The Emperor’s New Clothes
The mind likes a strange idea as little as the body likes a strange protein and resists it with similar energy. It would not perhaps be too fanciful to say that a new idea is the most quickly acting antigen known to science. If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated. Wilfred Trotter, 1941
My fascination with Rupert Sheldrake has led me to a preoccupation with Maverick Science in general.
The first thing to say is that being a maverick does not make you right. Nevertheless, so many mavericks have been vindicated in the past that knee-jerk rejection should not be our first reaction when we are confronted with ideas that go against the grain of orthodoxy.
I have my own list of orthodoxies to be challenged: HIV/AIDS, Global Warming and Peak Oil, to mention but three.
The website below references many ideas that were rejected… until they became mainstream.
One of my heroes is Thomas Gold, twice excommunicated and twice vindicated. He may be vindicated yet again on abiotic oil.
The worst orthodoxies are not particular ideas: phlogiston was a theory (now rejected), not a world view. The worst are mind-sets, for example, Materialism: the idea that matter and energy are the only reality. Materialism (sometimes called Naturalism) seems to me stultifying, both scientifically and morally.
I once read a science fiction story in which a group of scientists wanted to provoke research into anti-gravity. They invented a crazy outsider and faked a movie of his anti-gravity device, which they leaked to the science community. The crazy outsider was alleged to have died in the course of his ‘experiments’. The clues they planted about this guy included his library of occult and weird books. They succeeded. Once they had made a fraudulent but convincing case for anti-gravity, real science was persuaded to take it seriously – and their ‘dupes’ came up with a real anti-gravity device. The fiction had liberated them.