That often means criticizing, in part because better ways of doing things may not be obvious, thus suggesting positive changes not so easy. Of course, established parts of society resist change. The 'in's' usually want to protect their privilege, resources, and status quo. The young may not see the issues or may be intimidated by the structures because it's risky to critique them (making it harder to get jobs, grants, etc.). Resistance is difficult and often doesn't work.
But if you've read much of what we have to say here on MT, you know that I, at least, feel that pointing out problems is important, despite the obstacles. Change often means mass, and often grass-roots, resistance. But first, it requires recognition of the problems and that often in turn requires repetition. If something is worth saying, and it's something people don't want to hear because it may threaten comfortable business-as-usual, it's worth repeating. I do that sort of repetition here, but usually in the context of reasons for my view and/or thoughts about how to change things.
Some may see this as contrarian. To that, I must plead guilty.
We here are not the only ones to note what is going on in terms of funding, careers in science, hyperbole in science reporting, PhDs without jobs or careers, but lots of debt, well into their 30's, the huge locked-in funding system of well-heeled, locked-in un-killable projects, universities hungry for more graduate students even though this mainly is for their own bragging rights (since the students aren't getting jobs), and so on. These are real problems worth crabbing about.
Also, the inertia of science is such that, at present, we are ever-increasing the size and duration of projects that essentially just do the same thing as has been done for years before, with only minor tweaks in technology and major increases in scale, as if scale is a good substitute for thought--indeed, it's often presented that way, in the common implicit or even sometimes explicit boasting about hypothesis-free science.
Albert Einstein is often credited (falsely, apparently) with defining insanity as continuing to do the same thing and hoping the result will be different. Even showing deep flaws in what is going on is often presented as a reason for doing even more of the same--for example, the commentary and article by Lek et al. in the 18 August issue of Nature. Similar points can be made about the highly publicized issues of statistical inference that we've posted about before. Nobody wants to, or perhaps knows how to, or dares to say that what we're doing is continuing along a path of wishful-thinking. Science is an Establishment that is naturally inertial and resists change. But I believe the problems need to be pointed out.
|Wendell Berry; Wikipedia (photo by By Guy Mendes)|
It may take a contrarian to assert this point of view. Doing so may be in vain, but it isn't pointless and repetition does not make it false. Our concern here on MT is about science and its position in society (I can be contrarian about other things, too!). I try to be responsible in presenting my view, and to explain and to justify it. I am afraid I don't do it with eloquence. But the poet-contrarian Wendell Berry, whom I have had the privilege of meeting a few times, does, having expressed contrariness quite well, as you can see on the OnBeing blogsite, and here's their link to Wendell reading it himself. The poem begins, "I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my/inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission/to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it." I won't complain if you leave here to go read the rest.