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what is a scientist

Oct 28, 1993 12:32 PM
by eldon

Who is a scientist and what constitutes the study and practice of
science? Is the title self-conferred, or is it based upon some objective
criteria that we can all agree on?

One definition might be to call as scientists those whose work is to
advance the limits of scientific knowledge, those doing pure research,
and to exclude anyone doing routine work. A research chemist would
qualify, but a chemist doing routine labwork would not be a scientist.

Another definition would be based upon what field of knowledge is
studied and applied. Someone in the physical sciences, like mechanical
engineering, might say that his field is scientific, but that another
field like psychology is not, because it deals with "unreal" things.

But what constitutes a valid field of study? Many areas of inquiry
are routinely rejected as a waste of time, because they are inconsistent
with the typical view of how life works. They are considered, in
advance, as having no useful results, because they *are believed* to
deal with things not possible, and therefore ignored, when not

Take one example from my personal experience. As a graduate student as
the University of California in 1976, I thought it would be interesting
to do some empirical research into astrology. I found a professor in
the psychology department at UCSD willing to let me do a independent
study under him. I produced a four-page questionnaire, and distributed
it at both UCSD and San Diego State University. 146 usable
questionnaires were collected from students born in 1957.

When word got out that I was doing this study, it was almost blocked
on a technicality--the questionnaire had to have prior approval by the
human subjects committee--but fortunately the professor was able to
get around it for me. The project might have been respressed, as not
being scientifically respectable, because some people thought tha
astrology was non-scientific nonsense.

I was disappointed, though, in the results that I came up with.
Using all the information on my questionnaire and hundreds of
astrological varables from the 146 charts, I was unable to establish
any correlations. In other areas, like marketing research, it is very
easy to establish relationships, using various multivariate statistical
tools like stepwise multiple regression and disciminant analysis, but
in the case of the astrological variables, I could not find anything
to relate to all the information that I had gathered on these people.

Another research study that I did a few years before, as a graduate
student at the University of Utah, by contrast, showed a tremendous
amount of statistical information regarding theosophical beliefs and
differences between Adayr and Point Loma Theosophists. The subject
of astrology, though, did not hold up for me.

Does the definition of scientist depend upon our current employment,
where we are when we do something, or the level of technology applied?
Am I more a scientist at work at NCR writing some Unix/C code that will
take its humble place as part of a scaleable, parallel, distributed
database system, that is not just state-of-the-art, but way ahead of
anything else that will be available in the next year, ..., am I more
of a scientist than at home writing some Dos/C or dbase/foxpro code
on my home computer? Do I change when I go home for the night?

If one of us works on the space shuttle project, or other big-ticket
scientific projects, are we more scientific that others working on
a shoestring budget?

I think that the term "scientist" is most likely used by people to
identify themselves with the scientific establishment, to make a
statement of profession of belief in the western, materialistic
worldview, like a Baptist saying "I believe in God". It is saying
to other "scientists" that one is not a heretic, not one of those
mystical, unscientific, deluded people, e.g. not a *non-believer*.

The scientific methodology, in some respects, parallels the occult
sciences. There is experimentation, the gathering, testing,
retesting, and teaching of knowledge of nature and man, but the
theosophical place for the heart of science, from this point of
view, is in the possession of the Masters.

This would, of course, sound like nonsense to someone unfamiliar to
Theosophy, because the claim is that about 18 million years ago, by
semi-divine revealation, mankind was given "the fire of mind",
awakened into intellectual thought, and given wisdom from higher
beings, the Dhyani-Chohans, and that the elect of mankind, the
Mahatmans, preserve that knowledge to this day.

*This* is science from the theosophical standpoint, and what we see
as modern science is a reflection of it, in the same sense as other
institutions reflect other inner truths, including our judicial system
reflecting karma, the Vedic tradition reflecting this living
transmission of Teachings, and universities reflecting the real
institution of higher learning, poetically called "the tower of
infinite thought".

                           Eldon Tucker (

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