Monday, January 16, 2012

Convenient conclusion from inconvenience facts.

I saw this quote from a political blog:
People in politics, like people everywhere, often choose to believe conclusions that are convenient or reassuring and tend to ignore inconvenient facts and harder truths.
Strangely I find this quote is particularly applicable to today's science world.  Examples abound, I don't think I need to convince any one that this is the case nowadays.

It somehow also reminded me of a true story.  There was once a well-known young Ph.D. from a prestige university who was a rising star in the 1960/1970's.  The reason that he became well-known in his early career was because his Ph.D. research was doing wind waves experiments in a laboratory wave tank that were successfully verfied the theory of Miles and Phillips.  That's all fine and dandy of course.  What's not well-known is how he obtained those experimental results.  No one asked, probably not even his own mentor.  But one of his fellow graduate student had the same mentor from that same university at the same time told me his personal, first hand eye-witness account of this well-known scientist's secret of success.  It happened that he was truly a deligent worker, spent all his time in the lab, performed hundreds upon hundreds of experiments, as it can be expected, most of the results did not fit the theories, only a few have.  So he only brought those few "good" experiments to his professor and together they verified the theories.  Did they really?  So even in the science world, if one can conveniently provide favorable results no one really would fussy about how the results were obtained.  (May be that's why we have the "hide the decline" gangs in the climate world.)

So really, the important thing is a "convenient conclusion."  Once that is surfaced, who cares about the " inconvenient facts and harder truths" that are only minor annoyances to the convenient main issue?!

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