From Robert Merton’s “Science and the Social Order” (1937)

merton1“With the increasing complexity of scientific research, a long program of rigorous training is necessary to test or even to understand the new scientific findings. The modern scientist has necessarily subscribed to a cult of unintelligibility. There results an increasing gap between the scientist and the laity. The layman must take on faith the publicized statements about relativity or quanta or other such esoteric subjects. This he has readily done inasmuch as he has been repeatedly assured that the technologic achievements from which he has presumably benefited ultimately derive from such research. Nonetheless, he retains a certain suspicion of these bizarre theories. Popularized and frequently garbled versions of the new science stress those theories which seem to run counter to common sense. To the ‘public mind,’ science and esoteric terminology become indissolubly linked… Partly as a result of scientific advance, therefore, the population at large has become ripe for new mysticisms clothed in apparently scientific jargon… The borrowed authority of science becomes a powerful prestige symbol for unscientific doctrines.”

From Robert Merton’s “Science and the Social Order” (1937)

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