The article “Renaissance Man” (feature, June 6) begins with the words, “If you think a scientist can’t be a humanist, meet Erez Lieberman Aiden ’02.” Unfortunately, Aiden’s “half-joking” line — “It seems to be possible to study language change and these kinds of seemingly nutty subjects without completely wrecking one’s scientific career” — proves that Aiden can’t be both. The arrogance and narrow-mindedness inherent in that one statement suggest that Aiden does not appreciate language change and other “nutty” subjects except as those subjects feed his “science.”
He seems to imply that it is possible to “dabble” in such topics and still be taken seriously because, after all, he’s first a scientist. His attitude is a slap in the face to researchers and scholars who explore such “nutty” topics much more deeply and seriously. What would one make of a humanities scholar, for example, who says, “Wow, I can be an English professor and study scientific language and still be taken seriously and not get fired!”? As a humanist first, would he or she be taken as seriously as a Renaissance “man”? Or would s/he be dismissed as a dilettante?
I would like to think that a true Renaissance man of our time would appreciate that the more he learned, the more he still had to learn. Sadly, Aiden doesn’t seem to be that man, in spite of the breadth of his research interests.