I don’t consider myself an intellectual, but perhaps for moral reasons I should. First, I am interested in many intellectual things. Second, I have a unique ability to do some intellectual things. (Otherwise, I would not have successfully been admitted to a PhD program for physics.) Third I came across an interesting article named The Responsibility of Intellectuals by Noam Chomsky which has got me thinking.
The article is an anti-war article, but that’s not what is on my mind. What interests me is the larger image he seems to paint when you read it.
First, I’ll grossly paraphrase the article then “liken it” to my own situation. He, and Albert Einstein says the same thing, points out the one major reason it is so easy for countries to go to war is that governments spread propaganda and intellectuals who know better or should know better remain silent due to political pressure, personal gain, or just being lazy. He expresses his opinion that if intellectuals would stick up for the truth there would be much less bloodshed. Again, Einstein was emphatic about the same point which I saw on a Science Channel documentary the other day. Einstein saw intellectuals all over Germany fueling the government war fire even though they knew better. It was all about reaping personal gain.
Now, as I already stated, this isn’t trying to be an anti-war post. It is more to point out the obvious: atrocities of many sorts can happen if intellectuals remain silent for personal gain, political pressure, or because they are lazy. Intellectuals are in a unique position to bring many truths to the forefront that would prevent many tragedies. Chomsky feels it is the responsibility of intellectuals to use their talents to enlighten the world so as to prevent these atrocities.
I agree, and to what extent I can, I will do better. (Especially in the “promoting good science” realm.)