Free Inquiry

I’d like to believe that men of science seek only truth and do not discriminate, that they base their conclusions on hard evidence and that they pursue knowledge without bias or prejudice, but scientists do not live in a social vacuum. Scientists are ordinary people who work for a living and compete with uncommonly intelligent peers for recognition and funding. They operating in an intensely competitive environment which is built largely around private and governmental self-interest, not free inquiry. Moreover, their field is rife with peer pressure, riddled with unconscious outmoded beliefs and plagued by confirmation bias.

What would change if scientists and researchers in the field of medicine were not beholden to drug and insurance companies and other powerful interest groups or bound by the limits of mechanistic thinking and other outdated beliefs? I imagine it would be a freer, more exciting and infinitely more gratifying space to spend one’s professional life.

Science has become as political as religion. It is not a pure and sacred space in which free inquiry is allowed to happen. There are numerous forces vying for the soul of science, many of which have little to nothing to do with the discovery of truth.

Scientists who violate the rules by pointing to outmoded beliefs, breaking taboos or stepping on powerful toes are summarily banished, shunned as personae non gratae and left to fend for themselves on the fringes of scientific inquiry. Those who find themselves shut out find a certain freedom in their notoriety, even though funding and collaboration are greatly restricted. Friends and colleagues turn a cold shoulder publicly in an effort not to be seen with the heretic, even if they see the value of his thinking.

The biggest challenge to those who have been ostracized for their principled approach to free inquiry is to resist the temptation to indulge in self-pity, vengeance or resignation. Those who blindly condemn another through prejudice, self-concern, insecurity or any other of the petty things which rule men’s hearts must be instantly and deeply forgiven, for they know not what they do.

Free inquiry is one of the greatest gifts we possess as a race. We must protect and propound it.

4 thoughts on “Free Inquiry

  1. David R

    It does appear that the more intellectual firepower is brought to the table in the field of science and adademics, the greater is the ability to deceive oneself, one’s colleagues and the public at large!

    Where prejudice reigns, delusion will follow. What courage it takes, apparently, to keep an open mind and an unbiased heart, particularly in the face of “evidence based” studies, “predominance of professional opinion,” etc! Very few things are as they appear in a world where so many forces run beneath the surface. Still, for those who remain poised, refusing to judge by surface appearance, the truth does endure and will eventually be what remains to be seen and known.

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  2. Chuck Reddick

    One of the lessons that I learned from Earl Nightingale years ago was “if you want to be more than those who are in your field (industry, company etc.) than be willing to do the opposite of what they are doing”. Now of course this is not totally accurate but there is a lot of truth to that. Certainly I have discovered some criticism from my peers over the years for the way in which I view sales as an example. However, by sticking to the aforementioned principle it has been proven time and time again to be most valuable, especially to those who are served by doing things pretty much the opposite of what I have personally witnessed over the years. Perhaps our scientists could take a page from Mr. Nightingale’s book!

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  3. Lady Leo

    Since the time of recorded history this has been a plague of mankind. It’s no different now than the times of Galileo, Plato or Aristotle. Now the damnation is carried out on the internet and probably the sacred halls of the boardroom and Senate hearings. I think our founding fathers had free inquiry in mind when they personally sacrificed so much to birth this nation. Free inquiry requires dedication to the truth and courage to change.

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