Divergent Interests

The invocation of Trump is just a means of making people excited about reading the article, which is ironic: the real critique is much more interesting than the lazy headline suggests.

This graphic gives a sense of it.

On the one hand, it's difficult to sympathize too much given that tenured academia is deeply insulated from competition compared to almost anyone, anywhere. On the other hand, competition for tenured positions has become very fierce in recent years. That seems to be what is driving this kind of thing.

There's another aspect, too, which is implied by the need to publish unlikely novel results before getting 'scooped.' If you're hanging your hopes on them, it's also necessary to defend their plausibility so you continue to be important as the discoverer of them. Thus, science becomes deformed not only because scientists are inclined no longer to carefully check unlikely results, but also because they have an interest in using anti-scientific strategies to defend implausible results long after they should be rejected. They might use rhetoric to try to silence criticism ("You're just opposed to my results because I'm [insert protected category]!"). Or, as the Michael Mann case suggests, they might even resort to legal strategies to defend highly questionable science.

After all, one's career is at stake. Or one's hope of ever having a career.


raven said...

Perhaps it is just anecdotal,
but the most competent people I have run across, have generally been the most relaxed and free of defensiveness. They had risen to the point where they had no need to pretend. Most of them were quite humble and gracious.

Grim said...

Competence and infallibility turn out not to have much relationship, do they? You only got competent by making a lot of mistakes, correcting for them, and driving on. After so many mistakes, what's one more? It falls right into the practice: acknowledge it, correct for it, move on.

People who claim to be infallible, on the other hand, are hiding a deep fear of some kind.

Texan99 said...

A career that has to be defended that way is a travesty. My father would have been horrified, as would all of his colleagues that I ever met.

J Melcher said...

This is a good example of the difficulties of chasing down original sources.

This image self-declared itself to be page one of a two page comparison. Links from this Hall to the "source" offer only page one, again and links to a twitter feed. Review of several weeks of twitter offer, again, only page one. Page two is buried, somewhere.