Bronze-level articleNobel disease

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Nikolaas Tinbergen with his Nobel medal
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The Nobel disease is a term used to describe a phenomenon in which Nobel Prize-winning scientists endorse or perform "research" in pseudoscientific areas in their later years, after having won the esteemed prize for some legitimate scientific achievement.

What makes the term special is the fact that you'd think Nobel laureates (of all people) would be the most resistant to crankery. On the contrary however, the Nobel "disease" underscores the fact that human beings simply aren't "immune" to falling for crank ideas.

The Nobel disease also serves to demonstrate how being universally hailed as "right" seems to bolster the individual laureate's confirmation bias more than it does his or her skepticism.

In a wider sense, the Nobel disease might be indicative of the fact that — just like with milk — even the greatest minds can have a "best before"-date of sorts. The longevity human beings enjoy today is a relatively new concept for Homo sapiens, and as such, more and more people live long enough for their brains to start showing various signs of deterioration.

Furthermore, it has been widely recognized that scientists who make great discoveries usually do so before a certain age, formerly before age 30, nowadays before age 40.[1] Nobel Prizes are often awarded after a long period of research, after the initial discovery has been confirmed and its importance is more fully understood.

One thing is certain: creeping dementia — coupled with confidence, media attention and funding — rarely spells success in the end.

A meager upside to all this is that at least the existence of the Nobel disease cancels out the oft-repeated argument from authority; "if a Nobel Prize-winning scientist says it, it must be true!".


[edit] (In)famous Victims of Disease

[edit] Inverted Nobel Disease

Here, we show a picture of Tu Youyou to you.

In a more bizarre case, Tu YouyouWikipedia's W.svg received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of artemisinin, a drug used to treat malaria and that is saving millions of lives.

She discovered this while testing thousands of different herbs that were in her field of study: Traditional Chinese Medicine.

It should be noted that if the Scientific Method had not been developed yet, many parts of TCM would be considered proto-science rather than pseudoscience.

Shamen, medicine men, witch doctors and the likes would often perceive an apparent correlation between administration of herb or practice X with the outcome of ailment Y, and would pass these hypotheses down through the generations.

Oftentimes, no correlation was actually present, of course, and a lot of superstitions were formed in this manner, but without things like rapid communication, peer review, an understanding of cognitive biases or accensor to well-equipped laboratories, any better form of acquiring knowledge was simply unavailable.

Then when society did reach a point where a city could afford the resources for the labs, many early scientists began testing all the various herbal remedies that had been passed down from the shamans.

What worked was carefully recorded and kept, such as aspirin from willow bark tea, while what didn't was discarded as proven ineffective stays in use to this day in the realm of alternative medicine.

Tu Youyou tested various herbal remedies and found another important drug, and for that we are thankful. Science works.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. The Stroke of Genius Strikes Later in Modern Life by Charles Q. Choi (November 7, 2011 03:01pm ET) Live Science.
  2. Pierre Curie bio
  3. John William Strutt bio
  5. Lenard, Philipp (1936). Deutsche Physik in vier Bänden (in German). J.F. Lehmann.
  7. God's Eugenicist: Alexis Carrel And the Sociobiology of Decline by Andrés Horacio Reggiani (2006) Berghahn Books. ISBN 1845451724.
  8. Charles Richet bio
  11. My View of the World Erwin Schrödinger chapter iv. What Is life? the physical aspect of the living cell & Mind and matter — By Erwin Schrödinger
  14. Chain, 1971, “Social Responsibility and the Scientist in Modern Western Society,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Spring 1971, Vol. 14, No. 3, p. 368
  17. Creativity and intuition : a physicist looks at East and West / by Hideki Yukawa ; translated by John Bester (1973)
  18. The Dark Side of Linus Pauling's Legacy by Stephen Barrett (revised on September 14, 2014) Quackwatch.
  19. Bill Shockley bio
  20. Fury at DNA Pioneer's Theory: Africans are Less Intelligent than Westerners, The Independent
  21. [1], where Watson clarifies he speaks as "people who have to deal with black employees".
  22. Eccles, John (1973). "6 'Brain, Speech, and Consciousness'". The Understanding of the Brain. McGraw-Hill Book Company. p. p. 189. ISBN 0-07-018863-7.
  25. Hannes Alfvén, Cosmology—Myth or Science? J Astrophysics and Astronomy, vol. 5, pp. 79-98, (1984).
  26. Ivar Giaevar, DeSmog Blog
  27. Pioneer of the Paranormal
  28. [2]
  31. Outside the Box or Around the Bend? Photon in the Darkness
  32. Beyond Kary Mullis: The Alien Conspiracy Theory of AIDS, Denying AIDS
  33. Kary Mullis — Personal ViewsWikipedia's W.svg, Wikipedia
  37. Nobel Prize Winner Didn't Disclose Herbalife Contract (Update1) by David Evans (December 8, 2004 11:38 EST) Bloomberg (archived from 27 Nov 2013 20:01:52 UTC).
  40. A. Zeilinger, Dance of the Photons, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2010, p. 266.
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