Stupid Scientist Tricks

Stupid Scientist Tricks October 30, 2007

We blogged on the old site about how the discoverer of DNA’s double helix structure, James Watson has fallen off the eugenics deep end. This articletells how his partner in the discovery, fellow Nobel laureate Francis Crick, theorized that life may have come to earth via alien spores sown by comets. (But that doesn’t even explain anything! Where did THAT life come from?) He also wanted to experiment on prisoners. Other distinguished scientists have also been, shall we say, crackpots:

Kary Mullis, after grabbing a piece of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, dove head first off the platform, expounding on the virtues of LSD and astrology and expressing his doubts about global warming, the ozone hole, and H.I.V. as the cause of AIDS. . . .

Sometimes the wandering from one’s home turf extends all the way to the paranormal. In 2001, when officials of the Royal Mail, the British postal service, issued a package of stamps commemorating the centenary of the Nobel Prize, they sought the counsel of Brian Josephson, who shared the prize for physics in 1973 for his superconductivity research. Physicists across Britain recoiled when an official pamphlet accompanying the stamps predicted that quantum mechanics might lead to an understanding of mental telepathy.

Of course, this New York Times article also includes distinguished scientists who supported creationism. The point is, scientists are human, subject to foibles, blindspots, and confused worldviews.

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  • S Bauer

    The trouble is, of course, being able to actually determine what is “falling off the deep end” and “catching a glimpse beyond the veil of received wisdom”.

  • Julie Voss

    I just finished reading “The Genius Factory” by David Plotz which tells the disturbing history of a sperm bank developed to promote the eugenic dreams of founder Robert Graham. Hermann Muller and William Shockley, both Nobel laureates, inspired and supported the depository.
    Mainly it is a story of broken marriages and lost children.

  • WebMonk

    The Genius Factory was really excellent! I don’t think the broken marriages and lost children were a result of the particular type of sperm bank, but rather because of the circumstances that tend to come with the need/use of a sperm bank.

    I can’t remember exactly, but marriages that involve the use of a sperm/ova bank have a massive divorce rate.

  • Michael the little boot

    Where DID that life come from? Can you tell me without quoting the Bible? NO ONE KNOWS where life came from. It’s a mystery we may never solve. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Accepting answers without evidence is not noble or laudable. It is easy, though!

    Everyone is fallible. Giving evidence of it doesn’t show anything other than that which we already know. Humans make mistakes. Scientists, pastors, despots, plumbers. Surprise! Trying to prove that science isn’t correct by showing that scientists err is missing the point. You must disprove the idea, not simply call their ideas into question by showing they were wrong about something OTHER than what you are attacking. A person’s wrong-headed assumptions or mistakes don’t negate all of their ideas, just those that are wrong, nor does it call anything into question beyond those incorrect ideas.