Consensus has enormous power and influence on certain political officials and the scientific community. Often times it will be used as an argument to pass government grants and against those who question a popular hypothesis or theory. This real life story I’m about to tell is isolated from the creation-evolution controversy, but it’s important nevertheless.
Fractal geometry was discovered by Mandelbrot who was Jewish, born in November 1924 and passed away in October 2010. His parents were well-educated and as a youth he was able to escape Nazi persecutions as his family fled Poland during 1936. Living in France, he was able to continue his studies for a time then in 1947 to 1949 he studied at California Institute of Technology, where he obtained first master’s degree in aeronautics. He then returned to France, were he got his Ph.D. degree in Mathematical Sciences at the University of Paris in 1952.
His discovery known as the “Mandelbrot set” has an array of incredibly beautiful and intricate patterns with similarity that leads to infinity. It has influenced many areas such as art, finance, linguistics, biology, medicine, chemistry, physics, earth science, cosmology, computer science, astronomy, many of the engineering disciplines, and of course, mathematics. It’s quite astounding that this pervasive principle could be discovered in our time.
One would think, consensus was in favor of doing new things with geometry which lead to Mandelbrot set having massive influence. But sadly, this was not the case. In fact, mathematicians were telling Mandelbrot that geometry was out dated, only useful for school children. Mandelbrot didn’t accept that idea from the consensus, so he unwillingly became a maverick.
Science describes it this way…
“Some describe Mandelbrot as one who chose the role of a maverick in the mainstream sciences. Quite to the contrary, his uncompromising devotion to analyze and understand the “rough” reality of nature isolated him from the mainstream. In his view, the common “smooth” representations of natural processes were entirely inappropriate and far from the essence of nature: “Clouds are not spheres and mountains are not cones.” Alone, he shaped a program of geometry based on fractals, a term he coined to refer to mathematical shapes with irregular contours, just as seen in nature.”
What would it be like if Mandelbrot decided to abide what the mainstream was telling him and not purse a better way of doing geometry rather than enduring many years of hardship? Would he gotten a government grant for his research if the same thing happened today? Indeed it would have been much more easier to go with the flow…
“Now that Mandelbrot’s work can be considered to belong to mainstream mathematics and the sciences, it is important to remember that there was once strong resistance and skepticism. I have often asked myself where Mandelbrot found the source of his strength, determination, and endurance in those decades when he was practically isolated in his own mathematical world.”
Mavericks are needed in biology as well, one rarely hears of them because the bounty on mavericks in biology is very high. Consensus does more nowadays than just isolate those whom they disagree with. They could make it very difficult or impossible on a maverick to get funding even though that maverick may not being a creationist or ID scientist. Michael Rampino is an example, his job could be online or face long years of isolation from the pack. As the documentary, Expelled pointed out non-evolutionists can loose their tenture if they come out into the open with their questioning of Darwinian evolution.
Great achievements and success with those achievements, are not always made by the popular opinion at large, the loner, the one who dares to be different and endure ridicule and skepticism can make a huge impact on science! In the Bible, this normally referred to as David vs Goliath.