Witzeln über Wissenschaft

ITHACA, NEW YORK: Eine etwas zweifelhafte Geschichte, die man manchmal in Physikerkreisen zu hören bekommt, betriff einen von Kollegen an der Universität Cambridge ausgesprochenen Toast auf J. J. Thomsons Entdeckung des Elektrons im Jahre 1897: „Auf das Elektron: Auf dass es nie irgendwem nützen möge!“ Vertreter der reinen Mathematik erzählen sich angeblich einen ähnlichen Witz über ihr Fachgebiet.

Warum wird es als geistreich betrachtet, die Nutzlosigkeit von Wissen zu zelebrieren? Ich erlebte eine ähnliche Einstellung bei einem Kosmologen, als ich vor ein paar Jahren an einer Radiosendung teilnahm: Der Moderator äußerte, dass die Forschungen des Mannes „so gut wie keine praktische Anwendbarkeit hätten“. Die rasche Antwort des Kosmologen: „Ja, da bin ich stolz drauf.“

Diese Witzeleien scheinen alle auf derselben Annahme zu beruhen: Jeder denkt, dass Wissen, insbesondere im Bereich der Naturwissenschaften, nützlich sein sollte. Daher ist es witzig, damit zu prahlen, dass die eigene Sorte Wissen – sei es nun experimentelle Physik, Mathematik oder Kosmologie – nutzlos sei.

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