Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why This Cynic Doesn't Smoke Pot

This diatribe, written under the influence on an unspecified date, should make the headline fairly self-explanatory:

Addiction is a disease.  From alcoholism to narcotics addiction.

Perhaps the most effective treatment regiment, to date, is participation is 12-step programs, such as AA.

It is upon making this point that I now make a radical proposal: Problem solving and innate curiosity are, themselves, a product of addiction.

At the root of these problems are two addictions that, once afflicted, can be several orders of magnitude harder to break than a nicotine habit.  I am speaking of course of the two drugs that have debilitated intellectuals for millenia: observations, and creativity.

Abuse of these two terrible drugs has already infiltrated the impressionable minds of children as young as 10.  While under the influence, students abusing this drug have been scientifically demonstrated to be more disruptive in class (by incessantly asking insightful questions) and threatening to the delicate, Abercrombie wearing, social order of their school culture itself.

Surely, something must be done to keep these strung-out, (suspiciously) eager, young minds from winding up in the impoverished gutter that is academia--forced to live off of public money for their minimalistic sustenance!

Far from suggesting that we outlaw these two heinous drugs (although, historically, we have tried), I submit here that a compassionate hand be extended to those suffering from their "experimentation".

I propose that, upon diagnosis, all sufferers shall be forced to partake in a 12-step program, custom tailored for their terrible affliction.  Working the steps of this program is, by necessity, a drawn out process.  Sufferers and baffled caregivers alike have termed this process the "scientific process".

For those perhaps, unfamiliar with this process, I will outline the scientific process, step by step below:

Step 1: Observation.  The first step to any recovery is the addict admitting that he or she has a problem.  It is in this phase that the innately curious problem solver realizes that a process they can observe does not mesh with extant paradigms.  The binge of lit-review and head-scratching that ensues can only be stopped when the sufferer admits that their own curiosity has become unmanageable.

Step 2: Realization that a higher power may restore sanity.  It is in this step that the sufferer realizes that pubmedcentral or even, some experimental data, may cure their curiosity and return them to sanity.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn their lives (or, at least, their notebooks) over to this higher power.  It is here that the afflicted may humbly submit to the search results on pubmedcentral or, perhaps, the outcome of a well-designed experiment to restore order in their minds.

Step 4: Made a fearless mental inventory of themselves (and reagents).  It is here that the addict will search frantically through their notebook, print off every PDF on their back-up hard drive, and wonder if they have any antibody still kicking around in their freezer.

Step 5: Admitted to themselves, their PI, and their labmates, the nature of their intellectual quandary.  In this step, the recovering person admits to that additional set of primers they need, or that piece of equipment that they'll need to hog for the next two weeks or so.

Step 6: Mentally prepare to ask PI to pay for the experiments that they wanted to do.

Step 7: Humbly ask the PI to order the necessary reagents.

Step 8: Make a sign up sheet for that ELISA machine they've been hogging.  Begrudgingly agree to let other people use it.

Step 9: Actually share the damned machine.  Leave dishes in sink for a month just to make a point of it.

Step 10: Run experiments, re-run experiments, actually obtain useful data, and interpret it to reject or support the hypothesis.

Step 11: Sought, through diplomatic conversations with their PI, to run more experiments and write a paper to publish their data.

Step 12: Had their paper accepted in a good journal.

Obviously, this is an imperfect process.  For most sufferers there is a sadly high rate of relapse.  Often, these poor individuals will find themselves right back at the first step after only completing one or two steps.

Unfortunately, for the pathologically curious, it seems that the scientific process is the best cure!

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