Max Planck — the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who pioneered quantum theory — once said the following about scientific progress:
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Shorter: Science is not immune to interpersonal bullshit. Scientists can be stubborn. They can use their gravitas to steamroll new ideas. Which means those new ideas often only prevail when older scientists die.
Recently, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) released a working paper — titled, “Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?” — that puts Planck’s principle to the test.
Sifting through citations in the PubMed database, they found evidence that when a prominent researcher suddenly dies in an academic subfield, a period of new ideas and innovation follow. (1)
Scientists as all people are… humans.
And humans are weak.
Weak people led by stronger ones.
Do not misunderstand scientists for great people. They are just sheep.
Watch out for the sheep dog instead…