Thinking of Ayn Rand has brought up a vivid memory from 5th grade:
By the end of 5th grade, I had turned over just about every science book in the St. Mary’s of the Assumption school library, and had started in on the Whittier public library up the street.
One day, it dawned on me: 99% of people, those who don’t do science, are pretty much useless freeloaders. I mean, just read the books, both popular science and especially science fiction – time and time again, the lone genius struggles for those moments of luminous enlightenment that advance the human race, while the ignorant masses ignore or even persecute him! Yet, the wonders that result from the scientists’ labor enrich lives everywhere, even, perhaps especially, the lives of those who ignore or even persecute him.
This thought caused a bit of despair, because I was pretty sure even back then that I wasn’t going to be a great scientist.
Gradually, over the course of the next few years, it dawned on me what a bunch of self-serving crap this was. I think I reached this conclusion with the help of both real science history, which tells a much different and much more communal and even societal story, and literature, especially philosophy. Reading Plato, you can easily see that scientist don’t have a monopoly on smarts, and even look a little stupid outside their core disciplines. (By the time I’d graduated college and watched Cosmos, guys like Sagan had totally disproved Scientists = Altruistic Smart Guys equation. Scientists can be every bit as concerned with their Q rating as any Hollywood bimbo.)
Scientists are utterly dependent on a social environment that supports science – and they most certainly did not create that society.
The Church did.