Something that I’ve noticed in my various studies and through general observations on society is that we have an amazing propensity for revering individuals. Whether it is the current leader of your political party, or a figure from religious scripture, it seems like we are always looking for, and designating, specific individuals as infallible leaders whose actions and ideals we try to emulate.

Why is this?

On the contrary, in science it is expected that researchers observe the entire pool of existing research, a pool of knowledge that contains contributions from dozens if not hundreds of other researchers, before adding their work to the discussion. Essentially this process is equivalent to each researcher adding one additional brick to a giant edifice which has been built by thousands of others, each who themselves contributed only a few bricks. Extending the metaphor, there are definitely those who contribute more bricks than others, but it is clear that the contributions of any one individual are tiny when compared with the amalgamated contributions of the entire research community.

What the research community recognizes is that it takes small contributions by many different people to find truth. Why then in social, political, and religious arenas do we do the opposite – we  latch on to sole individuals and expect them to be perfect.

Perhaps this is why we are so outraged when it is discovered that a political or religious leader has had an extramarital affair or a celebrity has a drug addiction. Of course we are upset – we are constantly setting ourselves up for disappointment! No one individual is ever perfect – no one person ever has the entire picture or all the knowledge. That is why we must be careful who we choose to revere, and always remember that the big things – knowledge, morality, truth – can only come from the many, not from the few.

Reverence for Individuals