Facts over Fame

Watson’s Nobel Prize Medal sells for Three Million Pounds

October 7, 2015

This medal was bought by Alisher Usmanov in an anonymous telephone bid and he gave it back to Watson, aged 86. The latter has been ostracized for his scientific views for about seven years, and he plans to donate a lot of the money to charity. Usmanov stated that it is unacceptable that a distinguished scientist be forced to sell his Nobel Prize Medal. Ostracization is an unfortunate fact of the scientific world, and is fuelled by dogma. Einstein was effectively ostracized for many years for opposing Copenhagen. These days wikipedia is used to try to brand and ostracize scientists, and in the case of ECE has been blown away.”

One of the worst aspects of science education at all levels is that one is taught to think in terms of fame and not facts; simply because that is easier for the tyro. Einstein, for instance, is a household name but few households can really explain why. But the sad fact is that scientists are human and very much a ‘lucky dip’ when it comes to their overall behavior. There exist professors of botany, for instance, who are ardent creationists and it is easy to forget that their academic standing is predicated on the acceptance of experimental fact; not pernicious myth. There is also the aging problem. Famous scientists may develop dementia; should one still believe what they claim (if the evidence has not changed)? Eddington, for example, went peculiar in later life and thought that he could explain the entire universe using numerology. Dingle and Essen, once leading UK relativity experts, turned against it (with no new evidence) in old age. The double Nobel prize-winner, Linus Pauling, went overboard with his Vitamin C claims. More disturbingly, he tried to use his fame as a crystallographer to browbeat a young scientist into withdrawing his evidence for the existence of quasicrystals. First, Pauling said that it was merely misinterpreted twinning (one twin). In order to defend his untenable stand he eventually ended up with the postulation of thousands of twins! It was acutely embarrassing. Pauling ended up by being lauded as a heretic (together with other nutters such as Laithwaite and Sheldrake) in the BBC series of the same name. The guy who discovered quasicrystals? He recently received a Nobel prize for that work. The point is, if Watson has been making claims that are unsupported by fact, he should lose his medal; just as a drunk driver should lose his licence … no matter how good his previous driving record was. Do you see where this is going, Ron?

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