The Importance of Stupidity

recommend-Schwartz_266BWThe Importance of Stupidity in Scientific Research,” Martin A. Schwartz, Journal of Cell Science, June 2008, vol. 1, no. 121, pt. 11, p. 1771.  (Thanks to investigator Betsy Devine for bringing this to our attention.) The author, at the University of Virginia, explains:

“Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.”

[That’s from “May We Recommend,” in AIR 15:4.)