Oppenheimer comment on science and the scientist

Via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuMdjjWgHVM , in turn via reddit /r/physics.

(edit: youtube link rot has set in, see transcript here)

“It isn’t the layman that’s ignorant. It’s everybody that’s ignorant. The scientist may know a little patch of something, and if he’s a humane and intelligent and curious guy, he’ll know a few spots from other people’s work. He may even be able to read a book. But his condition is the condition of everyone, which is that almost everything that’s known to man he doesn’t know anything about at all, or knows it only in a very sketchy way. And that’s because it’s gotten a bit complicated.

The problem of a coherent civilization is the problem of living with ignorance and not being frustrated by it, so that you find occasionally a man knows two things, and that intersection may be of a great event in the history of ideas. Occasionally a man may think that something is relevant or exciting which no one before thought concerned him professionally; that may change the history of the world.

And these are the connections, these virtual connections, these casual and occasional connections, which make the only kind of coherence we have. That and affection. That and respect. That and, I suppose, a kind of humanity. ”