God save me from my followers*

But then she remembered how the idea had been ridiculed in the scientific press, while it was immediately picked up by the lunatic fringe and incorporated into dozens of fringe religions. Once that happened, how could a scientist hope to get funding for such a project? How could a scientist expect to have a career if others came to think of him as a proponent of a metaphysical religion?

I wonder how many great ideas were destroyed not because no one followed them, but because the wrong people did. I think there are at least four categories where this can be the case:

  • Religious leaders whose later followers turned a peaceful religion into “reasons” for terrorism (e.g., to achieve their own goals of power or national independence).
  • Artists whose work was used by dictatorial regimes or “for the wrong reasons”, e.g., images and songs that should inspire national identity of a fractionated nation, which is then misused to support fascism and war.
  • Public persons who try to address a problem and consciously speak about it without covering it up with political correctness which is normally done. Suddenly, right-wing groups embrace this person against his will. The person does not share the groups prejudices but cannot distance himself from the group (which follows their own goals of receiving media attention and furthering their agenda).
  • Researchers with “wild” hypotheses that are immediately picked up by “amateurs” in that area (e.g., not people who know of the hundreds of little traps in examining the phenomena), which generated enough really bad science (e.g., lack of controls, incorrectly applied methods, selection bias) that the whole topic is tainted and unsuitable for any “professional” examination.

I wonder, is there anything to prevent the misuse of ones ideas? I’ve thought about a few things one can do, but I’d be interested in your ideas.

Note: The title is an adaptation of the quote: “God save me from my friends. I can protect myself from my enemies.” (probably by Claude Louis Hector de Villars)