The Scientific Fundamentalist

A look at the hard truths about human nature.

What I Have Learned from Barry Goldwater

Extremism in the pursuit of the truth is no vice

Sometimes scientists can learn an important lesson from politicians.

I was watching the first episode of the six-part Fox News special The Right, All Along:  The Rise, Fall & Future of Conservatism, and came across a footage of Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention.

I have always maintained (and I still do) that science and politics have nothing in common and that they are antithetical to each other.  Politics – political considerations and sensibilities – is the surest way to corrupt science.  However, I think we can follow Goldwater’s sentiment and conviction, with some modifications, to express what it means to be a scientist and the Scientific Fundamentalist.

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Extremism in the pursuit of the truth is no vice.

Moderation in the face of political correctness is no virtue.

 

I think these could be important credos for Scientific Fundamentalism.

And when Goldwater won the Presidential election on the strength of his acceptance speech and his message, President Goldwater....  Wait... what?  He got what?  What do you mean...?  Daisy girl?  A landslide?  Who the hell is “El B. J.”?  I thought that was Bill Clinton’s nickname in Mexico!

This may be a good place to remind you that, as I have argued elsewhere before, science, unlike American politics, is not a democracy.  It doesn’t matter how popular your theory is or how many people agree with you.  If science were a democracy, then Galileo, Darwin, and Jim Watson would all have been voted off the island a long time ago.  Science is truly an elitist enterprise.  In science, the majority doesn’t get to decide; the best few do.  It doesn’t matter how popular you are; it only matters if you are right.

Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist at LSE and the coauthor (with the late Alan S. Miller) of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters.

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