a superstitious world

I got into medical research because it seemed to be an activity I would 
feel useful for having done. It is a job that when you give it as an 
answer to "What do you do for a living?" gets a "That's wonderful!" It 
has had its moments; but it raises ethics questions with even fewer 
answers than the work produces.

As a culture the world of science probably gets more signs of respect 
than the others in my experience. Partly because it is an occupation 
concerned with posing questions, it has always made me question its 
pursuit as vocation.

My first job in science was at the University of California Medical 
Center in San Francisco where I got a full dose of emergency room and 
operating room theatrics as well as cutting edge (pun intended) research 
on animals as well as human volunteers, many of whom where other 
experimenters. I underwent some of the same procedures after I had some 
heart attacks but when I was working at the Research Institute I thought 
I'd choose to die before I'd let them do that to me.

Carter Collins brought me into the field and after a couple years at 
UCSF we got our own grant through the most important backer of my 
career, Arthur Jampolsky. It was during the years at Smith-Kettlewell 
Eye Research Institute that I had all the experiences that followed my 
Hip/High era.

Science is our attempt to codify the first kind of truth - what is true 
whether declared so or not. Scientists are not like umpires, decreeing 
what is and what is not. Instead they presume that there is in fact a 
first kind of truth. Although a purpose is to explain what has been 
observed, the main use we make of it is to predict. The ability to use a 
"truth" to correctly identify what comes next is the criterion for 
scientific truth.

Descriptions of science are mostly just stories. Often what is said 
about a field has little relation to the experience. The philosophical 
definitions are idealizations of historical figures in which clay feet 
and warts vanish under a patina of idealism, much like previous 
presidents escape the barbs they endured in their own time. Real world 
"science" as opposed to the "search for truth" model is as linked to 
fashion as any endeavor. Who gets the backing is often based on being 
qualified in completely inappropriate ways by having certain letters 
after one's name, etc. The funding of projects is decided by people not 
particularly qualified, and not at all objective. Waste is frequently 
the order of the day. Pride of authorship is very prevalent; the 
jealousies and rages usually associated with prima donnas abound in the 

A typical scenario is that one gets a grant for work already mostly 
finished. One's students or lab assistants complete the project as the 
principal investigator proceeds to seek other grants. When the time 
period nears its end there is a flurry of purchases so as not to appear 
to have asked for too much money. Most of the grants go to established 
institutions, although much innovative research is done by people 
outside these places.

Science is taught in the way history is - a linear sequence involving 
famous personalities. Frequently the true pioneers are discovered long 
after their ridicule and death. The myth of the disappearance of 
individual innovation and the emergence of teams of scientists who will 
henceforth handle discovery institutionalizes science; but just as jazz 
is the product of outcasts bitten by the muse, so science emerges from 
special minds, often working alone outside the halls of academia.

With the emergence of many-to-many communication, we have the 
opportunity for networks of scientists without the burden of a 
bureaucracy hung up on degrees and certification. "Publish of Perish" 
will take on new meaning and "Peer Review" will be an open event, not 
the province of people whose privilege is based on exclusivity, instead 
on the merit of their ideas.

In duels, hostilities, and war there are rules that make clear what is 
impermissible. This is frequently considered a "mystery" in some 
supernatural sense. In the view of many scientists there is no 
supernatural any more than there is a "subnatural" and whatever IS is 
natural - and there is nothing that is not.