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Why can’t we all just get along–like scientists

Just a short pause in my discussion of randomness.

I just had dinner at a small heurigen deep in the Austrian countryside. There was a group of about twenty of us, but we where seated in sixes at tables with long benches on each side. On my right was an Israeli, on my left a man from Yemen, across from me a Swiss, kiddy-corner left an Iraqi, kiddy-corner right a Kenyan. We talked about the food, the olympics, and flies. Heurigen are small household owned wineries that sell their own label, but me and the three Muslims did not drink so we had grape juice pressed by the Heurigen itself. The others had the wines. Me and the Swiss guy enjoyed a selection of ham slices provided to the table. We all had a great meal. We laughed and enjoyed ourselves. I thought about it and was stunned for minute. Here sat Muslim, Jew, Mormon and Christian all in deep and engaging conversation. Here sat Swiss, Israeli, American, Iraqi, Yemeni, and Kenyan. But in another way we were none of these things–these labels we pin on and use to separate ourselves one from another. We were just scientists there to discuss our work. Friends all.

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7 comments to Why can’t we all just get along–like scientists

  • Cap

    I would love nothing more for that to be a common thing. However it is not. To me, thinking about the needless conflicts is saddening. To see how these differences have pulled people, families, nations apart is sad. I agree, “Why can’t we all just get along-like scientists.” Hopefully one day a difference of religion, or race will only bring discussions sitting around a table, eating and drinking wine/grape juice.

  • This is lovely, thank you for sharing. I have had many similar experiences at various academic events (though maybe not *quite* that diverse within quite that small a group!). It’s probably my favorite thing about working in research.

  • You have hit upon an important truth. Science is a GREAT unifier. We like our arguments, but (most of the time) we can sit at the table in peace, respecting the work of others. I hope and expect diverse theologians can do the same.

  • Peter LLC

    I had a similar experience in the VIC cafeteria (about as far removed from the charm of a Heurigen as one could imagine) sitting next to the Iranian delegation after a heated session of the Board of Governors disucssing their nuclear program. It’s funny how fireworks one minute turn into polite requests to pass the salt the next.

  • FWH

    Steve, nice entry. I have had similar experiences. I attended a conference several years ago in New Delhi, India. It was on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq. Even though India is predominantly Hindu, it nevertheless contains the largest contingent of Muslims of any country in the world–and the general mood (if local headlines were any indication) was quite hostile toward the aggressive intentions of the U.S. I was somewhat concerned in that my particular session included Iranians, Iraqis, Indian Muslims, and representatives of other countries that were extremely critical of the pending actions of the U.S. As in your situation, however, the attitude of scientists, united by their love of learning and their common disciplinary interests, resulted in a session that was marked by politeness, sincerity, openness, and a genuine effort at mutual understanding. For my part, I interpret this general good will among scientists as a benefit of education and learning, endeavors that generally lead to more tolerance, greater respect, and good will toward man. PhD’s rule!

  • Kristine

    My dad’s a scientist, and therefore I was taught somewhat in the ways of scientists… When I got to college, it took me a long time to realize that not everyone was comfortable with dinner conversations that went “What? No way–show me one bit of evidence.” “Yeah, well, that’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve heard all day.” “Pass the salt. Great job at baseball today.” This is one thing I wish Mormons would learn from scientists–it’s perfectly possible to disagree about *ideas* without feeling personally attacked or getting all huffy about someone else’s righteousness (or lack thereof).

  • steve

    That’s a nice observation. I’ve been surprised in our culture that when we challenge peoples ideas they think we are challenging them as persons. In graduate school we would argue fiercely about ideas and then pat each other on the back and go out for pizza, no hard feelings. It’s the only way to really sort out thinking and make it better or change our minds, yet we seldom do it in Mormon culture where we put on faces of agreement, and are nice on the outside but underneath are seething at what we hear coming from others, but feel uncomfortable expressing it.

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