Clever People Make Mistakes Too

The history of science is full of examples of very clever people getting things wrong.  Pythagoras’ name is known to everyone who studied geometry because of his famous theorem about a right angled triangle.  Although a bright mathematician, he believed in reincarnation and the evil effects of beans!

021213Sir Isaac Newton, often called the greatest scientist in history, was the man who formulated the universal laws of force and motion.  He was convinced that lead could be turned into gold.  This belief in alchemy didn’t seem strange in his time, because little was known about the chemical elements in the seventeenth century.

Modern science provides plenty of examples of clever people with odd ball ideas.  For example, the famous Nobel Laureate Francis Crick, who with James Watson deciphered the DNA molecule, suggested that life originated on Earth when extra terrestrial civilizations put microbes into shielded spacecrafts, and sent them to seed likely planets – an idea for which there is no evidence.

His suggestion only pushes the problem further back, because he has not said how life might have developed on the planet that sent out the microbes.  You don’t need to be a Nobel Prize winning scientist to see that substituting two miracles – life plus a desire to seed the universe, for one miracle, the miracle of life alone, doesn’t help.

So next time you run into a clever professor, remember the brightest sometimes make the biggest mistakes.