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Study: Elite scientists can hold back science

A.B.

Senior Member
Messages
3,780
Max Planck — the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who pioneered quantum theory — once said the following about scientific progress:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Shorter: Science is not immune to interpersonal bullshit. Scientists can be stubborn. They can use their gravitas to steamroll new ideas. Which means those new ideas often only prevail when older scientists die.

...

Here's the pattern: After the unexpected death of a rock-star scientist, their frequent collaborators — the junior researchers who authored papers with them — suddenly see a drop in publication. At the same time, there is a marked increase in published work by other newcomers to the field:

http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2015/12/15/10219330/elite-scientists-hold-back-progress
 

Asa

Senior Member
Messages
179
Max Planck...: A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Shorter: ...Scientists can be stubborn. They can use their gravitas to steamroll new ideas. Which means those new ideas often only prevail when older scientists die.

“Even by the twenty-second century, no way had yet been discovered of keeping elderly and conservative scientists from occupying crucial administrative positions. Indeed, it was doubted if the problem ever would be solved.”

-- Arthur C. Clarke, Rendezvous with Rama
 

Antares in NYC

Senior Member
Messages
582
Location
USA
Absolutely brilliant article. Very true all that it exposes.
The weight of the scientific elite can really hold back science and progress, and it happens in all fields.
 

alex3619

Senior Member
Messages
13,810
Location
Logan, Queensland, Australia
From http://forums.phoenixrising.me/index.php?entries/28-rules-of-thumb.941/ :

14. Stupidity and ignorance are independent of intelligence. Anyone can be stupid or ignorant about something. The only safeguards are objective facts, investigating claims, and reason. You can also ask an expert, but keep in mind the expert is only less likely to be a victim of stupidity or ignorance.

24. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke's_three_laws

Clarke's First Law: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

This also applies to doctors. The old guard in medicine jealously hold on to their dogma. This has nothing to do with intelligence - indeed a smart defender of dogma will hold on to it even more tightly.
 

alex3619

Senior Member
Messages
13,810
Location
Logan, Queensland, Australia
Absolutely brilliant article. Very true all that it exposes.
The weight of the scientific elite can really hold back science and progress, and it happens in all fields.

Question: what happens if you think you are elite? I refer to the God complex in medicine, and especially psychiatry. Is this one reason, not the only one though, that psychiatry has been so slow to advance?