flaws.

Given my cynical nature, it’s not like being an asshole is restricted to the field of science. So why devote a blog post to trashing my own profession? To make a point about climate change science. Climate change skeptics are nearly ALL politicians…talking heads…pundits…but very rarely, actual scientists. Even the majority of “scientists” who do attempt to discredit climate science are not climate scientists themselves.  Most often they are from another field. The pool of real climate scientists that are skeptical that 1) the climate is warming, and 2) mankind is at fault is TINY.

Scientists are assholes. And yet among scientists, climate change discord is remarkably absent. In a profession where ego and competitiveness are sometimes out of control, I can think of no better evidence of the sound scientific basis behind anthropogenic climate change. IF there were any speck of credible evidence that the climate isn’t warming, or that mankind’s activities aren’t the primary cause, stories such as the one provided by the New York Times would be rampant. Scientists would be eagerly ripping apart each other’s work, trying to discredit not only the research, but the researcher him/herself.


One comment on “Scientists are Assholes

  1. Andy

    Yup. They are definitely assholes, and I have encountered many of them, especially during job interviews where they completely tear you apart. I’m a behavioral neuroscientist and I really do love science and research, but I am hating it more and more with each job interview. I have been unemployed for eight months because I stammer quite often due to ADHD and they cut me off, criticize my education path and decisions in my education, and what I want to do in the future (no, I DO NOT want to work in academia and have no work/life balance!). I was criticized during a job interview for not wanting to work in academia by an associate director of translational science WORKING IN BIOPHARMA and how if I wasn’t going to live within walking distance of the company. He straight up told me, “Well, /I/ live within walking distance of here. This is my life.” And it’s not my life? You’re not offering a large enough salary to live within walking distance, douchebag! They also often ask “illegal questions” during job interviews that are phrased differently so it doesn’t SEEM illegal at first (like they’re judging you based on your decisions and living situations), but they are. It’s just that if you try to report it they actually really didn’t do anything wrong because they’re experts at phrasing the questions just the right way.

    I mean, I get it, I’m critical of and analyze everything as an extreme introvert, but I’m not an asshole. I’m a very kind, friendly (yes, you can be friendly even as an introvert!), and hardworking person who is VERY empathetic. This is what scientists tend to lack, and it’s disappointing, especially when they’re supposedly doing work to create discoveries that are supposed to better the community as a whole. To be honest, I’ve never been treated so badly in the industry from other people as I have been from scientists. Almost makes me want to give up on it completely, but I’m not going to because I want to piss those assholes off by showing that I CAN be successful even with my “non-top tier university” degrees LOL. I believe we need people who are more kind and empathetic (and happier, for that matter…) in science.

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