In the labyrinthine search for scientific truth, researchers sometimes travel through dead-end streets or poorly traveled routes. It is at these crossroads that the concept of metanoia emerges as a beacon urging you to reevaluate your course, realign your perspectives, and embark on renewed intellectual journeys.

Rooted in ancient Greek philosophy, metanoia embodies a profound notion of transformation: a journey beyond the confines of conventional thought, towards a deeper understanding of reality. Etymologically, it derives from the Greek “meta” (beyond) and “nous” (mind), providing a cognitive change, a transcendent evolution of thought that overcomes the limitations of the status quo.

For the famous American systems thinker Peter Senge, metanoia plays a fundamental role in the field of learning, especially in relation to understanding one's own thinking processes or metacognition, stating that assimilating the essence of metanoia is to understand the nature of own learning: a perpetual cycle of reflection, analysis and renewal, a sort of synonymy of review, rectification and re-impulsion.

In the context of scientific research, metanoia manifests itself as a catalyst for intellectual metamorphosis, a fundamental reexamination of assumptions, methodologies and paradigms that encourages facing prejudices and limitations that could obstruct the search for knowledge, inviting us to transcend the borders and to embrace interdisciplinary dialogue.

One of the most surprising facets of metanoia is its ability to foster epistemic humility (the recognition of the inherent fallibility of human cognition). In a period of unprecedented ecological dangers, social inequalities, and technological disruptions, metanoia urges researchers to transcend narrow self-interest and take a broader view. In fact, the history of science is replete with cases of metanoia; From Copernicus's heliocentric revolution through Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection to the recent recognition of climate change that has caused a shift in understanding of the urgency of addressing human impact on the planet, these transformative leaps in Imagination exemplify the power of metanoia to transcend entrenched orthodoxies and illuminate new frontiers of knowledge.

Yet for all its transformative potential, metanoia remains a rare and elusive phenomenon: a fleeting glimmer of intellectual clarity amid the fog of uncertainty. It takes intellectual courage, admitting dissatisfaction, as well as the discomfort and ambiguity of venturing into the unknown with humility and breadth of thought to, thanks to this and as the British philosopher Aldous Huxley pointed out, “achieve progress.”

*The author is President of the National Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation (Oncti)


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