Closed Minds in Science

by Guy Lyon Playfair

When Barry Marshall swallowed a mouthful of bacteria back in the 1990s and gave himself severe pains in the tummy, showing that gastric disorders were not due to ‘stress’, too much curry or whatever, but a bug called Helicobacter pylori, he had a job at first getting anybody to believe him.

As Dr. James LeFanu comments on the belated award of a (shared) Nobel prize for medicine to this heroic Australian, who has probably brought more relief to more people than anyone alive:

“‘They’ would not hear of it because it was impossible for any bacteria to survive in so hostile an environment as the stomach.”

Noting that since the introduction of antibiotics to replace previous treatments that did nothing to eradicate the cause of stomach disorders, the relapse rate has plummeted from 100% to less than 1%, Dr. LeFanu observes:

“The main impediment to scientific progress is not lack of funding or new ideas, but incorrigibly closed minds.”

Source: Sunday Telegraph, August 9, 2005