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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Is there such a thing as an ideal scientist? What are their interests, the things they loathe, the philosophies they embody?

I realise this is a bit of a wishy-washy post. I'm also not asking what the scientific method is, rather whether you believe there is a manner that scientists should conduct themselves in, a certain sort of reason they should pursue that path, etc.
 

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I like Richard Feynman's description, "Science is the belief in the ignorance ofexperts and Western civilization stands by two great heritages. One is thescientific spirit of adventure — the adventure into the unknown, an unknownwhich must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries ofthe universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; tosummarize it — the humility of the intellect."

Science is interested in what is demonstrable, what can be clearly demonstrated. That begins within ourselves by accepting our ignorance and stupidity if you ask me.
 

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There is no such thing as an ideal scientist. In every scientific field, every part of research, other properties are needed. Pehaps we could delineate, what constitutes the optimal physicist. But even in every subfield we find that a broad variety of persons are needed and have succeeded in the past.

Wolfgang Pauli was a mystic, who often trusted his guts and managed to become a notable scientists due to his intuition and high mathematical skills.

Einstein was very different. He favored a rationalistic paradigm, prefered open-mindedness and published groundbreaking works. Primarily his creativity and rejection of scientific dogmas are remarkable and led to his success. He proposed a paper about photoelectric effect, entailing the idea that light consists of particles, when the wave theory was generally favored. His paper about the brownian motion was as well innovative as it was a strong argument for the theory of atoms. Regarrding his papers on special and general relativity I guess, I don´t have to make remarks, there influence is widely known.

I guess we could name a few qualitites many notable scientists have: Strong Intuition, capacity to think logically and abstract, innovativity, orginality, open-mindedness, no dogmatist and so on.
 

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An ideal scientist is someone who:

Keeps abreast of absolutely every new development in their field.
Never judges the importance of a piece of new work by the status of the person producing it.
Always has time to share their knowledge and expertise with junior members of their community (e.g. students).
Is never jealous, patronizing, hostile or aggressive to their colleagues.
Is always prepared to admit when they are wrong.

There are lots of good scientists who do most of those things most of the time. But nobody's perfect, and ideal examples of anything do not exist.
 

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I don't think there is a single definition of what constitutes science and the scientific mindset. There are different opinions.

For example, Popper and Kuhn were both very prominent philosophers of science and did a lot to shape our understanding of what science is and how it should be practiced. They both also seemed to have opposing views about science.

Popper thought that science was based on critical thought. Everything must be questioned and debated. Even fundamental principles could be challenged. He thought that science was one of the few traditions in human history that actively encouraged criticism of itself. So in Popper's eyes, a scientist is a questioning, critical person.

Kuhn on the other hand thought that the sign of a mature science was that it has grown beyond the need to question fundamental principles. The principles have been well established so no longer need to be questioned. A scientist works within the framework of these principles to solve problems, but does not challenge the principles themselves. He actually thought that the process of becoming a scientist was a form of indoctrination, where the scientist learns to accept the tenets of science.

These two philosophers painted very different pictures of science and scientists. I favour Popper, but I think they both make valid points. I think Popper advocated critical thought and questioning, while Kuhn advocated following well established traditions. I think science is a combination of traditions and critical thought. Critical thought encourages questioning,innovation and rationality. Tradition means that we don't need to continually reinvent the wheel. I think individual scientists differ in how much they value these qualities. Some may be more tradition based, others more innovative.
 

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I would say that what is most useful in practise is to be able to see things from many different angles. One of the problems in science is what we think we are measuring isn't what we are actually measuring, because we are measuring it indirectly. Eg in physics, you must always consider that the first thing you are reading is just an electrical signal (usually) and not necessarily the underlying phenomena you may be investigating. In social sciences which use questionnaires, you are measuring questionnaire answering behaviour, the answers to the questions might not actually reflect behaviour (or health changes in medicine - much of the 'placebo' response is just a change in how we report symptoms, rather than an actual change in our biology).

The biggest mistake a scientist can make is being too attached to their preferred theories.
 

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I don't think there is a single definition of what constitutes science and the scientific mindset. There are different opinions.

For example, Popper and Kuhn were both very prominent philosophers of science and did a lot to shape our understanding of what science is and how it should be practiced. They both also seemed to have opposing views about science.

Popper thought that science was based on critical thought. Everything must be questioned and debated. Even fundamental principles could be challenged. He thought that science was one of the few traditions in human history that actively encouraged criticism of itself. So in Popper's eyes, a scientist is a questioning, critical person.

Kuhn on the other hand thought that the sign of a mature science was that it has grown beyond the need to question fundamental principles. The principles have been well established so no longer need to be questioned. A scientist works within the framework of these principles to solve problems, but does not challenge the principles themselves. He actually thought that the process of becoming a scientist was a form of indoctrination, where the scientist learns to accept the tenets of science.

These two philosophers painted very different pictures of science and scientists. I favour Popper, but I think they both make valid points. I think Popper advocated critical thought and questioning, while Kuhn advocated following well established traditions. I think science is a combination of traditions and critical thought. Critical thought encourages questioning,innovation and rationality. Tradition means that we don't need to continually reinvent the wheel. I think individual scientists differ in how much they value these qualities. Some may be more tradition based, others more innovative.
1) I think the OP was more thinking about the character of an ideal scientist. Theory of science is not neccesarily the topic here and does barely give insight into the actual mind of a scientist.

2) Kuhn states there are scientists accepting all the principles of their paradigm, as well as more critical ones, who might induce a paradigm shift. So Kuhn and Popper are not really anatagonistic as you depicted it. In a way Kuhn is an extension and modification of previous notions of science as e.g. Popper. AND: Kuhn did heavily advocate non-traditional scientists.

Anyway. I am OT now.
 

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1) I think the OP was more thinking about the character of an ideal scientist. Theory of science is not neccesarily the topic here and does barely give insight into the actual mind of a scientist.
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Don't you think that a "scientific mindset" would consist of scientific theory?
 

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Don't you think that a "scientific mindset" would consist of scientific theory?
Only partially. Of course a scientists has a certain world view and this entails a notion about how to gain knowledge, how to render a theory and how to prove it; briefly, a scientist has a scientific theory. As well the mindset is defined through the personal paradigm and what is very important, the character.

And it has to be said: most scientists do not just follow a certain philosophy like those of Popper or Kuhn or Feyerabend. Depending on the nature of the theory, e.g. a falsificationistic approach might be impossible. Or an empirist cannot gain direct data/measure the object. For instance, the big bang theory. We are incapable of observing the event. As well we cannot really falsify the theory. Thus a scientist who strictly follows epiricism or critical rationalism, would have to discard the notion. Yet, much speaks for the concept. In this case a scientist must be flexible and regard the idea from a different angle.
 

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It's a fancy term for people who were naturally curious. The kind that broke their toys to see how they worked as opposed to play with them.

Most likely to major in a STEM field, work in a STEM field, and have liberal beliefs yada yada.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thank you for all your responses.

My motivations for creating this thread are somewhat personal, somewhat career-focused. I am passionate on work in the sciences, yet am of an anxious and depressive nature. Obviously the two aren't incompatible (mental instability and scientific thinking), however I have often wondered whether the nature of my mental health gets in the way of my intellectual goals.

I am prone to cognitive obsessions (alright, "OCD"), sudden fear and am seduced very easily by sentimentality. It doesn't take much to make me weep.

Ironically though, having this kind of heightened way of sensing and perceiving things around me (including people and events) has given me valuable insights in the past that I simply don't believe I would have had if I was a "normally" functioning person. It is very difficult to place who I am from day to day.
 

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And it has to be said: most scientists do not just follow a certain philosophy like those of Popper or Kuhn or Feyerabend. Depending on the nature of the theory, e.g. a falsificationistic approach might be impossible. Or an empirist cannot gain direct data/measure the object. For instance, the big bang theory. We are incapable of observing the event. As well we cannot really falsify the theory. Thus a scientist who strictly follows epiricism or critical rationalism, would have to discard the notion. Yet, much speaks for the concept. In this case a scientist must be flexible and regard the idea from a different angle.
Exactly, there are as many philosophies and methods as there are scientists. And this is a good thing.
 

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I think there is a scientist in every person around us who is conscious towards life ,environment and things related to it ,coz everybody is curious about something they find intriguing and interesting ,and this curiosity when converts into passion can do incredible things .We can take examples of real life people who sometimes even not knowing anything about latest technology ,who had not even went to proper schools or universities invent and discover great things ,which amaze even great scientists who despite having so much access to latest technology would never have thought of doing such thing :proud:.
 

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Lazy alert!

Has anyone mentioned Scientific Method yet?

State the problem.
Gather information.
Form hypothesis.
Test...
Accept/Reject...
Record Results.

I would say that is a proper scientist's mindset. NOTHING else.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Lazy alert!

Has anyone mentioned Scientific Method yet?

State the problem.
Gather information.
Form hypothesis.
Test...
Accept/Reject...
Record Results.

I would say that is a proper scientist's mindset. NOTHING else.
It was an attempt to delve into the things that tend to characterise someone drawn to science and to​ the scientific method, not the method itself, but thanks anyway :p
 

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It was an attempt to delve into the things that tend to characterise someone drawn to science and to​ the scientific method, not the method itself, but thanks anyway :p
He didn´t seem very serious anyway.

Add: Curiosity breeds scientists. What characterises Maxwell or Einstein is a genuine interest in how the nature is structured. From early childhood on they were occupied with questions regarding nature. This was perhaps their main agens to use their intellectual capacities in order to spend their time poundering problems concerning light and space and eventually devise groundbreaking concepts. It cannot be exaggerated how important this very aspect is. Many men certainly had the intelligence to explore new scientific concept, yet chose other paths. Curiosity is what sustains the motivation to delve deeper into nature. Curiosity is what Einstein make work on the concept of general relativity for roughly a decade, despite the war going on around him, despite facing problems with the involved mathematics, despite having no other proponents for his idea. Curiosity is what such men devote their life to science.
 
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