I’ve been wondering today whether we’re the victims of ‘institutionalised’ science. By this, I mean science which has become formalised into a rigid canonical system of knowledge, which is taught in all schools and universities. The result is stasis and gradual decay. Within the universities, only orthodox views are permitted, if only because passing examinations requires studying the canonical texts, and reproducing the reigning orthodoxy. This makes for stasis. But it also means that should the orthodoxy gradually become corrupted (perhaps merely by being taught badly) the orthodoxy may gradually change into something entirely different from what it started as.
Prior to becoming institutionalised, science – the pursuit of knowledge – is conducted by a loose association of interested individuals, mostly amateurs. For example, Isaac Newton was a professor of mathematics, with hardly any students, which left him with most of his time to pursue his own personal interests in heat, light, gravitation, etc. Charles Darwin was a wealthy amateur with the time and money to study biology. Albert Einstein worked in a patent office, and in his free time he thought about what it would be like to travel at the speed of light. Gregor Mendel was a monk (and later an abbot) with an interest in botany and flowers. All concerned were just following their own noses: nobody was paying them to study gravity, light, biology, botany, etc.
Their discoveries then created the formal canon of knowledge, which was thereafter taught in schools and universities. And people only got anywhere in these universities if they could prove themselves proficient in Newton’s, Darwin’s, Einstein’s, etc, way of thinking. Students were constrained to think in the particular ways these illustrious precursors had thought. And so they became dogmatic thinkers, unable to think outside the institutional box they’d been constrained to.
The era of the Newtons, Darwins, etc, is the period in which science flourishes and grows. Once the accumulated knowledge is formalised and institutionalised, science largely ceases to flourish. It becomes rote learning rather than discovery. It becomes dogmatic. It acquires a rigid social hierarchy with professors at the top, and a career structure. It also becomes professionalised, and the professional scientists are no longer following up their own hunches, but are being directed towards set goals.
The dead institutions, in which past science is replicated, and in which little or no new science is done, then begin to decay. Heretical sects begin to multiply inside them. At first the heresies are secret, because they are always unorthodox, and initially nobody wishes to be seen to be unorthodox. But they gather strength nevertheless, and soon entire schools fall under the spell of one heresy or other, and begin openly teaching their heresies as a new orthodoxy.
In the case of the medical profession, it would seem that the glory days of flourishing scientific discovery were in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Thereafter, medicine became institutionalised, with all medical students being taught more or less the same thing, and the pace of growth of medical knowledge slowed.
We are now in the period of decay. Antismoking doctors were a tiny fringe minority a hundred years ago, but they have since gradually grown in numbers and influence to the point that they now dominate the entire medical profession, much like some heretical Christian sect in monasteries a millennium ago. This takeover is something that seems to have happened around about the time that Gro Harlem Brundtland began running the WHO in 1990. They don’t do open-minded, open-ended science, but instead advance a set of dogmatic beliefs. What they believe is also entirely barmy (smoking tobacco causes more or less all disease), but there are a lot of them, teaching their barmy (and highly destructive) new othodoxy to the next generation of medical students.
Much the same has been happening in other institutionalised scientific fields. The global warming alarmists are another dogmatic heretical sect that has gradually acquired power and influence. And what they believe is also barmy (and highly destructive), but it’s what students are now being taught.
I’m inclined to think that quantum physics is another heresy that has taken over physics, and rendered it more or less useless.
The next (and final) stage is that of disintegration and collapse. And this happens when the various barmy heresies start spilling out beyond their original institutional confines into the wider world, and doing enormous damage. e.g. smoking bans, wind farms, etc. Public faith and trust in institutional science declines. People stop believing ‘experts’.
I have been calling for years for Tobacco Control to be destroyed. It is a curse upon humanity. And we have no more need of Tobacco Control than we do of Custard Control. I also believe that the medical profession must be radically reformed in order to return it to its primary task of care for the sick, rather than its present futile ambition of trying to stop people getting sick in the first place. And there are a lot of doctors, mostly at the very top, who should quite simply be expelled from the medical profession.
I think that calls like this will only grow more numerous, and louder and louder, as time goes on, and the damage being done by the upstart heretics multiplies. Eventually, this groundswell of opinion will find political expression.
The end probably comes when the institutions lose the state funding that most of them are entirely dependent on. The institutions are either radically reformed, or completely closed down. An event which will be like the dissolution of the monasteries in England in the early 16th century.