Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bigfoot research makes professor a campus outcast

Bigfoot research makes professor a campus outcast. This story at CNN caught my eye. Jeffrey Meldrum is a tenured professor at Idaho State University. He is a bigfoot researcher. This annoys other science faculty members at Idaho State to no end. Some want his tenure revoked.

Thankfully, academic freedom will protect Dr. Meldrum. This is the reason academic freedom exists. The research of a professor should not be subject to the popularity of the research being conducted.

Is bigfoot out there? The burden of proof is on those trying to prove the existence of bigfoot. Are people still seeing a bigfoot creature? Yes. Hence, whether bigfoot is real or not is worthy of study. Why shouldn't academics investigate it?

The real message here is that unpopular science research will keep academics from getting hired in the first place. If they are hired, they will not get tenure. If they get tenured, they will not get promoted. And regardless, they will be subject to a backlash. So, do not do research in anything that will offend mainstream science.

Of course, mainstream science is not always right. Fringe theories sometimes become mainstream. And sometimes the outcast rebel academic becomes a hero who overcomes bias and shows the academy that there are new ways of thinking that enlightens the scientific community.

Is Jeffrey Meldrum one of these? Maybe not. But this kind of attack on a scientific researcher helps no one and only teaches other academics to conform to the status quo. I hope you find bigfoot Dr. Meldrum.

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