Recently, I posted a link to a story by the Atlantic over on my Facebook page called “How Your Cat is Making You Crazy.” The article discusses Jaroslav Flegr, a Czech evolutionary biologist who has been studying Toxoplasma gondii, or the brain parasite which can be passed from cats to humans.
But this article isn’t really about that: this article discusses how Flegr and his research haven’t always been taken seriously–in fact, just the opposite. His idea (that T. Gondii actually works to reroute neurons) hasn’t gained much traction, despite sound research.
Science, as a human institution, is far more conservative than it would like to admit. As a group of humans, we fear what is different and new. From Flegr’s wild hair to his “psychedelic” science, he has a hard time getting his well-researched science accepted. As he says in the piece: “There is strong psychological resistance to the possibility that human behavior can be influenced by some stupid parasite,” he says. “Nobody likes to feel like a puppet. Reviewers may have been offended.”
Flegr is just one in a long line of scientists who have challenged conventional thinking–and persisted despite not being taken seriously. It’s a prestigious list which goes back to the days of Galileo and includes Einstein.
So this is my call to you, fellow researchers and scientists: don’t be afraid of offending, of being labeled as ‘crazy.’ If Galileo had done this, the sun may still be thought to be orbiting the Earth. Your passion to create a solid body of research is what moves innovation–and as the educational system breeds this out of us, we need all we can get.
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