Free Essays: Jealousy in Cantor's Dilemma

Free Essays: Jealousy in Cantor's Dilemma
The beast hides in the shadows. Its presence is all around us; its existence denied by all. It moves stealthily from one body to the next, peering with its infinite, green eyes into the deepest thoughts of all, a merciless predator seeking out those who least expect its attack. It strikes without a sound, paralyzing its prey. The monster?s bite drives its victims into behaving rashly. It injects a poison strong enough to cause one to distrust one?s best-friend. It causes one to act furtively and always with the worst of motives. This beast is named jealousy, and no one is immune.Not even scientists, who?s goal is to conquer all in search of real truths, can battle against this obstacle. Carl Djerassi illustrates the susceptibility of research scientists to jealousy in his novel Cantor?s Dilemma. He illustrates, through his fiction, several important issues that fuel jealousy, and he alludes to some of its effects. One of these effects is competition, which combined with jealousy, forms a lethal combination. Furthermore, competition in the world of scientific research has the potential to slow the scientific process.

There are two main contributors to the problem of competition in the scientific community: fame and money. In the novel, Cantor states, ?A scientist?s drive, his self-esteem, are really based on a very simple desire: recognition by one?s peers?? Furthermore, the cost of scientific research has risen so dramatically in the last few decades, that even if a scientist has new, brilliant ideas, he/she may not be able to afford to conduct research on it. The combination of these two factors creates an intense sense of competition between scientists, leaving them weak and easily susceptible to Jealousy?s attack.

The first symptom is the breakdown of communication between scientists when competition occurs. This breakdown often takes on the form of secrecy. Some scientists fear that colleagues will steal ideas, thus taking money and recognition away from them. One example of this can be illustrated by the process of applying for a grant. Many scientists only vaguely describe research on their grant applications because they fear that one of the reviewers will use their position to get an inside look at the most recent research, and take proposed projects as their own. Moreover, Djerassi illustrates Cantor?s distrust in his peers when Cantor asks Stafford not to share the details of the experiment with anyone, not even within the laboratory. Sly maneuvers, like Cantor?s, undermine the basis of science and the scientific method. The beast?s bite inhibits teamwork, an important component in the analysis and application of data collected from the scientific method.

Another effect of the creature?s bite is characterized by the race to discover or publish first. Decisions that have not been fully thought through are a direct product of such hastiness. Djerassi presents an excellent example of this in the novel. Cantor is so determined to impress the scientific world, or more particularly, Kurt Krauss, that he decides to publish his original experiment of the tumorogenesis theory without double-checking its accuracy. Had his experiment been proven wrong, he would have suffered a great deal of humiliation. However, his enthusiasm would also greatly affect society. Millions of dollars for cancer research would have been spent along with months of hard work. Hopes would have risen that a cure was near discovery, only to be dashed by news of fraudulent work. The reputation of the scientific method, in the eyes of the average citizen, would be tarnished by incidents similar to the one in the novel. An outcry from the public could drastically reduce the amount of funding available for research, thus impeding the scientific process.

The figure lurking in the darkness is merely a forerunner of competition. But the smile is wide on its face when it discovers the secrecy and irrationality that its poison has created. The beast pits scientists against one another in a field where huge amounts of knowledge and creativity are needed, amounts that can only be obtained by several minds working together. Although competition is not as important as cancer research, for example, it should be studied. The scientific community needs to work together to combat the one beast that works so hard to tear it apart.

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