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and insurance companies and other powerful interest groups or bound by the limits of mechanistic thinking and other outdated beliefs?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.