It is a bit annoying. If you google for science delusion, you are only referred to Sheldrake. But this is not what I wanted, I was more interested in mad scientists. Not Frankenstein, not Moreau not Dr. Faustus not any literary character, some more real life figures. Also not Venter. But here comes something interesting
In 1951, entomologist Jay Traver published in the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington [Traver, J. (1951). Unusual scalp dermatitis in humans caused by the mite, dermatophagoides (Acarina, epidermoptidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 53(1), 1-25.] her personal experiences with a mite infestation of her scalp that resisted all treatment and was undetectable to anyone other than herself. Traver is recognized as having suffered from Delusory Parasitosis: her paper shows her to be a textbook case of the condition. The Traver paper is unique in the scientific literature in that its conclusions may be based on data that was unconsciously fabricated by the author’s mind.
The author ( Matan Shelomi, Mad Scientist: The Unique Case of a Published Delusion Matan Shelomi, Sci Eng Ethics (2013) 19:381-388) believes that a possible retraction of the 1951 paper raises the issue of discrimination against the mentally ill – others may consider this as delusionary correctness.
Here is a picture the original 1859 edition of the “Origins” while I still wonder if this book is about the origins or about the transitions of species.
That may be understandable as I am currently reading David Berlinski’s 2008 book “The Devil’s Delusion”. His (English) Wikipedia entry is not Continue reading Darwin and successors →
Delusion is a common symptom of paranoid schizophrenia ICD10 F20.0, usually combined with hallucinations (either auditory – noises or voices, visual or other perceptions of smell or taste). The most common paranoid symptoms are delusions of persecution, reference, exalted birth, special mission, bodily change, or jealousy. It has been most impressing (and harrowing) to see these patients as a medical student in Vienna at Baumgartner Höhe. Of course I visited Berggasse 19 but there have been more pioneers in Vienna like Krafft-Ebing).
We are arriving now at my main question: What is the difference between delusion and a scientific hypothesis? This question stems from a recent appraisal of the “TH17 revision” of the TH1/TH2 hypothesis by Lawrence Steinman
A historical perspective on the TH1/TH2 hypothesis is illuminating, both for its insights into important immunological phenomena and for its revelations about how groups of highly trained intellectuals, in this case immunologists, can adhere to an idea for so many years, even in the face of its obvious flaws.
He refers mainly to predictions of EAE outcomes – as an allergologist I could add more examples where the simple TH1/TH2 paradigma did not work. What is the difference between delusion and a scientific hypothesis? In my opinion the answer is context dependent as there is not so much difference – delusion will not be so persistent over time (although it is nearly impossible to convince somebody that he is captured by a delusion) while a poor hypothesis is usually more persistent (but there is a good chance to convince somebody that a hypothesis is wrong). Steinman also has some advice
We should not become fixated on the hypothesis, as if it were a ‘Law’, which in any case may fall in the face of new data that such a Law cannot explain. Most importantly, we should not ignore aberrant data that cannot be explained by a concept, whether it is deemed a Law or, more modestly, a Hypothesis. We should always be careful to explain those quirky aberrant points in the data and those annoying blemishes and flaws in the scientific theory. They may be hiding a tremendous new insight.