"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing".
1 Corinthians 13
I was reminded of this passage today while in conversation with a good friend. I thought of it because we are both scientists and we both work in an academic research setting. We were talking about some of the sociopathic behavior we have been witness to or recipients of on different occasions in our workplace, and it struck me that a high degree of intelligence is absolutely no guarantee of good behavior (in the moral sense). Many young people are often told that education is the key to a better life, and while that may be true in the materialistic sense, it does not have to be true in a spiritual sense. A long education, an advanced degree, and a corresponding advanced career do not necessarily make a person a good person; they only make a person qualified for a specific job or career. And that is fine, but I have seen so much morally questionable behavior in my years in the workplace that I have learned that the quest for knowledge is an admirable thing, but not at the expense of your spiritual life or your soul. And that is what the above passage is trying to say to us—that we can have all the knowledge in the world but if we have not learned to love, all that knowledge is useless. It cannot help us.
I continue to be surprised by the poor behavior I see in people whom, as my mother would have said, are intelligent enough to know better. That is the responsibility that knowledge should impart—to use that knowledge carefully and responsibly, to treat others with respect—‘to do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Well-educated people should know how to behave—should know that cheating, stealing, lying and misusing others are wrong and that it is best to avoid them. They should be actively leading the way toward a good spiritual life. The competitive world of academic science opens the doors to a lot of strange and morally ambiguous/morally wrong behavior. So then I ask, what is the point of all this knowledge if it is not to make the world a better place? If all this knowledge does not make us better people, then perhaps we would be better off without it? Perhaps it would be better to emphasize love and compassion in school instead. To paraphrase the above passage—‘what good does a high-impact factor publication do if I have not love? And though I have the talent for making money and gaining power and prestige and high rank, but have not love, I am nothing’.