Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Trainwreck of Academic Science

Science has historically been practiced by rebels. From Galileo to Copernicus to Newton to Pascal to Tesla... the great leaps have come from single-minded geniuses unwilling to accept the norms of their day. They were characters... individualistic and often larger than life... with bizarre quirks and steel trap minds that were highly susceptible to both wander and obsession.

Today... we screen for these brilliant minds. One of the most well funded systems society has created was designed specifically to sift through our young to find these people. We have whole professions devoted to identifying them. And once they are found...

They are labeled and all the exceptional qualities are promptly drugged out of them.

There is no question people... if Albert Einstein were born in America today... unless he was home schooled he would've spent his whole childhood in a drug induced stupor. He would've been labeled a problem child, fallen into the drug culture, and probably would've spent his life in jail. The exact same thing would happen to Nikola Tesla.

We have created a system that destroys the truly exceptional. It drives them out. The best and the brightest figure the game out extremely early... and play it. They do just enough to get by in school because getting by is all they need to do. They may harbor grand dreams of a liberating university experience where they can finally be challenged... but those dreams go up in smoke with English Lit 101. They haven't been on campus for more than a few weeks when they realize they have another 4 years of what amounts to high school before they can even begin to do anything even remotely resembling research... and two more years after that before things actually get interesting.

They probably try to stick it out for a couple years though. It takes that long for the grind of the hoop jumping to wear them down... at least usually. In the end its the same though... they go off and find something else to do.

Of course... the simple fact that academia have rejected them doesn't mean that they give up their interests... nor does it mean they are incapable of achievement. After all... Micheal Faraday had no formal education. Ah... but...

But. But is a very small word... disproportionately foreboding.

In the world of Faraday science was not monopolized by a university system. A college degree was not an admission slip. And as I stated earlier... the slip is based more on once ability to jump through hoops than any scientific talent. Combine this with the fact that there are way to many people going to college to begin with.

What you end up with is a dual edged sword which both weed's out the exceptional, and leaves those few that remain starving for attention... often drown out by the millions of idiots who happened to have a talent for hoop jumping... but suck at science.

In the end... I'm not at all certain one could've designed a better system to insure mediocre science. Almost from birth it weeds out the undesirables and either destroys them completely or molds them into mediocre drones... and as they progress... each level of the system filters out more and more of them until what's left are only the purest and most well-heeled... guaranteed to never stir up trouble to take reckless risks.

No Rebels Allowed.

Trouble is... the willingness to stir up trouble is one of the most essential attributes of a brilliant scientist.

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