Modern Science

"Science, unlike other intellectual activities, is almost never done at home.  Modern science has become as professional as the advertising industry. And, like that industry, it relies on an expensive and exquisitely refined technique. There is no place for the amateur in modern science, yet, as is often the way with professions, science more often applies its expertise to the trivial than to the numinous. Where science differs from the media is in its lack of a partnership with independent individuals. . . .

You may think of the academic scientist as the analogue of the independent artist.  in fact, nearly all scientists are employed by some large organization, such as a governmental department, a university, or a multinational company. Only rarely are they free to express their science as a personal view. They may think that they are free, but in reality they are, nearly all of them, employees; they have traded freedom of thought for good working conditions, a steady income, tenure, and a pension.   They are also constrained by an army of bureaucratic forces, from funding agencies to the health and safety organizations.  Scientists are also constrained by the tribal rules of the discipline to which they belong. A physicist would find it hard to do chemistry and a biologist would find physics well-nigh impossible to do. To cap it all, in recent years the 'purity' of science is ever more closely guarded by a self-imposed inquisition called the peer review. This well-meaning but narrow-minded nanny of an institution ensures that scientists work according to conventional wisdom and not as curiosity or inspiration moves them.  Lacking freedom they are in danger of succumbing to a finicky gentility or of becoming, like medieval theologians, the creatures of dogma...."

internal link Dr James Lovelock The Ages of Gaia, p.xiii (Bantam Books)

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page uploaded 23 May 1999