Adam Rutherford and the bleeding, cutting… “fringe”

Science is a process – as David Hull implied in the title of his landmark book “Science as a Process”, and it grows by expanding at the edges. Those doing that work have the burden not just of the work, but of enduring the smug jibes of those sitting safely in the middle and making sure they steer well clear of controversy by only ever dealing in their precious white-bread “facts”. But of course Science Is Duelling Theories! It’s only those outside science or the posers within it, who fear or despise controversy.

Some people embody this kind of hypocrisy down to their bones. Any hint of the kind of new daring ideas today that contributed to science in the past, and these “centre-ground ‘researchers’ ” start sneering and eye-rolling so hard you can hear it down the wires. A couple of weeks ago on Inside Science, Adam Rutherford used the term “fringe” in a way that had everyone’s mirror cells frantically signalling “nose up in the air… slow head-turn to one side… downward turn of the corners of the mouth to let the disagreeable taste dribble out…. slight lowering of voice so as not to trouble everyone’s consciousness too much with the horrible concept… ” etc. etc. etc.

This is like the kind of person who eats meat themselves but disapproves of anyone who kills animals.

A fringe is a useless decoration on the edge of something useful. On the other hand, a really useful research scientist is a toiler at the coal face of science, constantly ridiculed by, and having to justify their existence to, those who have bravely hunted out the most comfortable seats but have probably never taken a risk to produce anything really useful in their lives.

When was the last time you risked controversy and came up with a really useful idea, Adam? How about anyone in your management pathway? Have any of them ever made a significant contribution to science?

And just how many on-going controversies in, for example, palaeontology, have you, the BBC, covered in some fair-minded detail in the past 15 years? Don’t answer that – just fix your mess. You do after all have a contractual obligation.

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