UTNE Reader -January

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UTNE Reader - January 1999.-Jill Herzig

"Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light," is the closing line of the article entitled "Disordered Brilliance" by Clifford Pickover. It sets up the premise of the article, which leans toward the notion that, throughout history, many great inventors and thinkers were obsessive-compulsive or depressed, and if the conditions under which they suffered were eliminated by drugs, we would affect the scientific development of the world. We will in essence make the individual scholar happy at the expense of the planet. The article demonstrates examples of scholars through history such as Isaac Newton, William Harvey, Sir Francis Galton, and Henry Cavendish. In each example the author points out a peculiarity in each scientist's life and alludes to the fact they would not have achieved such greatness if they were meant to suffer less in their daily lives.

I tend to disagree with this line of thinking. If a person were given a brain that functioned at a genius level, they would probably feel compelled to think things through in their chosen field and still would achieve greatness. The suffering in their personal lives is secondary. Many great inventions and discoveries in every field have been made despite people leading ordinary lives. I do believe that some brilliant scholars rose to exceptional heights by overcoming their medical problems and were still able to produce successful experiments and products that changed the world.

The article contradicts itself by providing information on the brain structure. It gives the example of dendrites for a machinist. It states that the brain of a machinist has more dendrites in a given area then a salesperson. That person will be better with their hands. In the previous article entitled "Catch an Alpha Wave"; the same conclusion is drawn. Genius brains have different structures and the users are able to find many solutions to a given question. They can utilize what they have been given and use creativity to further enhance their gifts.

Another argument could be the definition of "normal behavior." What do we define as normal and who are we to set these parameters for others. I do not see the relevance of taking a lifetime of achievement and making it trivial at the expense of a particular fetish or phobia a person has. For example, what difference does it make that Sir Francis Galton, a pioneer in the study of human intelligence, resolved to taste everything in the pharmacy in alphabetical order, or the phobia of shyness that Henry Cavendish suffered that caused him to order female servants away and develop a private communication system in his home. Did these lifestyle peculiarities curb the strides made in chemistry, electricity, or physics? I think not. I believe we have an awareness of how people lived their lives in the past and are able to dissect their daily routine and find fault with it.

We do not take that same mirror and use it on ourselves today. Do we look at all the advances in AIDS research, or cancer study and say; despite what these people have achieved, they must have some mental handicaps or they would not be able to produce such greatness. No, we embrace the scholars, give them every comfort possible and try to help in any way we can to ensure an environment that enables a scientist to do work to the best of their ability. Maybe if this type of aid had been available in the 19th century, we would have had even bigger strides in science and technology. Who are we to say and who are we to judge others?

-- Anonymous, January 05, 1999

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