Doug Natelson has done an outstanding job at debunking a ridiculous charge of confirmation bias allegedly affecting a recent study of climate change. Such a charge is put forth in an article published in the popular press (on a very prominent venue). While ostensibly aimed at educating the general public about some aspects of how science works, the article sneakily rehashes one of the most common and dangerous misconceptions that exist out there about science, namely that in the end it is not as “objective” as its practitioners claim.
Posts Tagged ‘Society’
Imagine this: you are the owner of a second tier football franchise based somewhere in Europe, say one like Tottenham, Udinese, Bayer Leverkusen — one of those. Your team is solid, good but not great. It is good enough to play consistently in the major league of your country, often earning a spot in some European competition (occasionally the UEFA Champions League, normally the UEFA Europa League).
If a cash-strapped province or state had to make painful cuts to public services, the immediately noticeable effect would be the outright elimination of some of them.
One would not think of, say, laying off a fraction of all bus drivers and asking the remaining ones to work longer hours, in order to keep all existing bus routes active — some would be phased out, based on various considerations of priority, in order to minimize the inconvenience to denizens, while continuing to offer as much of the original transportation as possible. Some people, however, would have to go to work or to the grocery store in some other, less convenient or more expensive way.
We all understand that, sometimes, financial hardship is simply a fact of life. And I do believe that most of us are willing to endure painful sacrifices, in the pursuit of a common good.
What exasperates people, is the perception of a general lack of vision, of a concrete, well thought out crisis management plan, on the part of those in charge of overseeing operations. Particularly disconcerting is a reassuring public rhetoric, filled with generic statements of understanding of the gravity of the situation, and of resolve to ensure that the period of scarcity be weathered with minimal suffering and no permanent damage, and a concomitant pattern of actions suggesting all but the opposite.
Imagine the following, hypothetical situation: the owner of a small high-tech company needs all of his employees retrained, in view of the adoption of a new, company-wide software system.
He decides to send a few of them to a week-long course with a private firm, specialized in offering short courses on the particular software that will be acquired. A firm representative promised him that at the end of the course, these employees will be proficient with the new system, capable of operating and managing it, and able in turn to train other colleagues. That way, the company will be up to speed in little time.
If you’re a college or university teacher, whom do you work for ?”
Thus begins Stanley Fish‘s latest New York Times editorial on the subject of academia. Here are a few excerpts:
“Academics [...] want [...] to work in an organization and enjoy its benefits and at the same time be their own bosses.”
… or airline employee standing behind your airline’s counter at the gate, or customer service desk, or checking in my luggage and issuing my boarding card(s), or talking to me on the phone:
When I lived in San Diego, my house was in the close vicinity of the campus of the large state university that employed me at the time. I was fortunate enough that I could literally walk to work. Purchasing a home in San Diego was already an expensive proposition, especially on an assistant professor salary. House prices in the College Area, however, were relatively low at that time, doubtless due to what was widely regarded as an unappealing feature of that residential area, namely its closeness to the university.
Why was that a problem ?
The situation, events and characters described below are all fictional. They are, however, based on a few similar stories, as recently recounted to me by friends who work in the private sector. Obviously, I am no economist, or labor expert, and so cannot claim to know whether the hypothetical scenario described is realistic (much less frequent). It just sounds plausible to me, and I also believe that it could take place in just about any professional setting.