Scientific Elitism and Intellectual Snobbery

Scientific elitism is common and extremely pervasive. Budding scientists and researchers often disregard research done in some areas, and claim that such pursuits are unworthy of a trained mind. For example, a researcher in Computer Science may view research done on genetically engineered mice as intellectually substandard to the research done in his (and it is more often than not a ‘he’) field. One artificially constructs an intellectual tree based on the area of one’s research, and everyone without a doubt places their research at the top of this tree. The existence of this “intellectual snobbery” is both undeniable and ubiquitous, to the extent that math majors are often construed to be superior to their social science counterparts.

At first, one finds this amusing. And when one thinks about it further, it is quite disturbing. As a researcher, one’s role in society is to provide insight into the hidden ways by which the world functions and to use this knowledge to improve the way we live. Intellectual snobbery can only exist if certain groups of people contribute more to our understanding of the world than others. But it is unfair for us to impose the belief that computers have made our lives better than our understanding of the history, and the lives of the people who existed before us in this world. One can make a plausible argument that the need for us to innovate occurred because we knew what could happen if we did not. And one can possibly make similar arguments about the importance of every field which exists.

Yes, there are people who can intuitively understand Hilbert Spaces and Set theory. But you should not have to learn through experience, that is perfectly fine to not understand them intuitively, or even after great effort. The reign of free thought is only productive, when every individual is given the opportunity and the conditions to discover or invent something of her interest. And this is of collective interest. Yes Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolution and natural selection. But 150 years later, the name is just a memory which fades. The idea however, has given each one of us a way to answer extremely deep and fundamental questions regarding our existence.

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