How contrary views are suppressed

13 February 2012
Inside science

At there is an article by a scientists who has worked at the US Geological Survey for over 40 years and is the author of 100 refereed articles from 1950 to the present etc. He accepts Plate Tectonics as a working hypothesis but he now realises one component of the theory, mantle plumes, is quite wrong (in his opinion, I should add). He was surprised at the antagonism his scepticism produced – and clearly it is not just climate science that generates bad feeling or brickbats instead of honest evaluation of new ideas. Majority opinions, or consensus science. constrains, he infers. Proactive defence of entrenched assumptions duly delay challenges – and progress. Science is sitting on its hands for too long when it could be moving forwards. One example of this is given, and that is that there was plenty of evidence for continental drift prior to 1940 – and even more prior to 1960, yet it was not until the late 1960s when the evidence became overwhelming that the consensus caved in and majority opinion wavered. It was only then that Plate Tectonics was accepted in the mainstream and during the previous 50 years they had refused to properly examine the evidence and in fact often obstructed publication by those who did study the subject. Most geoscientists on the scene today have come into the subject since the 1960s but he goes on to say there is similar retardation of progress widespread today – and suppressing of dissent is all too often too common by far. This may be that they see bad science as anything that contradicts their own conjectures – and prejudice. Peer review, he intimates, filters out the worst and also the best. It leaves the broad middle – the furrow ploughed by the ordinary. Widely accepted assumptions regarding the composition, evolution and behaviour of the mantle appears to be in error yet evaluation of contrary views is discouraged. Unquestioning acceptance of such speculations in geodynamics, tectonics and petrology lead to much further work of dubious value. The egos of scientists tend to lead them astroy – so much so they can ignore fieldwork and observation and stick rigidly to theory. The author is obviously miffed at his own treatment – but that does not detract from what he sees as a bad system in which over specialisation hampers one group of scientists from understanding how their ideas might detract from other groups of scientists, and from other aspects even within the Plate Tectonics theory itself. The author of the piece has nothing to do with or its theory of Shock Dynamics and therefore I have not mentioned his name or quoted him word for word, but just the gist of what he said. The same criticism can be applied to the resistance that has taken place to the idea of electricity in space while theories on dark matter and black holes are endlessly pumped out and provided with grant funds and publication space with nary a twitch of the eyebrows in reproval. The inbred resistance to anything contrary to the consensus in any given science subject is bewildering to observe from the outside – and says all that is needed to say about the people involved and very little about the ideas they dislike.

Skip to content