The following first appeared in the private email list IVy-subscribers,
which was available to all those who subscribed to the
printed magazine, International Viewpoints.

$cience: the 20th Century Religion, Part 19
by Tom Fielder
7 Oct 00

Dear All for One and One for All,

I awoke this morning to a quiet, overcast Saturday morning, here at
my humble abode in west Anaheim.  No one else in the family will be
up anytime soon, but I had slept enough and was curious to see what
that marvelous scientific invention of the Internet had deposited in
my email folder since last I looked.

I see now that the good Mr. Spickler (with tireless assistance from
his better half, Julie, no doubt) has leapt ahead in the Great
Science Debate with a wonderful account of his absolutely marvelous
surroundings on the campus of one of the pre-eminent academic
institutions of our time.  Phil, I envy your circumstances.  I must
drive for nearly half an hour (and more during rush hour, that
oxymoron for the 7-8 hours during the day when no one, with the
possible exception of the California Highway Patrol, can rush
anywhere on our freeways, because there are too damn many other
people, in that marvelous scientific invention, the automobile,
trying to rush somewhere at the same time) to my job at the
University of California at Irvine, to even come close to
experiencing what you described in your latest missive.

I can whole-heartedly vouch for what Phil has written about the
academic environment.  The opportunities for learning, experiencing,
witnessing, and otherwise participating in a vast array of
educational and entertaining (not to mention, for the most part,
free) activities is surely unsurpassed in any other venue.  This is a
large part of why I have continued to be drawn to these environments
throughout my life, starting as an undergraduate at the University of
Illinois, then graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
(a place which, if it could be transported intact to the west coast,
would rank as one of the best places on Earth to live), follwed by
employment at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, the City of Hope
Medical Center, and finally UC-Irvine.

Yes, the activities, seminars, concerts, plays, etc., are wonderful
perks of the academic scene, but for me, the main attraction has
always been the people.  You find at these places the most vibrant,
thoughtful, energetic, and creative folk that I have ever known, from
the freshest of freshmen undergraduates to the most hoary professors
emeriti.  Very few of them (there are *always* exceptions) are of
such one-track minds that they do not delve into a wide range of
accomplishments.  I have friends and acquaintances who are gourmet
cooks, accomplished yachtsmen, symphony-level musicians, art
historians, Olympic-class athletes.  They partake of the finest
literature and ponder the deepest philosophical questions.  And,
during their day jobs (which, incidentally, often run deep into the
night as well), they also happen to be world-class scientists with a
marvelous command of all the intellectual knowledge and skills which
are essential for advancing the frontiers of human knowledge about
the physical universe.  Incidentally, their ranks include Christians,
Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and probably even one or two
Jainists. :-)

Now it may come as something of a surprise to you, dear readers, that
these scientists, whom I admire and am privileged to call friend,
are, almost to the last man and woman, fairly normal human beings.
(I hesitate to vouch for some of them, but only because I don't know
them well enough.  Others seem to have achieved an intellectual
prowess of such magnitude that perhaps they should be classified as
another species altogether.)  They experience emotions, often of the
"mis-" variety.  They raise children and commiserate over the trials
and tribulations of said offspring.  They contend with backed-up
toilets and recalcitrant motor vehicles.  They go to movies and shop
at malls and vacation at mountains and beaches.  Some of them suffer
from chronic diseases, both physical and mental.  They get sick and

Some of them, and I really should warn the more faint at heart that
this will come as some shock, commit crimes and break moral and
ethical codes.  Some cheat on their spouses, or their taxes, or both.
Some have probably, from time to time, parked illegally, because a
good parking place has become a rare commodity on many college
campuses these days.  UC-Irvine has been the unwelcome host of
several widely-reported scandals recently.  One involved a couple of
scientists who allegedly stole the fertilized eggs of some patients
at the campus fertility clinic and used those eggs to impregnate
other patients, unbeknownst to both parties.  You can bet the
University had some pretty embarassing egg on its face after that
story hit the media!

So I will not argue with Dear Phil about the transgressions of
scientists.  I will concede that Einstein encouraged the building of
atomic bombs, although I could argue, rather successfully in all
modesty, that Einstein's motivation, namely to prevent the Nazis from
taking over the world, was fundamentally moral and ethical and was
simply a case of self-defense.

I will concede that Edward Teller was one strange dude, that Werner
von Braun was an unprincipled hired gun, and that a few Nazi
scientists and doctors committed unspeakable atrocities.  Although I
cannot provide any specific references, there were undoubtedly some
Nazi scientists and doctors who were appalled at the actions of their
comrades, and may have even tried to stop them, or at least defected
in protest.

The examples of von Braun and the other evil doctors and scientists
Phil described serve to illustrate an important point:  scientists
are, first and foremost, human beings.  As such, you will always find
amongst their ranks representatives of nearly every kind of human
being that you can find in the general population.  There are
scientists who are drug addicts, who suffer from severe mental
illnesses, who are sociopaths.  There are scientists who are nuns and
monks, who give all their earnings to charity, who work tirelessly to
right wrongs and fight injustice, discrimination, pollution, and all
the other evils that humans perpetrate on this world.  There are
scientists who are sinners and scientists who are saints.  And you
could make the same statements about any other occupation on this

Where does all this leave us, dear reader(s)?  What are we to
conclude from this seemingly endless debate about the moral and
ethical standing of scientists?  Should we conclude that, through
some mysterious process, humans who decide, often as very young
children (as in my case), to become scientists, automatically
metamorphose into inherently evil persons, bent on destruction?
Perhaps we are supposed to conclude that, *because* of some
pre-existing fundamental character flaw or implant or restimulated
engram, these people were pre-destined to become scientists, because
that was the only way they could legally go about committing the
atrocities they so longed to carry out.

I will leave you to reach your own conclusion, since I have no other
choice but to do so.  I suggest that, in doing so, you remember that
atrocities similar to the ones which Phil so eloquently abhors have
been committed by members of many other professions besides that of
scientist.  That perhaps the defining characterisic is not
"scientist", but "human being".  If scientists seem to be an easy
target, it is only because they are the ones who have enabled the
technological development of things like bombs and other destructive
devices.  But do not lose sight of all the good and wonderful things
their accomplishments have led to as well, not least of which is the
computer on which I am composing this message.  Decry our lack of
moral and ethical development as a species, if you will, but do not
hold scientists, collectively, to blame for that, any more than you
would hold every other person to blame.

And now I shall bring this message to a close, knowing full well that
I have already exceeded my allotment of electrons for one morning.  I
will leave to another day the subject of animal experimentation which
Dear Phil has broached, a subject about which I have a few things to
say, being a member of that group of scientists whom Phil has
advocated as being the most appropriate source of experimental
subjects to replace said animals in said experiments.

It's time to feed my kids and my cats, so I bid you all a good day,
and until next time, I remain your faithful compatriot,

Tom Fielder