Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mavericks and gatekeepers

A question that's routinely posed in the creation/evolution debate is: "If evolution is false, then why do most scientists believe in evolution? Is there a conspiracy to lie about the origins of life?"

As a matter of fact, science is becoming increasingly politicized. And you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that. To some degree, it's right out in the open. However, in my observation, there are roughly four kinds of scientists. At least, four different kinds in relation to this question:

i) Footsoldiers

Some scientists unquestionably believe whatever they were taught in their science courses as students. It's just not in their psychological makeup to reexamine claims for themselves. 

When my father attended college in the late 30s and 40s (his attendance was interrupted by service in WWII, after which he resumed college on the GI bill), he had a physics prof. who thought the periodic table was cast in bronze. 

When one day in class my father mentioned to him that scientists had discovered a new element, his physic prof. refused to acknowledge the finding. For him, the periodic table was unalterable. Like the deposit of faith, a once-and-for-all-time deliverance. It was too late to add to the periodic stable. It would forever be what the professor learned when he was taking science courses. Now, this was a science prof. at a major state university. 

ii) Zealots

Some scientists are crusaders for evolution. This is their holy cause in life. For them it's a battle between progressive enlightenment and regressive superstition. They are on a mission to rid the world of religion. And Christianity in particular. 

iii) Quiet dissenters

Some scientists know there's something deficient about the standard evolutionary paradigm. The proposed mechanisms are inadequate. Or they may believe that purely natural processes just can't account for the result.

But that's something they only admit in private to trusted confidents. They don't reveal their misgivings in public due to justified fear of professional reprisal.

iv) Gifted mavericks

Some scientists or philosophers of science believe in the fact of evolution, or they believe that something like evolution must be true, but they think the current theory is flawed, and they say so in public. That's in part because they have a dominant personality. And that's in part because they rose of the top of their field through their brilliance and originality. They are independent thinkers. And they're so outstanding in their field that they can get away with bucking the status quo. The gatekeepers will attack them, but the attacks are impotent. 

1 comment:

  1. Maybe the following is another group, or maybe it'd be a subcategory under the gifted mavericks:

    Switch hitters

    Some scientists transition from one disparate scientific or mathematical field to another. They may do so perhaps because they're bored with their original field and need a new challenge, because they find the new field more intriguing, and/or because they perceive connections between the fields and wish to further explore these connections (perhaps their minds have always been given over to interdisciplinary thinking). Hence they might see how information theory can shed new light on DNA and genetics, how physics and mathematics can help describe the behavior of cancer cells, etc. The gatekeepers denounce them for the illicit commingling, while the gifted mavericks (if they themselves aren't likewise gifted mavericks) draw inspiration from their ideas.