Herbert was a simpleton and a scientist. A conformist and a follower in most respects, he had the utmost respect for symbols and certificates and associations of people far smarter than he. Nobody seemed to notice how dumb he was. His confused unfocused and meandering statements would be taken for profundities to profound for the layperson.
Luckily for him, his moronic nature was easily obfuscated by his credentials. Things would likely have gone much, much smoother for him were it not for his savior complex, made all the more complicated by the fact that Herbert was not only a scientist, but again, a simpleton.
For all his shortcomings, Herbert looked the part: he had the hair of Albert Einstein, the oblate spheroidal body of Neil De Grasse Tyson, and the demeanor of an old befuddled scientist lost in thought. But he wasn’t really lost in thought but rather in search of the sorts of ideas which would distinguish him from his colleagues. For if there was anything that defined this clown, it was a desire for prestige.
So he was ambitious and underqualified. So what, you may ask? How is he any different from ninety percent of indoctrinaire establishment scientist? The answer to this, and the very thing that makes his story stand out is that unlike ethical scientists, Herbert had a dark side. His soul was tainted by jealously. Maybe it was the chemistry set experiment in grade-school which left permanent scars and disfiguration in areas best left undescribed. But it was his dark side that would take him to the edge of madness again and again.
Everything he did wrong was misinterpreted as “genius”; his mumbled word salads were hastily jotted down in notepads by lower-level scientists, thinking to extrapolate some arcane tidbit of astrophysics unapproachable by regular minds. His detailed images of a supernova were actually the result of zooming in on a traffic light. But nobody noticed and he received the prestigious NASA Astronomy Pic of the Year Award.
For his entire life, nearing seventy now, nobody suspected that Herbert was a ridiculously inept moron. Perhaps it should be no wonder at all that he developed the need to save the world from unscientific ideas and thoughts.
“I hate the Internet,” Herbert said, facing down a deluge of misinformation about the shape of the Earth. His doomscrolling continued, video after video promoting the so-called Flat Earth theory.
He was developing a superhero costume: spandex leotards, a cape, an SM for “Science Man” on the chest, and a pointed wizard’s cap, or perhaps an astronaut helmet. Perhaps he could stop the flat earthers by exposing them in their lairs. Surely these weren’t ordinary people to be so consumed by the desire to express wrong information. There must be something more. Russian bots? Deep State funding?
Herbert was determined to root out and destroy scientific misinformation.
He remembered what his dear father, a scientist, said about the family line back when he was five years old: “Herbert, you are descended from some of the most feared inquisitors of the Holy Inquisition. We must maintain the purity of the establishment worldview. It is up to science to prevent the heretics and misleaders to corrupt official doctrines and orthodoxies.”
Herbert was only five at the time but he remembered clearly, even now, sixty-five years later, the sense of urgency his father imparted on him:
“Papa, are you saying science must fight and win a holy war against the forces of ignorance and anti-science?” the young Herbert asked.
“Yes, Herbert,” his father said, handing his son a box of science projects, “You’re going to grow up to be the greatest defender of Science the world has ever known. Learn our ways, get your credentials, and then destroy the non-believers.”
Herbert snapped out of his reverie. It was now 2021 and the world was in grave danger. Climate change, pandemics, space junk: the world needed a hero more now than ever. All he needed was a superhero costume and a non-lethal weapon. “Father,” he said, looking up at the ceiling of his laboratory. “I will not disappoint you.”
Herbert clicked over to Amazon to find a costume.
The plan was simple yet far reaching: stop misinformation at its source, by all means necessary. To allow it to continue would be to condemn the Earth and her residents to certain doom. He imagined himself as a cross between Bill Nye the Science Guy and the Batman.