A world-famous scientist receives public adulation for his speeches and interviews. But when the scientist is the arbitrator in granting major scientific awards, he steers the Grand Prize toward his own student! These stories are famous and continue to occur at all levels, unfortunately. I know full well a large number of such cases and have lived the experience.
Indeed, Prof. «Ahmed Zewail» told a similar story of what happened to him before his winning of the Nobel Prize. I can recommend a user-friendly account on page 180 of the English version of his 2002 book «Journey through Time» from the Singapore publisher «The World of Science».
Scientists in the Arab world have prestige and respect derived from Arabic and Islamic traditions. Comparison, measurement and the science of logic share mental mechanisms with Islamic jurisprudence and the morals derived from Islam.
This great heritage suggests general rules to keep in mind, like this nice example not limited to scientists «the true scientist is aware of the extent of his ignorance», as well as «science holds the truth, it does not seek it» [?]. The images people have of the scientist are of humility and piety, moral character, chastity of the tongue, and sincerity in speech. Unfortunately the reality of today and perhaps in truth even a long time ago was very different from this picture established in the imagination of the public and in particular the Arab population.
The scientist is in fact a human being like everyone else. He just happened to excel at the acquisition of knowledge, and found through diligence, luck, or the will of God, a concept or theory or machine that didn't exist or wasn't understood before. The scientist is not necessarily selfless or civic-minded, but just as likely to be insular, selfish and close-minded as anyone else.
In the past there were polymaths who understood science, art and philosophy; but there are no more. Those like «Leonardo da Vinci» or «Poincaré» no longer exist, because knowledge inflation and scale force specialization and full-time attention into one area of expertise. Particularly in applied science and engineering it is no longer possible for one person to cover all this large area of science and knowledge. [This is amusing because El Naschie's sockpuppets go on and on about El Naschie being a genius polymath with an expert grasp of science, art, history, philosophy and politics. El Naschie Watch readers of course know that his knowledge in all areas comes primarily from mass-market popularizations.]
El Naschie's Rosa Al-Youssef column is up for Sunday, December 26. Victory after defeat. Original Arabic or Google's English translation.
El Naschie talks about responsibility. Although his children are financially independent, he says, he can't help worrying about their well-being. How much greater, he wonders, must have been the worry of Gamal Abdel Nasser for the well-being of the whole of Egypt in the days of the Tripartite Aggression? How must he have felt when Israel occupied the Sinai? The title of today's column refers to Egypt's turning a military defeat into a strategic victory.
This is all laying the groundwork for tomorrow's column in which we can expect grandiose sycophancy toward President Hosni Mubarak, who, as a commenter notes, trounced all the opposition in Egypt's recent elections.