Michael White recently linked to a Cracked article about stupid legal challenges to science. The Cracked list reminded me of some of my own personal heroes of science. Frequently, "heroes" in science are people who have achieved great things, like Darwin, Einstein, Feynman, and Brenner.
My "heroes" are not "heroes" for the magnitude of their achievements, but what they have risked in the service of critical thinking. These individuals have put their livelihoods and even their very lives on the line. The official citations for the Titanium Spork of Scientific Valor follow.
Ben Goldacre, M.D., has served science through his Bad Science weekly column for The Guardian. In 2007, Matthias Rath filed a libel suit against Goldacre and The Guardian for saying that vitamins do not cure AIDS.
Instead of attempting to have the suit dismissed on freedom of speech grounds, they fought the libel charge arguing, correctly, that vitamins do not cure AIDS. In 2008, Rath withdrew his suit and is responsible for Goldacre and The Guardian's legal costs.
In March 2008, Sanal Edamaruku, president of Rationalist International, went on India TV for a discussion on Tantrik Power versus Science. On the show, Tantrik to Politicians, Pandit Surinder Sharma, claimed that he could kill anyone in three minutes using his black magic.
Edamaruku challenged Sharma to kill him with black magic. Edamaruku survived for two hours without flinching as Sharma attempted to kill him with black magic.
Sharma determined that Edamaruku required the "Black Magic of Ultimate Destruction". That night Sharma's attempt to kill Edamaruku as 300 million people turned into watch "The Great Tantra Challenge". Edamaruku survived unscathed and demonstrated to his people that the black magic of the tantriks has no power over them.
At only 8 years old, James Phipps had never been exposed to small pox or cow pox. As such, he was the perfect candidate to test Edward Jenner's theory that a cow pox inoculation protected against small pox. Phipps received the inoculation and tolerated intentional exposure to small pox without contracting the deadly disease. This success heralded the eventual demise of small pox and the rise of vaccines.
Although the experiment may not have been ethical, James Phipps risked acquiring small pox, and his life, in the service of biomedical research.
Ben Goldacre, Sanal Edamaruku, and James Phipps are some of my heroes.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Part I: Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health
- 3X Saturated Fat In The Diet Doesn't Increase It In Blood
- Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Genetic Clues Of Severe Food Allergy
- Still No Contact with NASA's Sun-watching Probe
- Interstellar Is A Dangerous Fantasy Of US Colonialism
- Is Religion A Consolation Worth Having?
- Why Computer Programs Can't Understand Truth - And Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence Babies
- "As an earlier cigarette smoker and now e-cig smoker, I can confirm they don't help you quit. As..."
- "Reality? What is reality if you use irrational arguments to justify man's cruelty toward..."
- "Always loved the Heels that showed of the instep (arches) ..."
- "By the way, I am a fan of your blog. It's one of the few places I can follow physics without getting..."
- "Hello Anon,you're entirely right, it's arbitrary and it does not provide protection against cases..."
- Gene in kidney may play role in high blood pressure
- Panel-based genetic diagnostic testing for inherited eye disease proves highly accurate
- Research finds tooth enamel fast-track in humans
- Good news for cocaine users: Caffeine counters cocaine's effects on women's estrus cycles
- Clipping proteins that package genes may limit abnormal cell growth in tumors