NCBI ROFL: Why are modern scientists so dull? How science selects for perseverance and sociability at the expense of intelligence and creativity.

By ncbi rofl | August 11, 2009 4:08 pm

“QUESTION: why are so many leading modern scientists so dull and lacking in scientific ambition? ANSWER: because the science selection process ruthlessly weeds-out interesting and imaginative people. At each level in education, training and career progression there is a tendency to exclude smart and creative people by preferring Conscientious and Agreeable people… …Creativity is probably associated with moderately high levels of Eysenck’s personality trait of ‘Psychoticism’. Psychoticism combines qualities such as selfishness, independence from group norms, impulsivity and sensation-seeking; with a style of cognition that involves fluent, associative and rapid production of many ideas. But modern science selects for high Conscientiousness and high Agreeableness; therefore it enforces low Psychoticism and low creativity. Yet my counter-proposal to select elite revolutionary scientists on the basis of high IQ and moderately high Psychoticism may sound like a recipe for disaster, since resembles a formula for choosing gifted charlatans and confidence tricksters. A further vital ingredient is therefore necessary: devotion to the transcendental value of Truth. Elite revolutionary science should therefore be a place that welcomes brilliant, impulsive, inspired, antisocial oddballs – so long as they are also dedicated truth-seekers.”

Thanks to Elizabeth for today’s ROFL!

  • Richard

    I think this is a vital point which is much overlooked in most aspects of soience, especially (it seems) psychology/motivation. I think conventional science fall in line with Kuhn's description of paradigms and puzzle solvers, but the best kind of science is closer to what Popper tended to promote – bold, interesting and creative ideas which are shot down as fast as they are dreamed up. What a fantastic world it would be if there were more 'extraordinary' scientists and less 'normal' ones.

    Creativity + desire for (unattainable) truth = Poppers ideal

    Conformist + Consensus view of truth = Kuhn's Normal (but probably highly esteemed…)scientist

  • Anonymous

    Why is this filed under "Ridiculous titles"? As a scientist I know well that this study is right to the point.
    Now that means, on the "fun scale" I give this article just a single star – on the important study scale a ten stars.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a recipe for brilliantly anti-social oddball zealots.

    "You are all wrong, and I alone hold the secrets of the universe (because I say so) and I will take them with me to the grave!"

  • Rob

    The full text of the article is available at Charlton's blog:

    http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2009/02/why-are-modern-scientists-so-dull.html

    I would like to nominate for inclusion on this blog Charlton's no less provocative latest piece, "Replacing Education with Psychometrics":

    http://medicalhypotheses.blogspot.com/2009/07/replacing-education-with-psychometrics.html

  • Andrew Clegg

    Medical Hypotheses is full of shit and doesn't deserve to be called a journal. See

    http://www.badscience.net/2007/08/am-i-misunderstanding-something-or-is-this-paper-both-stupid-and-racist/

    and

    http://www.badscience.net/2008/10/more-crap-journals/

    Anyone who took this article seriously (see above comments) needs their head felt.

  • Rob

    For what it's worth, Peter Kramer on an earlier piece by Charlton:

    A Maverick Redefines Depression
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/200811/maverick-redefines-depression

  • ROJ

    I think you people should go commit scuicide.. I didnt understand 1/2 of the terminology used in this article..

  • Anonymous

    @ROJ: who are you telling to "go commit suicide"? Your choice of subject ("you people") left this unclear.

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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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