|Samson, alpha male gorilla in Givskud Zoo|
Here we propose the Big Man Theory of Science. Or, let's call it the Big Scientist Theory so as not to exclude women. Perhaps in a Spencerian world, science would advance from discovery to discovery, going where the natural world takes it. The peer review system, oversight by governing bodies, and so on do, in theory, ensure that this is more or less the way science moves forward. The tide of progress would sweep all along in its path.
But in a Carlylean world, science advances as scientists with big names and lots of money or political influence wish it to. A scientist made a discovery, got famous, got awards, and that brought more awards. Now Big Scientist writes visionary papers paving the way forward, makes decisions about where grant money goes, and more insidiously perhaps, but with just as much impact, makes decisions about what lesser scientists can say in their publications, s/he doesn't cite publications by lesser scientists questioning his or her work.
Big Scientists determine the nature of the grant applications that will be written and funded for some time to come, they determine where the technological and academic investments are going to go, and so on. They have labs full of DNA sequencers, but the human genome has been sequenced? The next big scientific endeavor must require their use. Big Scientist even tells people s/he knows that what s/he is proposing isn't good science, but it has to be done because the grant money must keep coming. And science and large numbers of scientists follow, because everyone has to follow the money.
When it comes to the media, they first call the Big Scientist. S/he then gets to expound on this or that, which again serves to set the agenda for the future, and importantly (or mainly) for future research investment. With few if any exceptions, the Big Scientist advocates an agenda that just so happens to involve things that fit his/her interests and lab needs.
These are subtle and not so subtle ways that specific interests are perpetuated, and this engenders conflicts of interest that turn out to be comfortably in keeping with how science works today. It is not a utopian vision of how things should be done, but it is the reality. Probably in the very long run, though, it doesn't matter -- important progress will eventually be made. Scientific ideas can outlive their sell-by date, replaced by better ideas. But in the short and medium (and sometimes long) run, fads and influence control the momentum as Big Science run by Big Scientists turns out to be good primarily for Big Scientists.
These considerations are about science, but they are also a part of science. Objectivity of neutral observers trying their best to falsify their ideas, is about as much a fairy tale as you'll ever hear.