“[A well-trained rationalist] will obey the mental image of his master, he will conform to the standards of argumentation he has learned, he will adhere to these standards no matter how great the confusion in which he finds himself, and he will be quite incapable of realizing that what he regards as the ‘voice of reason’ is but a causal after-effect of the training he had received.”
Paul Feyerabend, in: Against Method (1988, p. 17)
“Whenever there is a breakthrough, a really important new discovery, this means that the experts have been proved wrong, and that the facts, the objective facts, were different from what the experts expected them to be.”
Karl Popper, in: A World of Propensities (1990, p. 33)
Synopsis: According to Rekdal (2014, p. 638), “Many of the messages presented in respectable scientific publications are, in fact, based on various forms of rumours. Some of these rumours appear so frequently, and in such complex, colourful, and entertaining ways that we may speak of them as academic urban legends”. Rekdal further submits that the explanation for this phenomenon is usually that authors have “lazily, sloppily, or fraudulently” used selected second order sources – easily introducing false or twisted information which the review process has not discovered. The same disturbing pattern is readily exposed in the saga of continental drift/plate tectonics. Though critical facts contradicted Wegener’s drift hypothesis, which during the 1960s was ‘upgraded’ by plate tectonic mechanisms, a multitude of human factors were unable to stop it from an ultimate triumphal procession. With hindsight it is safe to say that this scientific transition was largely a fashion-like trendy contraption – being without significant problemsolving capacity. In this article, I discuss how a complex mix of early disregarded critical observations, professional alienation, competition and socio-political pressure gave rise to a kind of ‘unconscious’ professional state during the run up to the plate tectonic revolution. Henceforth, the Earth sciences had fallen victim of an overarching urban legend – a colourful story that during the last half century has brought global geology astray.