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Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Specialization, Tao, da Vinci, and Scientific Illiteracy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (3)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2022/05/08


Professor Benoit Desjardins, MD, PhD, FAHA, FACR, FNASCI is an Ivy League academic physician and scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He is member of several scientific societies and a Fellow of the American College of Radiology and of the American Heart Association. He is the co-Founder of the Arrhythmia Imaging Research (AIR) lab at Penn. His research is funded by the National Institute of Health. He is an international leader in three different fields: cardiovascular imaging, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. He is a member of the most elite high IQ societies in the world. He discusses: fonder memories; areas of specialization; pure mathematics; Atheism; some of the influences on this atheism; the Catholic high school education; children’s and your wife’s association with spirituality and religion; each of the degrees’ subject matter; the OSCP test; Prof. Tao; da Vinci; physicians; Canadian society; hacked; religion; education in critical thinking; and American scientific illiteracy .

Keywords: academic, American, Atheism, Benoit Desjardins, Catholic high school, Leonardo da Vinci, OSCP test, scientific illiteracy, spirituality, Terence Tao.

 Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Specialization, Tao, da Vinci, and Scientific Illiteracy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (3)

*Please see the references, footnotes, and citations, after the interview, respectively.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: That’s a very dramatic reveal at the wedding. At least, it spices life up a bit, I suppose. Any fonder memories come to mind rather than those featuring the dramatis personae? Something unmentioned. 

Dr. Benoit Desjardins[1],[2]*: There were plenty of fonder memories in my early life, but nothing interesting to the readers. You know, getting puppies and stuff like that.

Jacobsen: What were the areas of specialization when doing graduate school? I do not mean the disciplines themselves, e.g., “Pure Mathematics, Artificial Intelligence, Formal Philosophy (Logic), and Theoretical Physics.” I mean the topics within the disciplines studied, e.g., the area of logic, the area of medicine. Also, why not pursue a CEO position within medicine to make even more money rather than make a lot of money, though less than a CEO, and in slave-like conditions?

Desjardins: Well, for Pure Mathematics, it’s your general graduate degree covering all basic areas. For Artificial Intelligence, I focused on the applications to healthcare and basic A.I. theory. For Theoretical Physics, I enjoyed quantum physics and mathematical methods. For Formal Philosophy, I focused on standard and non-standard logic, formal learning theory, formal discovery theory (my dissertation), and philosophy of science. I studied everything in those four fields relevant to theoretical artificial intelligence.

I was not born with the business gene. I developed a few computational tools over the years, and I was strongly encouraged to start a company to make money out of those tools. I had no interest in starting a company and decided to make the tools available for free to the medical community. Doing an MBA (a degree in greed) is undoubtedly an option for someone who collects degrees, but I have no interest in business.

Jacobsen: Why was pure mathematics the hardest? Why does pure mathematics seem to require such high levels of g?

Desjardins:  Graduate-level pure mathematics builds on a full undergraduate-level mathematics curriculum that I never pursued. They did not allow me to register for that graduate program initially. They felt it was impossible for someone without an undergraduate degree in mathematics to complete a level 1 (top institution) graduate-level pure mathematics program. So, I made a deal with them. I asked which first-term pure mathematics graduate course was the hardest. They told me it was Advanced Abstract Algebra. I asked the program director, “if I take that course and do well in it, could I get into the program?” He said yes. It was challenging without an undergraduate background, but I got used to it and did well enough. So, they allowed me to enroll. None of those pure mathematics courses were easy, and many were an exercise in frustration. But I pulled through, somehow.

Jacobsen: What age was Atheism ‘it’ for you?

Desjardins: In early elementary school, when I first learned about religion. The concept of an invisible entity controlling our lives seemed ridiculous to me, and worshipping it sounded even more ridiculous.

Jacobsen: What were some of the influences on this atheism, or lines of thought within the mind of a profoundly gifted young Canadian?

Desjardins: None. I concluded by myself from the very start that religion made no sense. I was not exposed to any atheist group, and the public internet as we know it today did not exist at the time. Religion was starting to fade away in Quebec, which helped a bit.

Jacobsen: What were the benefits, and not, of the Catholic high school education?

Desjardins: It was better than public school. This specific high school also included a strong sports component, and my parents wanted me to become more active, besides reading and playing chess.

Jacobsen: What are your children’s and your wife’s association with spirituality and religion if I may ask?

Desjardins: They vary from strong atheism to mild religiosity.

Jacobsen: Are there fundamental interrelationships between each of the degree’s subject matter? In that, there is a theoretical and empirical foundation unifying the study of each, or these were, just that, a collection of stamps as degrees.

Desjardins: I did not start graduate school by doing four simultaneous degrees. For the first term, I just did artificial intelligence related to medicine. But during that term, I was exposed to formal philosophers with a solid logic and theoretical background. They had an incredibly deeper understanding of everything in the field. They operated at an intellectual level to which I had never been exposed. I was genuinely impressed by them, and I wanted to acquire the same skills, so I got into logic and then pure mathematics. Theoretical physics was just for fun. But all the degrees involved skills relevant to theoretical artificial intelligence, so they were not a collection of random degrees. They also involved topics in which I had a long-time interest.

Jacobsen: What is the OSCP test in hacking?

Desjardins: OSCP is a hands-on hacking course where you initially get exposed to a minimal set of hacking techniques. You then self-learn practical hacking skills by hacking into 50 machines on a virtual network by trial and error, each requiring a different hacking approach. It requires penetration followed by privileges escalation to the root level for each machine. In the final exam, you have 24h to hack into five machines on a virtual network. You must try every hacking technique you know and hope some of them work in the limited 24h of the test while staying awake. Although I have been forced to stay awake for up to 68h in medicine, hacking non-stop for 24h is extremely difficult because of the constant intense intellectual effort. It just burns you out.

Jacobsen: What makes Prof. Tao so smart, or impressively astute with mathematics?

Desjardins: Probably a combination of good genes and training and a well-connected set of neurons. He is the academic that other brilliant mathematicians consult when they get stuck on a problem.

Jacobsen: What aspect of da Vinci seems the most contributive to his creativity?

Desjardins: He was born at the right time in history and with the right set of creative skills for that specific time. I don’t know enough about his life to provide an intelligent answer to that.

Jacobsen: How does American society treat physicians like slaves? We can, as discussed, cover this in-depth a separate educational series here.

Desjardins: I will elaborate in the separate educational series.

Jacobsen: How does Canadian society treat them?

Desjardins: Much better. Canadian society is better educated and has more respect for physicians and scientists. Canadians are not at war with science like in the U.S. Canada is more like Europe. They do not have Fox News in Canada.

Jacobsen: Who are most likely to get hacked, or have attempts at hacking them?

Desjardins: If you think of individual people (as opposed to military installations or government institutions), then political leaders or famous people are more likely to get hacked. Trump got his Twitter account hacked a few times because he used trivial passwords. The actress Jennifer Lawrence got hacked so that they could get naked pictures of her from her cloud account.

Jacobsen: Why does religion, as a statistical tendency and a finding mutually known in psychology based on meta-analyses of I.Q. and religiosity and conservatism, attract more of the left side of the bell curve rather than less of the left side of the bell curve?

Desjardins: I am not an expert on that topic. I might be completely wrong, but this seems to make some sense. People on the left side of the Bell curve accept what they learn in school without much questioning. People on the right side of the Bell curve tend to question more what they learn and can more easily form opinions that are independent and different from that of their teachers. It includes views about religion.

Jacobsen: How much could education in critical thinking help with this problem of negative religiosity infecting public discourse, even politics, and public policy?

Desjardins: It would help a lot, and there is a lot of effort to implement critical thinking as part of the U.S. educational curriculum (e.g., gen-ed courses in U.S. colleges). But this is not easy, and there is surprisingly a solid reluctance to this initiative amongst U.S. students. An anecdote opened my mind to this problem. A physician colleague did part of his training at Harvard and was a mentor in an undergraduate course on critical thinking required for Harvard students. There were many complaints from the students in the class as they could not understand why a course in critical thinking was helpful for their major. If Harvard students don’t get it, how could students in less competitive institutions get it? How could people not attending college get it?

Jacobsen: How does this American scientific illiteracy show itself? In Canada, we have the same with Trinity Western University. The largest Evangelical Christian university in the country, largest private university in the country, is 5 minutes down the road from me, and creates a culture of Evangelical fundamentalism and resultant scientific illiteracy and monocultural prejudice in general, so most cases. 1/4 to 1/5 Canadians are young Earth creationists by title or by stipulated belief systems based on surveys.  

Desjardins: You don’t have to look very far to find recent examples. Just look at the U.S. response to the current pandemic. A large portion of Americans refused to get vaccinated and wear masks. Ignorant and scientifically illiterate governors implemented horrible state policies, leading to COVID cases skyrocketing in red states. It led to over one million U.S. deaths from COVID, more than any other nation on Earth. After Trump suggested it, thousands of Americans poisoned themselves by swallowing disinfectants to try to cure COVID. U.S. judges, who are supposed to be educated and intelligent, forced physicians to administer horse deworming medicine to COVID patients, an act of pure idiocy. Physicians who prescribed this drug for COVID patients were fired for gross incompetence and stupidity.


[1] Academic Physician; Member, OlympIQ Society; Member, Mega Society.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May , 2022:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022:

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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