We start this evening with an Honourary Graduate of the University of Lethbridge: Immanuel Velikovsky.
Today I joined the alumni. in the old country the usual way of celebrating the end of school was to sing Gaudeamus, which means: Let Us be Joyful, Let Us be Cheerful, Destroy our Notes, Burn our Books, and Listen no longer to anything which is serious or scholarly.
But tonight I wish to, say something serious to you, I want to discuss Scientific Conscience. I direct my remarks particularly to those of you who intend to continue your career as a student, to the few among the two hundred of you who are considering an advanced career in science, or in the humanities. My words come from experience. Although this will be a very serious speech, I promise you one cheerful note toward the end.
To be a scholar, or a scientist, means that you must dedicate yourself. Scholarship is not a part time job, it requires a lifetime of dedication. At some point in your career you have to specialize in some field that calls you, a field that leads in the direction that you desire to walk along the road of life. But do not specialize completely, prepare yourself by becoming acquainted with many other fields.
Read widely, keep an encyclopedia in your house, keep a volume close to your bed. Often when I cannot fall asleep, I read from my encyclopedia. I usually choose a short article, something that I know a bit about, but I'm not acquainted with the details, or something that I have heard about and seek a first glimpse of its essence. When you read a book, studying for some particular purpose, make notes: preserve these notes, file them for the future.
Don't seek to be original at any cost but also avoid trivial issues. It is of no value to walk the easy road trodden many times by those before you. Select your tutors from those who can guide you with an open mind, who will not demand that you only follow the accepted views in blind fashion. Because science progresses by trial and error, look for new ways to do old things. Learn to ask yourself questions, and if someday you come upon what seems to you to be an original idea, don't rush to make it public, preserve it, carry it around inside yourself, give it time to develop and to grow in your mind. But don't follow it blindly because it is your idea and you wish to be original.
When you have perfected your idea, consult others who may give you good advice. if you find out that somebody has already proposed your idea, don't pretend that you were the first, give credit to those who were before you. But if you believe that you are original, try honestly to convince yourself that your idea is consistent with all the facts that you can collect. Don't hold on to an idea when the facts are against it, but do maintain your convictions if it is only opinions that are against you.
Have courage, and by all means do not fear crossing the barriers between different disciplines. Do not trust everything to memory, keep notes even as you develop new ideas. Keep a diary, it could be useful to you some day if you have to establish your priority to an idea. Think of the Chinese proverb The Palest Ink Is Stronger Than The Strongest Memory. And remember, ideas have their time. When it seems appropriate to retreat, retreat. When it is time to advance, advance. When haste is necessary, rush, for the appropriate moment is often short. But if the time has not yet come, stand back and wait for your time.
To illuminate this last point I will tell you a story:
Once, at a railway station the stationmaster in charge of starting the train observed a group of three scientists returning from a scientific conference. They were intentively discussing something of great importance. They seemed to be there to board the train, nevertheless they weren't paying attention to the stationmaster who was impatient to signal the train's departure. Finally the stationmaster could wait no longer, and so he signaled to the train, and the train began to leave the station. At this moment all three people ran after the train, two boarded it but one could not make it. The stationmaster turned to the one who was left behind and said: "Well, it's not so bad, two out of three made it", and the man answered: "But they came to see me off".
End of Recollections of a Fallen Sky