I work in STEM, and in recent years I have been troubled by this trend in academia where certain individuals are elevated to the status of celebrities. Their appearances alone draw crowds in the hundreds and their "latest" interviews are almost taken as edicts directly from God and are debated endlessly. They are sometimes literally referred to as "Heroes" or "God (fathers)".
Sure, there has always been certain academicians (especially authors or professors) who are popular, and I think we should acknowledge them. But I don't understand the point of celebrating certain individual just because of what he or she is doing, or what this person has done or achieved in the past. The whole point of academia is cross-examination, and no person has absolute say in anything. I think people have lost sight of that. Plus, I don't believe in the "self-made" researcher.
What really prompted me to write this is when I discovered a serious error in a widely cited paper by a very prominent scientist (who has published books, been on TED talks, etc.). How can the paper be so widely cited given such a glaring and serious error? I am also troubled by some recent "non-sense" work from the same author. But this is just one example out of many (countless). I have seen people citing the work of a famous person despite the content or quality of the work, and then doubling it down by defending the indefensible. This also connects to the well-known debate over the meaningfulness of citation count.
But am I just imagining all of this? Perhaps the power in academia is more diffused as compared to what I have been exposed to and these so-called "Gods" of academia are more frequently challenged than what I know of. And ultimately, if this celebrity culture exists, then should we discourage it?