The Motives of Scientists

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Wed Oct 25 20:18:10 EST 1995

On 24 Oct 1995, Michael Kagalenko wrote:

>  I recon that current line of political thinking is to reduce finding
>  for research, technology and education and increase spending for
>  military and prisons.

I don't know about the miltary (no hard data), but for all I see 
it does NOT appear that the military is now is on the increase.

Your contention about prisons is more interesting. Suppose you
are right and prison spending (and apparently, prison population)
is rising. So, what are your conclusions ?
For all the flaws of this (Western) society it does NOT appear 
that here you can normally get to the prispon unless you IN FACT
have committed a crime (yes, cases of mistaken convictions do,
of course, occur, but they are rare). Therefore, putting 
more criminals behind the bars may not be that socially 
unreasonable. Yes, better to have fewer of them, but at least 
for now all who should be isolated should at least have a room
under the (protected) roof. Sad, but better than any imaginabe 

Now go to your next premiss (reduce funding for research,
technology and education). Pity that you bulk them all 
together, because all 3 items are utterly different.
(1)  "Education": I can perhaps agree with you. 
(2)  "Technology": this is a much less clear cut - it is a 
highly non-uniform term in many ways, primarily due to its 
commercial aspects. (e.g. is IBM a technology ? If so, is
Bill Gates also a technolgy ?, etc)
(3) "Research". Disagree in substance. At least as far as the
university ("academic") research is concerned, the system 
is GREATLY overheated and OVERfunded. Overproduction of PhDs
and oversupply of posdocs in almost all areas is obvious. 
Grantsmanship and "emrire building" (working for my
"boss") proliferates beyond any shame.
Professors are hired by universities to do teaching AND
research, not to be managers to hire cheap (mostly 
imported) research labor to do the work thay are supposed
to do themselves. Should there will be LESS overall funding
available, researchers at least can concentrate on the top 
priority projects and perhaps we would ALREADY have had cure 
of AIDS and/or cancer. In science more is the ENEMY (not an
ally) of the better. Due to the OVERfunding the efficiency of
science is, in fact, quite low (per dollar, per person). 
Faraday did ALL electricity and magnetism with just one
single lifetime technitian.
If you NOW ask what physics, chemistry, etc did for the 
last 20 years, than (despite few toys) you will find rather 
little. The best things (like chaos, buckyballs, quantum 
nonlocalities, etc) were found almost exclusively 
in LOW funded areas.  

> ](3) The fact that the US murder rate is primarily caused by black-on-black
> ]crime is a fact beyond rational dispute.  If the US murder rate is 
> ]re-computed
> ]with black-on-black crime removed, the US suddenly appears as peaceful as
> ]Switzerland.  If it is racist to point out this fact, I suppose 
> ]I AM "Racist slime".
> ]How can mentioning facts be "racist"?  Facts are facts.
>  No, I did not call you racist for stating the fact. I called you racist
>  for implying that the black-on-black killings are more acceptable.

Regardless who is "right or wrong" in the above, you should be 
utterly careful in using the word "implying". In the above he just 
says certain things which are stated as "facts" (how disputable 
they are as "facts" is another matter). It is YOU who "imply" that
he is "implying".

Alex Berezin

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