university shows academic weaknesses

William Bains william at
Sat Mar 1 04:12:55 EST 1997

In article
<Pine.SOL.3.91.970224092448.2687A-100000 at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>,
berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA (Alexander Berezin) wrote:

> 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.  

[stuff skipped]

> > --
> > 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. 

[stuff skipped]

> 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
> **********************************

It depends why Prof. Silver was wrong, and why the Scottish group
succeeded. If Prof Silver had based his whole book on a premise that was
not only wrong but also provably silly, then perhaps he or she is not the
right person to supervise graduate students, have research grants etc. If
he or she just said "it seems very unlikely that cloning technology will
extend to cloning adult animals", then, hey, it -was- very unlikely. It
proved very difficult. 

I do not understand why Dr. Berezin says that this is like cold fusion.
The cold fusion story was embraced with the same skepticism as the idea of
cloning aduly mammals. "I won't believe it until you do it" was the
general response. And the two researchers, and half a dozen other groups
around the world, could not do it. They simply could not get the original
experiments to work again. So the scientific community said "I don't
believe it." The difference with Dolyl the Cloned Sheep is that she is
walking around, being very believable.

William Bains

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