university shows academic weaknesses

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Mon Feb 24 09:46:49 EST 1997

On 24 Feb 1997, Joan Manuel wrote:

> CES (listmail at wrote:
> : What I want to know is: a researcher in Edinburgh cloned a sheep and
> : Prof Lee Silver of Princeton had to change his book because he took
> : a position that the feat was impossible. I contend Prof Silver's
> : tenure should be questioned and he should be disciplined for his
> : arrogant ego.
> But if everyone had to resign their position everytime they were wrong,
> there wouldn't be ANYONE left to teach arrogant little snots like
> yourself.  You is obviously a very immature person.  YOU should not be
> allowed into a graduate program until you learn how important it is to do
> an about face as soon as you are proven wrong (and you will be, many
> times, I assure you).  The attitude you espouse would make any research
> you performed not very credible, since you would be aiming to prove your
> hypothesis rather than testing it.  Tell us your name so we can dismiss 
> anything you publish. 

> --
> Joan L. Manuel, Ph.D			Department of Biology,
> E-mail: manuel at		Dalhousie University,
> or: ar282 at		Halifax, Nova Scotia
> 					Canada.  B3H 4J1

Dr. Manuel is undisputably correct in saying that the
most fundamental right (and perhaps rare privelege)
of a scientist is the right to be wrong without a fear
of being penalized. Specifically, the research (as late
Karl Popper so eloquntly demonstarted), should proceed 
largely by the route of hypithesis refutatiuon. This 
means, as Dr. Manual justly points out, that the prime 
aim of a researcher should be to TEST his or her 
hypothesis rather than desperately trying to CONFIRM it, 
whateever it may cost (sometime, unfortunately, fraud 
works as well).

But this is an ideal world. The REALITY of the present
day grantsmanship is preciesely the opposite. The present
reward system in academia is values much more routine
confirmations of today's fads and fashions, than a risky
work that may question them. The system is highly 
intolerant to errors and wrong routes without which 
science is unthinkable. It is unimaginable that the
present system will reward a resercher for proving his
or her own hypothesis was wrong. No, it will do preciesly
the opposite. So, if you lied and managed to get points
for it, keep insisting on it. Never admit mistake, even
if you know it was one. That's what the present system
tells us. The recent saga of "COLD FUSION" when two 
reputable scientists which a significant list of 
acheivements were internationally bullshitted for 
promoting ideas which (apparently, but not for sure) 
failed the convincing confirmation is a good illustartion 
of the degree of the intolerance modern research entails.

THIS is the central issue (reward system and grantsmanship)
to be addressed by the research community.
Alexander A. Berezin, PhD
Department of Engineering Physics
McMaster University, Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, L8S 4L7
tel. (905) 525-9140 ext. 24546

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