cultural myths and misery

Toby Hemenway hemenway at jeffnet.org
Sun Dec 9 21:14:46 EST 2001


on 12/9/01 1:38 PM, souscayrous at souscayrous at wanadoo.fr wrote:

> the only way your
> comments make sense is if 'scientists' are regular guys and gals and
> 'administrators, reviewers, editors, marketers, and
> business executives' are the scum of the earth.

Yes, I did paint a rather rosy picture of scientists, didn't I? They are
human. But I suspect that scientists are drawn to their work because they
have a passion for accuracy (or truth, or facts, or whatever it should be
called).  Scientists are usually motivated by a desire to explain phenomena,
and this requires a willingness to accept negative results and expose flaws
in their work. That's how you get a reputation as a good scientist. People
in the other professions I listed are often rewarded only for positive
results, and are penalized for the revelation of mistakes, negative effects,
or information that would reduce sales or organizational influence. This was
a fundamental conflict between the science and marketing staffs where I
worked. A scientist who suppressed reports of side effects would be reviled;
the marketers and executives who worked hard to do that were doing a good
job.

 I have no data to prove that scientists, in general,  are more committed to
"truth" than others, though it's not unreasonable to believe that a passion
for science may select for this. But I think that science, as a profession,
lends itself to truthfulness more than marketing or other jobs dedicated to
increasing the size and power of an organization.

Toby 




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