Asimov, Isaac. "Foreword: The Role of the Heretic," in Donald Goldsmith, editor. Scientists

 

Asimov, Isaac. "Foreword: The Role of the Heretic," in Donald Goldsmith, editor. Scientists
Confront Velikovsky. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977, pp. 7-15.

This Foreword deserves a notation separately from the book. In it, Asimov distinguishes between
the endoheretic and the exoheretic - a distinction to draw between insiders and outsiders. There
are outsiders who make noise and insiders who raise hell. Asimov cites as the great endoheretics
Galileo and Darwin. Then he goes on to say that these successful heretics did not involve the
general public! He does admit that there was some public concern about Darwin. "But never did
they (Galileo and Darwin) win by public pressure." (p. 9)

An exoheretic virtually never proves to be right. According to Asimov, how can he be when he
"...doesn't know what he is talking about?" (p. 12) As the editor of this volume later explains in
his Introduction, Wegener was (as a meteorologist) an exoheretic, and later proven right. But the
negative examples are unknown. How many have come up with the right idea but been spurned
because they were outsiders? Exoheretics can be easily dispensed with. What Asimov should be
saying is: the unsuccessful heretic leaves no records. We know nothing about him or her. If
Asimov cannot think of successful exoheretics it is because the system destroys them. We have
no way of knowing how many great ideas have been wasted because the system did not accept
them. The case of J. J. Waterston is just one example. But another sort of example is to be found
in the case of Newton: if he had his way, the work of Leibnitz would never have survived.

It seems to me that Asimov is playing a game here of being on the inside himself. Asimov tends
to be a scientific loyalist or he would not have been asked to contribute to this.