Facts and misconceptions are taught together. It’s one of the most basic tenets of knowledge in any field that is worth studying since there are obviously gaps and unanswered questions in… well, pretty much everything.
Few would argue that the “genius” tag is not overused or, at the least, that it isn’t misused. But, to paraphrase Richard Price: the path of theory is, in the beginning, pointed down a reasonable path. Along the way, well-intentioned yet misguided minds guide the theory down the only path they can see, making assumptions along the way that lead the theory into a “wall”: a contradiction. Eventually, the pressure builds as evidence is proved on both sides of the contradiction.
A great historical example was the pre-Copernican astronomical assumption that the Earth was at the center of the Solar System. The astronomers developed extraordinarily complex sets of equations to describe the motion of the Sun and the planets around the Earth to massage the theory into the illusion of working. However, as measurements became more precise, the contradictions started to arise. Then, of course, a genius in the truest sense in Nicolaus Copernicus disproved a fundamental and widely accepted assumption to reveal a simple and (non-relativistically) perfect theory of planetary motion: the Earth orbits the Sun.
The knowledgeable reader may point out that Copernicus had predecessors or that he mistakenly thought the Sun was the center of the Universe, but the wiser reader will see that the point still stands. Of course, raw genius was much more clearly exhibited 3 centuries later when a Swiss patent clerk proved that Maxwell’s equations held and the Lorentz transformation was not a result of electromagnetic instrument distortion, but a result of a relative rate of time. That’s another story.
In both instances, a genius was caught at the right place at the right time. Simply put, they were among a handful to tens of people who could have deduced what they did under the circumstances. It’s a combination of luck and genius.
Today’s information rich environment is nearly optimal for genius. As a breeding ground for misinformation, contradiction, and (sometimes) fact, the Internet is the collective well-intentioned misguided mind of humanity pushing their hopeless contradictions into a neatly wrapped package for a genius to tear open and disprove foolish assumptions.
Simply put, the “right place, right time” element has almost been removed from the list of roadblocks that could prevent a genius from solving a contradiction. This seems like the right time to point out that a great list of unanswered questions has been compiled by Science and can be found here.
I have made a decision today. I will no longer be angered or bothered by the foolish and seemingly destructive inaccuracies of the talking heads on the Internet and in the media. While it may seem that they are powerfully misguiding humanity into oblivion, I recognize that they are only doing the prerequisite work for a true act of genius by parading a contradiction as the conclusion of a set of facts. The most relevant non-scientific example of this is Barack Obama succeeding George W Bush.