Too smart to be wrong?

Linus Pauling was a pioneer in chemistry and molecular biology. He won two Nobel Prizes (Chemistry, 1954 Peace, 1962). He has been listed as one of the 20 greatest scientists of all time. His book, The Nature of the Chemical Bond was a powerful influence on chemistry. He was called the father of molecular biology. What did Pauling consider his greatest accomplishment? Despite all his accomplishments and all of his genius, Pauling thought his greatest achievement was the “discovery” that high doses of Vitamin C would significantly increase survival rates of cancer patients.

For all of Pauling’s intelligence, his view of Vitamin C as a cancer treatment has been proven wrong. Even when questions were raised about his methodology and its results, Pauling held on to his belief. The Mayo Clinic tested high doses of Vitamin C and Placebos on cancer patients. The tests revealed Vitamin C made no difference. Though science lost interest in Vitamin C as a wonder cure, Pauling continued to promote it for use against cancer, brain problems, and vascular disease.

Though he used high doses of Vitamin C, he ironically died of prostate cancer in 1994.

Even the brightest and most distinguished individuals can be wrong. And, once confronted with their wrong, they can still cling to things that simply are not true. No one person knows it all. We need each other to point out flaws in our thinking. We need to be humble enough to except the correction of others. Proverbs makes this clear:

“In the abundance of counselors there is victory.” 11:14

“A wise man is he who listens to counsel.” 12:15

“Wisdom is with those who receive counsel.” 13:10

“Listen to counsel and accept discipline.” 19:20

No matter how much we know or how much we have invested in a subject, we always need fresh perspectives and challenges. We need each other.


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