Ossified Science

A paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (118, e2021636118, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2021636118 ) describes how clout and crowd create intellectual fascism inside modern scientific disciplines.

The thought producing system has been corrupted, increasingly so, in the last 50 years. How? By a rising tide of mediocrity. Is that an accident? No. Is it the first time this happens? No.

It used to be that if one contradicted God, one was thrown out of academia: thus evolution was not taught in England, and young students Darwin and Lyell had to go to Edinburgh to learn of evolutionary theory discovered by the French scientists, Lamarck and his colleague and adversary Cuvier. Now it is the paper sea god who has to be sacrificed to.

Scientific authorities, in the last 50 years, have naively confused quantity and quality. Was it just naivety? No. Was it accidental? No. This is the spirit of times: corrupting the spirit of critical inquiry with mediocrity, with the overall aim of making sure no revolution threatens the establishment… Whatever the cost…

There is a logic in a skeleton, as there is in ossified science, both, therein, and why there is…


There was an interesting paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (118, e2021636118, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2021636118 ) which argued that science is becoming ossified, and new ideas simply cannot emerge. My question is, why has it taken them this long to recognize it? That may seem a strange thing to say, but over the life of my career I have seen no radically new ideas get acknowledgement.

The argument in the paper basically fell down to one simple fact: over this period there has been a huge expansion in the quantity of scientists, research funding, and the number of publications. Progress in the career of a scientist depends on the number of papers produced. However, the more papers produced, the more likely is the science to stagnate because nobody has the time to read everything. People pick and choose what to read, the selection biased by the need…

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4 Responses to “Ossified Science”

  1. Gmax Says:

    And what would the way out be?
    How do you find what are big ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

    • ianmillerblog Says:

      Gmax, the real question is how do you persuade those who have learned something, to consider something else and decide by thinking. Once most people have made up their minds, it is very difficult to change them, and at conferences, in funding applications, etc, it is much more comfortable to go with the flow.


  2. Gmax Says:

    Thanks Ian. I think Patrice calls what you depict mental inertia.
    My question was more like what are the most significant ideas, how does one sees them? When can one tell one of them?


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