Re: Selfish meme?

Date: Fri Jan 25 2002 - 18:03:30 GMT

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    Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2002 13:03:30 EST
    Subject: Re: Selfish meme?
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    I really was not attempting to discuss particular cases of "fake term papers,
    fake dissertations, fake degrees, fake methods, fake experiments, etc. all
    the way up to fake sciences (pseudosciences)." I suppose it might remind
    people of my past discussions of fake "labs" and fake "institutions," though.
    Such things might be more common in the murkier realm of social sciences than
    in nuclear physics, where the methods of testing a hypothesis are usually
    more clear cut.

    I think that young scientists can easily withstand exposure to some
    suggestions that we all keep our eyes open. Why would anyone suggest
    otherwise? To protect the young people, or to protect the children? Young
    people and children reading the news are already exposed to cautionary tales
    such as the Enron case, the recent scandal over plagiarized term papers in
    physics, industry exerting distorting influences on drug studies, etc. Like
    it or not, examining such things is an established part of the overall
    process of science anddoes not need to be eradicated from science. It might
    not always happen through routine discourse, however -- any more than we
    would expect routine discourse with Enron officials to have solved that

    --Aaron Lynch

    EARLIER COMMENTS, without context changes:

    In a message dated 1/25/2002 7:45:54 AM Central Standard Time, Wade T. Smith
    <> writes:

    > On 01/25/02 00:48, said this-
    > >When used deceptively or equivocally, words can foster rampant Enronism
    > >the sciences.
    > Like 'Enronism' for instance. What, pray tell, is your two cents about
    > that coin? All it implies to me, right now, is 'how the mighty may fall',
    > and that doesn't make much sense in your sentence.
    > - Wade

    Hi Wade.

    So here's my 2 cents. It's just a word. An amusing word that came to mind
    amid the growing explanations of what was happening in Enron. The rich system
    of fake subsidiaries, fake profits, fake assets, fake loyalties, fake audits,
    fake ideologies, fake tax "refunds," etc. And the attempt to make something
    big come into existence by getting enough people to believe that it already
    existed. In a way, something big did exist, but it was not exactly what it
    seemed to be. On the ideological side, we saw a company pushing the gospel of
    small government and free markets all while setting up an accounting trick
    that may have gotten them hundreds of millions of executive salary paid with
    a "refund" on taxes that were not paid in the first place. That, of course,
    might be considered socialism masquerading as market capitalism. There was
    also that effort to get the government to strong-arm private lenders into
    extending more credit, also in stark contrast to the free-market,
    small-government image being projected. The hypocrisy, at least, was not

    As for "Enronism," it is a word that may itself come into existence in
    standard usage simply from having enough people believe that it is a standard
    word. (I imagine it has been coined elsewhere, too.) The Enron case shows
    fraud, graft, hypocrisy, and carefully crafted illusions mixing on such a
    large scale that it seems to call out for an "ism."

    Are there things that might be considered "Enronism" in science? In my
    opinion, yes, but not on quite the scale as in business. One can look at
    cases of fake term papers, fake dissertations, fake degrees, fake methods,
    fake experiments, etc. all the way up to fake sciences (pseudosciences). (My
    present purpose is not, however, to make specific allegations. Besides, our
    list has a policy against allegations.) Science has ways of addressing such
    problems, but it is not a magical process of ignoring problems and having
    them thus go away -- any more than it is in business. And there are similar
    challenges in all kinds of other human endeavors. Had I subscribed to a
    political discussion list, I could probably have dropped a reference to
    Enronism in politics.

    --Aaron Lynch

    It's probably worth noting that the Enronism in business had a major effect
    on politics. Without Enron, George W. Bush would probably not have won the
    presidential race. (Even the Republican primary is a big question mark.)
    Arguably, the executives at Enron were acting as American oligarchs.

    The whole thing carries over into science as well, since the president of the
    USA has enormous influence on the science and education budgets in this
    country. There are real consequences to the lack of effective scrutiny and
    real accountability enjoyed for so long by Enron.

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