I remember a series of impromptu debates I had with a well-meaning, but decidedly leftist co-worker. We were part of an organization testing out military gear and would wait late into the night for the data to come in from a test range where the action happened. As the acidic Army coffee grew low and our vision grew bleary from Excel spreadsheet over-pixilation, we would get into stupid philosophical arguments.
This guy who had enough weaponized self-regard to have sunk The Admiral Hipper would bemoan the fact that he degraded himself by working for an organization that existed for the ultimate purpose of killing people. I would typically be flippant and piss in his bowl of Cheerios by asking him “What else makes the grass grow green? If a paramecium eats your cadaver’s right foot and then the left one, that’s a good, balanced meal.” One particular evening my boredom overrode my native common sense. I decided to legitimately engage with his performative agitprop.
“We have an all-volunteer military and live in a Democracy,” I posited somewhat legitimately. “We therefore have exactly the governing institutions we tolerate. The people in those institutions that are all-volunteer represent the population of our nation. Diversity is obviously our strength. You do believe in tolerance, don’t you?”
I was deliberately disingenuous on many levels. An all-volunteer force is not a random sample of people drawn by Social Security Number. It is a sample of people willing to comply with what a military dictates in return for an opportunity or at least a paycheck. A similar thing can be said of other all-volunteer institutions.
This is particularly bad when an institution can only serve its legitimate function by being meritocratic rather than all-volunteer. Meritocratic institutions cannot function at top efficiency when they have to take anyone that volunteers or gets voluntold to join them.
One example of the failure of what should be an utterly and ruthlessly meritocratic is the fate of the scientific professions. Homer Simpson only makes us laugh until he runs a nuclear reactor in real life. Amerikan Science is no longer truly meritocratic. The parts of it that still are get defrauded for the sake of professional advancement.
As a product sold to NGOs and consumers, science can be defrauded to the point where no reasonable person trusts in its meritocracy. Whoever wants to be there, can get there by meeting a different selection criterion.
If it’s not a random sample of Amerika, and the profession is obviously too corrupt to count as a legitimate meritocracy any more, then who gets to be a sciency scientist? Perhaps “Wrapped Around Your Finger” by The Police offers us an insight to the type of person producing Amerikan Science these days.
When Mr. Gordon Matthew Sumner (AKA Sting) wrote this particular song, he wrote about the essential nature of lynch-pin institutions such as academia, the media, or the most politicized parts of the Civil Service in Amerika. The song discusses how the power dynamic in these institutions molds career paths and shapes the people who actually claw their way to the top.
The neophyte has to choose between professional success and a fulfilling life. He seeks out the person who made it to the top as a mentor. That mentor then uses the apprentice as cheap labor and probably humiliates this individual. This turns that person against the very society that nurtured them. Everything becomes a revenge fantasy. They burrow in, get power, and then wait for the opportunity to “stick it to the man.”
As Sting wrote it:
I will turn your face to alabaster.
When you find your servant is your master.
The individual recruited and brought into the system loses their soul to gain power, mastery, and revenge. Any means become acceptable. Every issue, every job, every product just becomes a proxy for the revenge and power quest. As Saul Alinsky told aspiring activists: “The issue is not the issue. The revolution is the issue.”
So how does screwed up power dynamics and its impact on human psychology relate to the fundamental issue of science? It corrupts it. It corrupts it badly. Science is the quest to apply logic and ratiocination to the ascertaining of natural truths. It builds knowledge on the foundation of rigorous and honest logical compurgation.
But in The Sting World of Amerikan Science, that search for natural truth is just the issue. It is not the revolution. The results of this revolution manifested in Street Level Reality at Stanford University. The New York Times tells us how the revolution always seems to turn out in the end.
Following months of intense scrutiny of his scientific work, Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced Wednesday that he would resign as president of Stanford University after an independent review of his research found significant flaws in studies he supervised going back decades. The review, conducted by an outside panel of scientists, refuted the most serious claim involving Dr. Tessier-Lavigne’s work — that an important 2009 Alzheimer’s study was the subject of an investigation that found falsified data and that Dr. Tessier-Lavigne had covered it up.
Notice that this isn’t a fly-by-night online boot camp. This is not a floundering institution. This is one of America’s crown jewels of intellectual achievement. It is one of the pinnacles of our national culture getting skin-suited by some embittered revolutionary.
Stanford is considered by some experts to be somewhere between the fourth and second best university in the nation. The institution only takes 4% of the people who apply. The minimum SAT score to be seriously considered, if you can’t beat Usain Bolt in a 100 Meter Sprint, is 1470 out of 1600 (well over the 90th percentile). Accepted applicants typically have a High School GPA 3.9 out 4.0 in the most rigorous classes their schools offer. And yet its President was a scientific fraud.
If the President of Stanford University was a fraud, what about the mayor of your city? Those people teaching your children, providing your drinking water, and working as doctors and nurses at your nearest hospital, how many of them are professional frauds as well? If the President of Stanford got to the top by fraud, how else does a young person make it in life?
In conclusion, the revolution is not the issue. The competence and honesty of the people we entrust our lives and our futures to every day is the issue. The system that selects for these people is the issue. The reason this is an issue is that that system selects for back-knifing, butt-kissing, and rampant professional fraud.
Amerika remains wrapped around the finger of a fraudulent professional revolution against competence and ratiocination. The consequences of this revolution manifest as trains wreck, planes crash, schools graduate illiterates, the nation becomes ugly and polluted, and the leaders of our critical institutions are a clown show gallimaufry of disingenuous frauds. This revolution will kill all decency in the end if it is not comprehensively reversed.