Asuccessful argument creates a synthesis of one thesis and one or more antitheses. Therefore, to put it briefly, scientific progress is made through contradictions. In order to achieve a synthesis and make a new discovery, completely new approaches and ways of thinking are often required – intellectual diversity. This begins with the first step in a scientific dispute, namely when a problem or contradiction is uncovered. When it is always the same people with the same thought processes who face the same questions, then scientific progress comes to a halt. Only when varied thought patterns, questions, and problem-solving strategies collide does something new, unexpected, and sometimes even great arise.

A rapidly evolving science needs intellectual diversity to identify the complex problems of our world and to work out solutions. Intellectual diversity mostly correlates with biographical diversity – in short, those who grow up differently often think differently, but rarely find their way into science in our society. These people include women, people who have grown up in poorly-educated households, and people with a migrant background, especially those from developing countries. They are therefore strongly underrepresented in science. The issue of women’s access to science is currently being discussed, with questions of fairness and equal opportunities in the foreground. However, the crucial aspect that is ignored is that all sides benefit from a successful dispute which leads to a new discovery. Intellectual diversity therefore strengthens science as a whole since it also opens up new horizons for those who already work in the scientific field.

Astrid Eichhorn

Successful Arguments — A Plea for Diversity


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But how do we reach the goal of making science more diverse? Without role models to show what can be achieved, it is much harder to carve your own path without having the example of others to follow.

And this applies all the more as we frequently hear of members of a minority being doubted, discouraged and even ridiculed. This often results in these people deciding against such a path from the outset. Science therefore requires a cultural change in terms of more diversity. If differently-minded minorities seek a way into science, we should not only signal that we support them on the grounds of equal opportunities, but that we even need them as part of an intellectually diverse landscape of ideas and for a dynamic culture of debate, so that everyone truly benefits. The open call for more diversity in science does not threaten the current majority, but rather promises a stronger, more dynamic science for all of us, which would also be more fun for everyone.

Physicist Astrid Eichhorn, member of Die Junge Akademie since 2018, is an associate professor at CP3-Origins at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and an Emmy Noether junior research group leader at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Heidelberg.