What I Learned From Galileo and Ignaz

by Charles Lyell on December 18, 2013

“In the sixteenth century the scholar William Tyndale had the temerity to contemplate translating the New Testament into English. This was a challenge to the job security of Roman Catholic priests. When Tyndale tried to publish his translation, he was hounded and pursued all over Europe. Eventually he was captured, garroted, and then, for good measure, burned at the stake. His copies of the New Testament were then hunted down house-to-house by armed posses. Christians piously defending Christianity by preventing other Christians from knowing the words of Christ.”   – Carl Sagan

For the last few years I’ve been trying to avoid the mistakes that landed two of my heroes in hot water. One was persecuted for challenging a popular myth. The other ended up dead because his fellow doctors didn’t want to know they were killing women and babies.

I can relate to Messrs. Galilei’s and Semmelweis’s frustrations. They were trying to point out the obvious to seemingly intelligent peers. But instead of listening, their contemporaries started playing dopamine games to avoid learning what they didn’t want to know.

Galileo’s critics proved they didn’t care about science, religion, god, scriptures, justice, or truth by refusing to look through the astronomer’s telescope. Ignaz’s tormentors proved they weren’t concerned about killing patients by refusing to wash their hands. In both instances the only thing the attackers were interested in was protecting dopamine flow by protecting power, peer approval, and status.

The colluding insiders felt free to dismiss, mock, and attack what they dared not try to (because they couldn’t) disprove. The troublemakers’ troubles began when they made the mistake of exacerbating the threats to their opponents’ dopamine flow by insulting the foes’ intelligence and esteem.

Galileo’s and Ignaz’s critics weren’t evil and they weren’t all stupid. A few might have been brilliant. Some were probably articulate, charming, decent, and convinced they were open minded. The problem was that they were safety, power, peer-approval, and esteem addicts who only cared about protecting and triggering dopamine flow.

My heroes couldn’t know they were dealing with addicts and that addicts behave irrationally when their dopamine flow is threatened. At the same time, their audacity helped me understand that there are times when the only way to affect change is to confront, challenge, instigate, and accept the consequences.

That’s why I’m confronting and challenging today’s accomplished, esteemed, and conveniently ignorant scientists’ dopamine-triggering, esteem-elevating delusion that they’re nothing like yesteryear’s accomplished, esteemed, and conveniently ignorant experts.

Environments are being destroyed, species eliminated, and lives ruined. Homo sapiens are in the process of self-destructing and the clock is running out. Meanwhile, an obvious neurological explanation, that offers workable solutions, continues to “elude” researchers — who don’t want to know that the only thing they care about is protecting and triggering dopamine flow.

That makes today’s scientists every bit as culpable as the seemingly intelligent, concerned, decent experts and doctors who put their own need to protect dopamine flow ahead of science and the lives of innocent men, women, and children.


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