Something Piers Corbyn said, that I mentioned yesterday:
‘How come there haven’t been any basic new ideas in physics since Einstein?’
He said he thought that academia had become corrupted. And people just carried on thinking in the same way, never entertaining new ideas. Everything had become stuck.
I’ve had similar thoughts myself.
I think that maybe what happens is that, when people are employees in large top-down-controlled organisations, they are all required to devote their efforts to doing the same thing in the same way. And so they’ll all end up thinking the same way. And if they don’t think the same way as everyone else, they’ll most likely end up getting expelled from the organisation.
Such top-down-control makes sense in an army, and maybe also in a furniture manufacturing business. But it doesn’t really make sense when it comes to research. Researchers need to be thinking about things in different ways all the time. They need to be approaching matters from different perspectives. The more different they all are, the more likely they’ll be to come up with new ideas.
So I think top-down-controlled research institutes probably never manage to do any research, precisely because they’re top-down-controlled , and everybody in them thinks in pretty much the exact same way. And that’s why there haven’t been any basic new ideas in physics since Einstein, despite huge amounts of money being spent on places like CERN. They still employ the same set of ideas that Einstein had. It’s the same paradigm. Nothing has changed.
The same dogmatic stasis is visible in the medical profession. It’s been 70 years since the doctors declared that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, There has been no progress since. It has become an unquestionable dogma. And research into lung cancer has come to a halt. For the premise of all research is that it is trying to find answers to questions, and if people think they already know the answers, they’ll not see any need for research.
The same is now happening in climate science. The only allowable sort of climate change is the one that’s driven by human-generated carbon dioxide, and causing the planet to warm. And this notion of Anthropogenic Global Warming has now been around for 30 or 40 years, and has solidified into yet another unquestionable dogma. Huge amounts of money are spent on climate science. And there’s no further progress. There’s nothing new.
It’s almost as if, if you want to prevent any research being done into something, the very best thing that you could do would be to set up a large research institute, employing the very best graduates from the best universities, complete with the very latest equipment. It would never discover anything new. And it would never find anything new because the employees would only be doing the bidding of their employers, just like soldiers obey the orders of their superiors. The employees would replicate the ideas and beliefs of their employers, because that is what employees are paid to do.
In Britain, the National Health Service was created in 1945 by the Attlee Labour government. Doctors became employees of a top-down state-controlled institution. Is it really very surprising that, 5 years after its inception, in 1950, the doctors at the top of this institution declared that Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, and have never changed their minds since? These people can’t change their minds about anything. They’ve sunk into a dogmatic pit, and will never get out.
What is Political Correctness but dogmatic thinking? Isn’t it the insistence that everyone should think the exact same way, not just about one or two things, but about everything?
“We’ve got to question everything.”
That’s another thing Piers Corbyn said. He’s quite right, of course. But how do you question anything in a world where questioning the reigning dogmas brings immediate condemnation? Ours is a world which is becoming ever more rigid and dogmatic every day.
It’s nothing new. Human thinking is always prone to becoming fixed, rigid, and dogmatic. More or less all religions are dogmatic that way. Or they rapidly become dogmatic after brief bursts of innovation.
It’s perhaps when only when things get really, really stuck that innovation becomes essential. For some 4 years in WW1, trench warfare on the western front was an example of something that had got totally stuck. And out of it came innovations like tanks and aircraft that changed the nature of warfare.
Perhaps it will be the same for us. Perhaps we’ll find that, the more completely stuck we become, the more rigidly dogmatic, the more we’ll see the urgent need for innovation.