How not to think of career:
“I’m going to university to become a biologist.”
“I am a biologist. I’m going to university to get further practical knowledge and certification.”
The point here is that one should start being a biologist a significant amount of time before deciding to go to a university (say) to further one’s biology-related career. That is, one should start doing things that biologists do before deciding to go to a university to further one’s career in this area.
Most high-school students ‘decide’ to start a profession without having done much of anything in relation to that profession! Most of the time, they don’t actually have good reasons for believing that is the right profession for them.
This attitude is part of the institutionalization (‘Mandarinization’, to use William James’ phrase) of Western society, education, and careers.
It seems to me a better dynamic within Christendom is engendered by the following emphasis.
1. Christian first.
To be Christian is to a) take Jesus of Nazareth as in some meaningful sense to be the Christ, and b) attempt in one’s thoughts and actions to follow the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.
In short, being a follower of Christ ought to be first, as far as one’s identity vis a vis Christianity goes. Everything else is secondary. Which isn’t to say secondary differences aren’t important – they are.
2. Denomination second.
So, one isn’t a Mormon, rather one is a Christian. One isn’t a Methodist, but rather a Christian.
Only secondarily is one a Mormon Christian, or a Methodist Christian, and so on.
People often think that ‘something external has to happen’ before they can start doing x, y, or z.
Rather, something internal has to happen. The first step is to stop waiting for others. Instead, get started!
Want to start designing buildings? You don’t have to wait until you’re a certified architect – start designing Lego buildings, make a small structure, start experiments with an architectural computer program, and so on.
Once you get going, you’ll get a better idea of what is actually involved, what the specific challenges are, whether you really want to do whatever it is, and so on.
Science is figuring out what the truth is.
This is practiced by and accessible to everyone. It is not the domain of people who walk around in lab coats.
Indeed, many ‘scientists’ don’t have this as a primary goal in a given situation – rather, it’s getting grants, garnering esteem, getting invited to cocktail parties, and so on.
To this extent, ‘scientists’ are often doing less science than people who wouldn’t consider themselves to be scientists.
This is because, in everyday life, typically people do value truth primarily in what they’re doing. Most day-to-day actions aren’t about getting grants, say, to study such-and-such. Rather, you just want to figure out how to fix this or that, or find this or that, or create a kind of thing that works, and so on. Your primary impetus is, usually, the truth.
(Some ‘scientists’ may be more of scientists in their day-to-day affairs outside of bureaucratized, grant-seeking, status-seeking ‘science’ than inside of it, unfortunately.)
The good news: doing science is easy to start (start trying to figure out what the truth is), and – indeed – you’re already doing science on a day-to-day basis, in all sorts of things.
Mark Sisson discusses precommitment and The Odyssey here.
Precommitment – setting things up beforehand to increase chances of success – is an important tool in theosis – improving your habits of thought.
You can see this technique being used in the beginning of the Gospels – Jesus goes out into the wilderness. Why? To remove distractions. This is analogous to Sisson’s example of creating an environment where there is no WiFi available.
Enlightened self-interest ought to leave itself behind, in a sense, because it turns out that, in many cases, the best way to help oneself is to stop thinking about what’s best solely for oneself.
It seems to me that the purest egoism puts away egoistic thoughts, and commits to people and causes that are beyond oneself, where there is a real risk to oneself.
To put it another way, egoism points beyond itself. I.e., egoism, followed cogently, happens to lead to the law of mutuality.
Energy is the basis of basically every society’s economy.
Therefore, focusing on how to increase energy production or make it cheaper ought to be a primary focus of practically every society.
Yet, it isn’t.
When playing zero-sum games (such as most sports or political elections), one can still ask oneself ‘How can all parties win in some other way?’
So, it seems the Christian motivation, in such situations, ought to be to figure out how a non-zero sum game dynamic (‘win-win’) can be constructed.
For example, in a football game, either one team wins or it does not. Yet, all players can grow in character, say.
Zero-sum game dynamics become more acute when looking at politics, where one party wins an election. This can be extended to international politics, where zero-sum dynamics can lead to things like war.
It seems especially important, in these cases, for the actors to try to figure out how to implement non-zero sum games, if not to outright change the game to a non-zero sum game (trade can be such an example in international politics).
If there is an essential role for the core, specifically Christian canonical scriptures, I think it is to ground a conception of the good.
It is one thing to say God is the Good, or a Christian ought to align their will with the good. It is another to say exactly what the good is.
Here, the Gospels and letters from Paul, John, and James, in particular, have to be a significant part of a specifically Christian answer.
This doesn’t require something like ‘infallibility’ or ‘inerrancy’ in that scripture. Rather, scripture can be a repertoire that can act as an heuristic, and so on.
Given the state of things in science in general (the rise of careerism, grants, bureaucracy, mediocracy, management, and so on) – things that often don’t coincide with doing one’s best to figure out the truth – what is someone who wants to do real science to do?
I think the answer lies in the time of some of the greatest science done, and in particular, the ‘amateur scientist’ or ‘aristocrat-scientist’ model. Darwin, for example, was both of these.
The basic idea is to reduce the social pressure from people who aren’t necessarily interested in the truth (real science), by reducing one’s reliance on funding from various institutions where the primary goal isn’t truth.
One way to do this is to make money in some other way, and then do science with your spare time.
Second, now that one is free from institutions that don’t regard truth as of primary importance, one can be selective about the associations one has, and so build a network of like-minded people.
This probably applies to academia in general – not just science.