Cryptozoology: When Will it Be Accepted that the Lack of Evidence is Evidence?Read Now
Cryptozoology is a term invented by the late French-Belgian scientist Bernard Heuvelmans (who is known as the father of cryptozoology), and it literally means the study of hidden animals, or animals not yet known to science. This discipline in principle may not sound like anything controversial. After all, new species of living organisms are discovered all the time, and some of these have proven quite remarkable. The poster boy of cryptozoology is the coelacanth. The coelacanth is an ancient fish that was thought to have gone extinct about 66 million years ago and was only known from fossils, but the finding of a specimen of this fish off the coast of South Africa in 1938 caused a global sensation. Over the years more coelacanths have been caught and studied revealing amazing attributes of these fishes that are more closely related to mammals than to other fishes. Coelacanths have also been filmed in their native habitat.
Cryptozoologists point to organisms like the coelacanth as proof that these hidden animals can exist and that there is the potential to discover new ones. However, cryptozoologists do not set off on expeditions to explore distant places or peruse the depth of the oceans to try to discover new organisms. Rather cryptozoologists examine legends, tales, and stories told by folks living in some regions as well as accounts by those who explored or travelled those areas to find evidence for the existence of undiscovered animals which they call “cryptids”. This is where the problem arises. Questioning indigenous populations can lead to the discovery of new species of animals. After all, many natives along the East Coast of Africa were well acquainted with the coelacanth which they would occasionally catch during their fishing activities. However, cryptozoologists tend to amass a large collection of anecdotal or indirect evidence that proves, at best, to be inconclusive, or at worst, to be of such dubious or fantastical nature that is seldom convincing to mainstream scientists. It doesn’t help that the standard-bearer of the cryptozoological community in the United States, the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine (which features a coelacanth in its logo), has displays that range from the fake and bizarre to the downright ridiculous.
Let’s take a look at some of the cryptids that cryptozoologist say are likely to exist based on their research.
Bigfoot or Sasquatch
The stories and sightings of large ape-like hominids wandering the forests of California and other places in the United States go back more than 150 years. Cryptozoologists and other Bigfoot enthusiasts have cataloged eyewitness accounts of thousands of sightings of these creatures. There also are numerous alleged Bigfoot foot print casts, films, photographs, sound recordings, and even hair samples. Unfortunately, this body of evidence is problematic in many ways. Eyewitness accounts can be, of course, unreliable. The footprint casts do not display any consistent anatomical pattern. The recordings of alleged Bigfoot sounds have proven inconclusive. The analyses of purported Bigfoot biological samples have also proven inconclusive or have shown that the samples belonged to other animals. The most famous evidence for the existence of Bigfoot, a few seconds of film footage of an apelike creature walking in the forest shot in 1967 and known as the “Patterson Film”, has also proven very controversial with skeptics claiming that it is a hoax.
The Loch Ness Monster
One of the most famous cryptids is the one that allegedly inhabits the Loch Ness Lake in Scotland dubbed the Loch Ness Monster by the media, but referred to more affectionally as “Nessie” by the locals and the Scottish tourist industry. There is a large collection of eyewitness accounts as well as photographs and several films that show something in the surface of the lake, but the possibility that these sightings may represent other animals makes this evidence inconclusive. The lake has been explored with both sonar and submarines, but nothing out of the ordinary has been found. The most famous photograph of the monster, the so-called “Surgeon’s Photo” by the English physician Robert Kenneth Wilson taken in 1934, has now been exposed as a hoax.
The Abominable Snowman (Yeti)
Several European expeditions into the Himalayan Mountains reported the sighting of what looked like an anthropoid ape along with footprints of the animals that in the popular press of the times ended up being referred to as the abominable snowman or Yeti. Despite decades of search for such animals, nothing conclusive has turned up. Most scientists consider that the purported Yeti sightings and hair samples are those of bears.
There are many other such proposed cryptids like the Latin American Chupacabra, the Australian Bunyip, the African Mokele-Mbembe, or the enigmatic Mothman in West Virginia, to name a few that have been claimed to exist, but again, no conclusive evidence has ever been produced to back these claims.
As in the case of the coelacanth, the only evidence that will convince scientists of the claims of the cryptozoologists is the finding of a specimen dead or alive of the creature they claim to exist. In most cases cryptozoologists claim that evidence for the occurrence of these cryptids goes back hundreds of years. This is only possible if there is a sizeable breeding population of these creatures. Because of this, one wonders why a specimen has indeed not turned up somewhere. Why is the evidence always indirect? When will cryptozoologists accept that the lack of evidence is evidence?
The screen capture from the Patterson Film and the Surgeon Photo of the Loch Ness Monster are used here under the doctrine of Fair Use. The photograph of an alleged Yeti footprint by Gardner Soule is in the public domain and was modified from the original to eliminate text.
In the popular print and social media I often spot articles about the benefits of keeping an open mind. I also read how it is very important for scientists to keep an open mind. What these articles never discuss is the danger of keeping an open mind. This danger is that you will lose your power to discriminate between sound and fallacious ideas. For example, in 1917 two girls in the village of Cottingley in England took pictures of what appeared to be fairies flying and dancing around them. Among the many people fooled into believing the pictures were real was no other than the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle. More recent examples are the comedian and trickster extraordinaire, Andy Kaufman, who in 1984 visited a psychic surgeon to treat his cancer (he died), or the actor Dan Aykroyd, of Ghostbusters fame, who believes among other things in mediums and psychics and paranormal phenomena.
This is not to say that only non-scientists fall victim to keeping their mind too open. There are many scientists of renown who have ended up accepting ideas or theories that were dubious at best, or patently false at worst.
The co-discoverer (along with Darwin) of the theory of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, was a believer in psychic phenomena and spiritualism; and led an anti-vaccination campaign.
Isaac Newton, the genius behind the laws of gravitation, believed the Bible had a code that predicted the future which he tried to decipher for many years.
The Nobel Prize winning physicist William Shockley invented the transistor and revolutionized society, but he also defended theories that proposed the intellectual inferiority of some races.
Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize winning chemist, advocated the use of vitamin C to cure cancer despite the evidence against it.
Lynn Margulis, winner of the National Medal of Science, revolutionized the theory of evolution with the concept of endosymbiosis which postulates that mitochondria and chloroplasts originated from bacteria. She also championed several fringe theories, and joined the 911 conspiracy movement that claims that it was a false flag operation to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The irony is that Margulis had been married to that great skeptic, the late astronomer Carl Sagan.
Kari Mullis won the Nobel Prize for the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a technique which ushered a revolution in areas ranging from medicine to forensics. Not only is he an AIDs denialist along with Peter Duesberg (see below), but he denies climate change and accepts astrology.
It is important to understand that the dangers of keeping an open mind have consequences that go beyond mere public ridicule. When people in positions of eminence are swayed by erroneous ideas, this can have a negative effect on society. Consider the brilliant scientist Peter Duesberg. He performed pioneering work in how viruses can cause cancer, but he was convinced that the HIV virus did not cause AIDS. His advocacy for this idea influenced the South African president Thabo Mbeki who delayed the introduction of anti-AIDS drugs into South Africa leading to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.
In scientific research keeping an open mind is a quandary that involves navigating between making two types of errors. The first is that a mind that is too closed will reject things as false when they are really true. The second is that a mind that is too open will accept things as true when they are really false. The intuitive way to deal with this quandary is to try to strike a balance between the extremes. However, this is not how most scientists approach the issue. Science tends to be conservative in that it gives more importance to what has already been proven. Scientists view with skepticism those trying to subvert established science. The bar is set very high for the acceptance of new ideas. Most scientists view rejecting something as false when it’s really true as a lesser evil compared to accepting something as true when it’s really false. In the end, however, it will be the evidence and its reproducibility which will make the difference.
On the other hand, in the pseudosciences and the paranormal, the advice of keeping an open mind is often dispensed by those advocating for the existence of psychic phenomena, extrasensory perception, demonic possession, ghosts, telepathy, alien abductions, clairvoyance, mediums, astrology, witches, reincarnation, telekinesis, telepathy, faith healing, and many other fantastical claims. I want to suggest that, as a first step, the safest frame of mind when considering these claims is to vanish the open mind, and assume that the persons making the extraordinary claims are at best deluding themselves, and at worst liars and cheats.
This suggestion may scandalize many people, and may come across as an incredibly narrow-minded and unfair approach to investigating anything. How can you find if something is true if you are prejudiced against the possibility that it’s true? The answer is that in this fringe you are dealing with events that, in principle, run counter to well-established scientific laws, or against mountains of evidence. In other words, you are dealing with the impossible. By definition the impossible is not possible and should be treated as such. When considering these claims, if you keep an open mind, you have often lost the battle. This painful lesson has been learned by many scientists that investigated fantastical claims with an open mind just to be fooled by tricks so basic that they would make seasoned magicians roll their eyes (incidentally, this is also why it is always advisable to have a magician as a consultant when investigating these claims).
Scientists are the worst possible individuals to rely upon when attempting the investigation of fantastical claims. Scientists are trained to deal with nature, and nature operates based on a fixed set of rules. Natural phenomena don’t change to prevent you from studying them. Nature doesn’t cheat, lie, or delude itself. An open mind is justified only when studying natural phenomena. An open mind in any other setting is a liability. Once you have ruled out trickery and self-delusion and stablished that what you are studying is indeed a natural phenomenon, then you can consider opening your mind to the possibility that it is true.
Individuals ranging from common folk to Nobel Prize winners should always remember that if you keep your mind too open, people will dump a lot of trash in it.
The image is a scan of the original Cottingley Fairy pictures and is in the public domain in the United States. The open mind image by ElisaRiva is used here under a CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) license.
The scientific consensus has been getting a bad rap lately. Some people argue that whether science is right or not about an issue is not decided by majority vote. Rather, it is claimed, it only takes one scientist to be right to decide whether the science regarding an issue is true or not. Those that make this argument then go on to provide a list of scientists that went against the consensus and prevailed. The people making these argument then proudly proclaim that in science there is no such thing as consensus, that science does not require a consensus, and if there is a consensus, then it isn’t science!
Let’s try to understand a few things about the scientific consensus.
A scientific consensus is not reached when scientists get together and “vote”. A scientific consensus, unlike the use of this word in other fields such as politics, does not involve a compromise. Also the word consensus is sometimes used to denote the current state of a field as in “the current consensus”. In a new field of study the term “scientific consensus” really means “the current opinion” and it is understood that such opinion is very likely to be overturned in the future. This is not the meaning of consensus that better serves science in the public sphere when dealing with topics like climate change or evolution. The meaning of scientific consensus that we should seek is that consensus attained in a field of science that is backed by a fully developed scientific theory. A field of science that has not generated a fully developed scientific theory is incapable of generating a true scientific consensus. The reason this is the case is because a fully developed scientific theory has grasped important aspects of reality in its formulation and is likely to have a high degree of completeness.
How is such a theory developed?
When a field of study is in its early stages, scientists from several countries, ethnic backgrounds, beliefs, political persuasions, etc. begin tackling a problem. All these scientists bring their intellect and life experience to bear on answering the questions being investigated. Initially there is a multiplicity of possible answers, there are uncertainties, deficiencies and limitations in the methodologies, and there is confusion. Many scientists go down blind alleys only to find they have wasted their time on a wrong approach and have to turn back. Some explanations emerge that seem to be better than others. Methodologies are improved. Hypotheses are refined. Exceptions are explained. Scientists from other areas enter the field and bring new tools and ideas (a very important development). The research performed in these other fields is found to be complementary to the research in the emerging field. Eventually as the field matures scientists from different laboratories using different methodologies begin obtaining the same results and elaborate models that they use to make predictions (another very important development). Some predictions are not fulfilled and the models that generated them fall by the wayside and are replaced by new models that are more accurate at explaining the data and making new predictions. Eventually the field coalesces around a theory. The theory is used to generate practical applications and to explain observations in other areas of science.
A theory developed through the process described above is not an ephemeral construct that can be overturned at any time. The very technology that we use in our everyday lives depends on hundreds of solid scientific theories that have never been disproven. Many people who do not understand the nature of scientific truth confuse the overturning of a scientific theory with its refinement. This is because there is the erroneous notion that scientific theories should explain everything, and this is not the case. A scientific theory only has to answer the most important questions raised by scientists.
Thus, when a fully developed scientific theory is produced in a field of study this means that scientists have stopped arguing with each other about the salient points addressed by the theory. In other words, they have reached a consensus. This is the true meaning of a scientific consensus. Of course, the fact that there is a consensus doesn’t mean that everything has been settled. Scientists that agree with evolution are still debating how evolution happens. Scientists that agree with climate change are still debating its extent and mechanisms. Nevertheless, a consensus does mean that the major overreaching question in the field has been answered to the satisfaction of the vast majority of the scientists involved in the research.
The consensus can, in principle, be modified if the underlying theory that backs the consensus is found to be incomplete, but this is only true if the refinements to the theory in the form of new observations, new data, or new interpretations of old data or old observations, significantly modify those parts of the theory that are vital for the consensus. In the case of a fully developed scientific theory this is no easy task, and the burden of proof is on those who seek to modify the theory. Some people claim that this promotes a herd mentality that leads to dissenting scientists being penalized and those that are compliant being rewarded resulting in the discouragement of innovation. However, what has to be understood is that science is a very conservative enterprise that sets a very high bar for those seeking to challenge what is considered established knowledge. If you are going against the prevailing theory, you’d better have very good evidence. This is not the product of a herd mentality or a way to discourage innovation: it is a way of protecting established science against error.
In the public debate, when you hear that a consensus has been reached in a particular field of science, you need to ask about the nature of the underlying theory that backs it. If the theory fulfils the requirements of a fully developed scientific theory, then the consensus is good. A consensus is only as good as the theory that supports it. However, suggesting that there is no such thing as a scientific consensus or that it is irrelevant is nothing more than a strategy to delegitimize science. It has been used in the past by entities such as the cigarette lobby, and it is being used today by creationists, climate change deniers, and other groups that seek to further their anti-science agendas.
Image by Nick Youngson used here under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license.
I have been recently reading about Flat Earthers. These are individuals who claim that the real shape of the Earth is flat. If you go to social media outlets such as Twitter and type in hashtags such as #flatearth you will see the accounts of a number of these people. One thing that struck me about Flat Earthers is that quite a number of them are sophisticated individuals who are well versed in technical jargon and can argue with you forever or outpost you on a discussion board. There is even a society called the Flat Earth Society dedicated to promoting the “truth” of the flat earth. It held the first International Flat Earth conference in 2017.
But you may ask: how do Flat Earthers explain all the pictures of Earth taken from space that show it’s a sphere? The short answer: a conspiracy! Flat Earthers believe that the public is being deceived by the government which has bribed or coerced astronauts into lying, faked the moon landing, and created bogus pictures of a spherical Earth.
Admittedly, the case of Flat Earthers is an extreme example. You could even say that they are at the fringe of antiscience groups such as climate change deniers, antivaxers, or creationists. But from their rhetoric, I think we can draw one valid question that is worth addressing: How do we know there is no conspiracy? The government has been shown to have lied in the past, as well as have many other institutions and organizations. How do we know they are not doing it in these cases?
The answer is diversity: diversity in scientists, and diversity in methodology.
I have mentioned in a previous post the famous case of N-rays, the mysterious radiation discovered by the French scientist René Blondlot, and confirmed by other French scientists, that turned out to be nothing but a case of self-delusion. During the course of the investigation of N-Rays, at one point it became evident that almost all of the positive results were coming out of French labs. When all the positive results originate from one state, or organization, or lab, we should be concerned. Diversity in the scientists that practice science is a safeguard against bias and mistakes.
In another post I have also mentioned the case of polywater, a seemingly new form of water with many potential applications. Many scientists set to work on polywater and they were able to obtain the same results reported by other scientists (the results were reproducible). Nonetheless, polywater was eventually demonstrated to be false. The positive results were due to the fact that all the scientists were using the same methodology and making the same mistake! When all the positive results come from scientists using the same methodology, and these results can’t be supported by any other methods, there may be a problem. Diversity in the methodology employed in research is also a safeguard against bias and mistakes.
Thus when many scientists from different nations, ethnicities, religions, political beliefs, scientific traditions, etc. study a problem employing different approaches and methodologies and come up with the same results, you can infer not only that the chance that there is a conspiracy going on is vanishingly small, but also that there is a very good chance that the theories they have generated have grasped important aspects of reality.
For the conspiracy that the Flat Earthers claim to exist to be true, it would have to involve not only the government of the United States and astronauts, scientists, and private contractors involved in the space program, but also similar numbers of people in the other 5 space agencies that possess launch capabilities (those of India, Europe, China, Japan, and Russia), as well as those of the 50 plus countries that have satellites in space, not to mention individuals involved in space research in all these countries. Additionally, the roundness of the Earth has been demonstrated by many methods. If you want to argue for a flat Earth, you might as well argue that we are all living in The Matrix.
However, in their conspiracy claims Flat Earthers are in good company. The theories that the global climate is warming and that humans are responsible for it, or that vaccines do not produce autism, are the product of science involving a diversity of researchers and methods, and yet they are also rejected by many people claiming that they are part of massive conspiracies.
To all individuals out there espousing these conspiracy theories about science and scientists, I want to suggest that you consider a radical and revolutionary idea. This is that maybe, just maybe, the vast majority of scientists are interested in the truth, they act in good faith, and that the theories they have generated are correct!
The image of a flat Earth by Trekky0623 was modified under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. The image of the real Earth from NASA is in the public domain.
Some scientific theories that are in the way of religious, political, and corporate interests have been getting a bad rap. These theories are claimed to be false by their foes. So for example, creationist claim that evolution is false, climate change deniers claim that global warming is false, and so on. In fact, many people seem to imply that theories are ephemeral, and to buttress their claim they offer a list of theories that have been proven “false”. Why should we rely on a scientific theory to affect public policy today if it can be shown to be false tomorrow?
In addressing this issue there are several things we have to consider.
Before we begin, we need to make the clarification that the word “theory” in the popular parlance can be a synonym for a guess or a very preliminary explanation. In science, a theory is a vastly more stable form of knowledge. In fact, if the theory is sufficiently developed, it in itself can become a fact. So what are the characteristics of a sufficiently developed theory? They are:
1) It explains the existing observations and experimental results.
2) It has generated predictions that have been found to be true.
3) It has generated practical applications that work.
4) Results from other scientific disciplines corroborate the theory and the theory corroborates results in other scientific disciplines.
Please read the list above again carefully. Don’t you think that when a theory fulfils these characteristics we can say with confidence that it has clearly grasped important aspects of the realities it’s trying to explain? But, you may ask, what if a genius like an Einstein comes along and thinks up a new interpretation for everything the theory explains and predicts, and expands it into a different theory to explain new things? Can’t we say then the theory was proven false?
Well, let’s consider what Einstein did. He reinterpreted Newton’s laws of gravitation and motion, and came up with explanations for phenomena the Newtonian interpretations could not explain. Einstein thus relegated Newton’s laws to particular cases where velocities are much lower than that of the speed of light or when very strong gravitational fields are not involved. But here is the thing: the speeds at which planets, rockets, space probes, and objects in everyday life move, and their behavior in the gravitational fields that they encounter most of the time, can be described with a satisfactory level of accuracy by Newton’s laws. The existence of a planet (Neptune) and the return of a comet (Halley’s Comet) were predicted using Newton’s laws. The life of astronauts and the integrity of multimillion dollar space probes depend on the veracity of the calculations employing Newton’s Laws. Is it fair to say that Einstein proved Newton’s theories were false?
Of course not! Einstein showed Newton’s theories were incomplete, and this is what the public has to understand when discussing scientific theories. Sufficiently developed scientific theories cannot be false, they can only be incomplete. When assessing scientific theories, it is counterproductive to talk in terms of true or false. What has to be discussed is whether a theory has been formulated at a high enough level of detail, in other words, whether the theory is complete enough. We don’t need theories to be 100% true. They can’t be (nothing can), and they don’t have to be. We only need the theory to be complete enough to be useful for society.
Finally, it must be pointed out that the vast majority of scientific theories are not “big name” theories such as the theory of evolution or global warming. There are hundreds of scientific fields and subfields that have given rise to thousands of theories most of which are boring, highly technical, and devoid of importance to the “culture wars”. Therefore they do not make the news, and non-scientists are not even aware of them. Most of these theories have never been overturned, and in fact form the basis of modern science leading to tens of thousands of practical applications and policies. If these theories were not sufficiently complete representations of reality, modern life would not be possible!
So next time you are pondering the worthiness of a scientific theory, remember, it's all in the completeness.
The figure is a collage of a copy of a painting of Isaac Newton by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1689), which is in the public domain, and a photograph of Albert Einstein by Orren Jack Turner obtained from the Library of Congress, which is also in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and the copyright was not renewed.
Many snippets of wisdom that have permeated our culture are routinely quoted in social media such as the one from the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw featured in the image above that states that all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
Everyone seems to have an affinity with this particular trope. After all, who doesn’t love the story of the little guy fighting against the establishment? It seems that most of us, within reason, are programed to root for the underdog. The mavericks, the misfits, the fringe-thinkers, the outcasts: why do these characters have a place in our hearts? Is it perhaps because in the daily tedium of our lives, as we persevere overburdened by challenges at work, in our homes, and in society, we sometimes wish we could upturn the established order and restart anew? Perhaps we have considered going against the current, challenging the system, rocking the boat, but then deemed the risks of doing so too dire and just bowed our heads and kept on going. So maybe when one of these colorful characters that actually dares to challenge the powers that be comes along, we live vicariously through their plight a fantasy that we ourselves are too cowardly to bring to reality.
Be that as it may, in the field of science many of these characters have captivated the public’s imagination. Take the case of Dr. Barry Marshall who proposed the hypothesis that stomach ulcers are not caused by excessive acid secretion due to stress, as was thought by most experts, but by infections with a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. Dr. Marshall failed to convince the scientific establishment. He was not able to develop an animal model of the disease, and could not obtain funds to perform a human experiment. So what did he do? He experimented on himself! He drank a broth infected with the H. pylori isolated from a patient who had developed severe gastritis. Within days he developed the same symptoms the patient had, and he was able to cure himself using antibiotics. It took another decade of struggles, but gastroenterologists were eventually convinced of the truth of his claim, and Dr. Marshall won a Nobel Prize in 2005.
Isn’t that a great story? And like this story, there are many other such stories of the unreasonable man battling the system and prevailing in the end. However, the popularization of these stories has generated several notions in the public consciousness that are not accurate.
The first is the notion that the only way science makes progress is when one of these characters upends conventional wisdom and triggers a revolution. This is not true. Most of the time progress in science occurs incrementally as thousands of scientists perform vital work within the system developing new knowledge, methodologies, procedures, and applications. The backgrounds and expertise of these scientists are fundamental to driving any new or old area of science forward. Without these individuals working within the system there would be no science. The notion that ALL progress, at least in science, depends on the unreasonable individual is simply false.
The second notion is that just because you are one of the unreasonable individuals you must be right, and the scientific establishment must be wrong. It must be understood that for every individual who has challenged the established order successfully, there have been dozens to hundreds of other individuals who have challenged the established order and were proven to be wrong. The stories of these individuals are normally not of interest except, if at all, to those whose write historical descriptions of the development of a given scientific field, and they are barely mentioned in the popular press.
Finally, the last (and probably most troublesome) notion is that when the scientific establishment lashes out at one of these unreasonable individuals, this is taken as proof that there is a bias within the scientific community motivated at best by intellectual conformity and closed-mindedness, or at worse by corrupt influences tied to granting agencies or corporate interests. However, what the public may interpret as an unfair treatment of a scientist by the scientific community is more often than not due to the fact that science is a very conservative enterprise, and the bar to overturn or reinterpret established science is set pretty high. Science is biased towards established knowledge; as it should be! When you go against established science, you’d better have some exceptional evidence and arguments or else you are going to be given a very hard time! Even scientists with Ph.Ds. can propose things that are wrong, misguided, or just plain stupid. Not all ideas deserve to be treated equally, not all evidence is sound, and not all interpretations of the data are correct.
What most individuals seeking to change the prevailing scientific paradigm do is address the criticism made by their peers, generate more evidence, and reformulate their ideas or their presentation. Convincing other scientists that you are right is the warp and woof of science. However, a disturbing phenomenon has emerged. Today those individuals who have been rebuffed by the scientific community can take their case to “the people” arguing that they are victims of a corrupt scientific establishment that is hell bent on silencing them and discrediting their ideas. Such is the case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield who, when his views that vaccination was linked to autism were rejected by the medical community, took his case directly to the public. He actually succeeded in convincing many parents to avoid vaccinating their children leading to a spike in infant deaths from some diseases that are preventable nowadays.
Established science is called that for a reason. Scientific theories are constructs that have grasped important aspects of the realties they seek to explain, and they cannot be overturned on a whim. The quixotic quest of the unreasonable man must not be romanticized. These individuals are wrong most of the time, and established science must be protected from them. If you want to upend established science, the burden of proof is on you!
The image of George Bernard Shaw was modified from a photograph in the George Grantham Bain collection at the Library of Congress and has no known copyright restrictions.