The Narrative of Scientific Discovery: Many People Today Still Believe that When a Revolutionary Discovery is Made, the Scientist is Immediately Hailed as a Genius / The Doors Swing Open and Shouts of Eureka Fill the Hallways / Colleagues Approach and Ask, 'Have You Made a Revolutionary Discovery? Come in! Come in!! We Were Waiting for You.' / This Was in Fact Never the Way in Which Novel Discoveries Were Accepted

[1] The narrative comes from a recent G+ conversation

The Twilight of the Scientific Age
by Martín López Corredoira

"There are many naïve persons, scientists or non-scientists, around the world who still believe that science is an open process in which the best ideas are quickly recognized and accepted, while the wrong ideas are immediately discarded. This kind of individual thinks that achievement in science nowadays depends on intelligence, on genius. They think that someone could be working hard in a laboratory, or developing some theoretical idea and, if they were to make a revolutionary discovery, they would open the door of the room in which they was cloistered and shout along the corridors 'Eureka! Eureka!'; then, colleagues would approach and say: 'Have you made a revolutionary discovery? Come in! Come in! We were waiting for you ...' and the genius would have the chance to show their new discoveries and their colleagues would open their mouths, surprised by the new idea, recognizing its merit, and carrying the genius on their shoulders while shouting 'Torero, torero, ... !' ('Bullfighter' in Spanish). This was never the way in which general ideas were accepted." (p108)

"The reality is that nobody is waiting for revolutionary ideas, they are not welcome, now less than ever, and the difficulties that professional researchers have when they want to challenge dominant ideas (e.g., Campanario & Martin) are enough to dissuade them in their enterprise or cause [them] to be rejected as outsiders by the system." (p111)

[2] Gerald Pollack
University of Washington
Founder of the Institure for Venture Science

"I think what I alluded to before is it's the culture of science today that is the culprit ... The emphasis on productivity, producing lots of papers, competing to get into the prestigious journals and such. And so, it's a culture where power is very important. Power is given to the experts and power is given to the vested interests.

We need money to do research. The experts are the ones who decide whether the revolutionairies get the money, or don't get the money. This is not a system to encourage radical thinking and fresh ideas.

So, you come up with a fresh idea, and the typical response from the establishment is something like this ... You're proposing what? Yuck! So, this is the kind of, you know ... many of you have been there ... this is the kind of response."

[3] Cartoon is from

[4] Gerald Pollack
University of Washington
Founder of the Institure for Venture Science

"Most scientists understand that if you threaten the stakeholders, you have to be careful -- particularly in the institutions that I deal with all of the time, the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation. Most scientists with revolutionary ideas keep it secret. They don't apply. Once they apply, they know they won't get the money. And also, they develop a reputation as being the kind of person who you stay away from. So, revolutionary change is suppressed -- As a result, I think, largely of the institutions we have that fund science."

[5] The Twilight of the Scientific Age
by Martín López Corredoira
Cosmologist / Astrophysicist / Philosopher / Published 50 Academic Papers, Often as Lead

"Scientists are educated nowadays in a habit of self-censorship. The system promotes self-repression in the spread of ideas, so most scientists, when writing a paper, think something like 'I think this and that, but I cannot say so in my paper because this will not pass the referee's control, so I will not say it'. This causes serious harm to creativity among people who dare to think new things ... scientists have to choose between developing their own ideas freely or being constrained by subjects which allow academic success."


In other words, there are scientists today who want to make the world a better place. But our narratives stand in the way of our own realization that we need to support them in order to make it happen.

Shared publiclyView activity