Sigma Xi Scientists: Building the Future Upon Scientific and Ethical Foundations

by Marija Strojnik | Jul 03, 2023


We are scientists. Every year, our mission becomes more complex. We must confront global warming; the depletion of underground reserves of clean water; the evolution of viruses and the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics; interrupted supply chains and inadequate resource management. We are surrounded by, and we are ourselves, struggling humans on whom far too many demands have been placed, some of us with children who are expected to be perfect even though they are constantly measured by impossible standards. Humans started using science to improve our living conditions at least 4,000 years before the fathers of the Enlightenment codified the basic steps of the scientific method. In ancient Mesopotamia, the priestess Princess Enheduanna charted the paths of heavenly bodies so she could determine the best times to plant and harvest crops. There is a direct line from her important work to the great challenges we face today.

Vision is central to the work of scientists. Having a sense of vision is not dependent upon the eyes, but rather, the brain and its ability to extract knowledge from experience. Through interaction with our environment, we acquire and selectively store information that allows us to create mental images. When observation inspires visualization, we can design plans to surmount challenges and achieve goals toward creating a better world. Another central facet of scientific work is communication. Since before the times of Enheduanna, humans have developed complex, flexible communication systems so that Earthlings may partake of available knowledge.

Thus, the vision of one generation can be passed to the next. For the scientific enterprise to prosper in our complex modern world, we must devise and implement teaching strategies that will allow young people to develop autonomous skills to evaluate the quality of information. They must learn to discriminate what information is useful to collect, store, and incorporate into their working knowledge. Isaac Newton famously said that he owed his greatness to all the great people who preceded him and on whose shoulders he stood. He was referring to the skills of scientific vision and knowledge acquisition, under the constraints of moral principles, and to the incorporation of the available body of knowledge to the task of improving the human condition for future generations. The scientific method of addressing and, with great effort, solving problems requires primarily the ability to think. We must strengthen the capability of students at all levels of the educational system to develop independent judgment, moderated with the humanistic goal of improving the human condition everywhere. The members of Sigma Xi are just the community to chart the way.

Marija Strojnik, PhD
Sigma Xi President

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