Saturday, 16 July 2011

Nature: Scientists Resist New Ideas, Inventions and Innovations

In the 1810s the Luddites attacked machinery in a textile factory. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joel Kontinen

In the 1810s workers known as Luddites attacked machinery in textile factories in Britain. As the Industrial Revolution was picking up steam, they feared that machines would eventually replace them.

Opposition to new ideas has not become extinct in the 200 years following the early Luddite attacks. Recently, professor David Edgerton wrote an article in the journal Nature, pointing out that resistance to new ideas, inventions and innovations often comes from an unexpected source: scientists.

Edgerton says that just before World War II the science advisors of the British government did not for instance understand the value of anti-aircraft missile systems and resisted their development. During the war, Churchill’s own Luddites (as Edgerton calls them) in effect hampered the British war effort.

Professor Edgerton admits that Luddism is not necessarily a bad thing since scepticism can prevent wasting money and resources on overly expensive projects.

Edgerton’s view of Luddism applies well to the ongoing discussion on Darwinian evolution and intelligent design. Many scientists still resist anything that smacks of design, although recent discoveries suggest strongly that evolution is unable to explain the origin and biodiversity of life.

Ideology often prevents scientists from acknowledging that all living beings and systems have been designed wonderfully and intelligently.


Edgerton, David. 2011. In praise of Luddism. Nature 471 (7336): 27–29.