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Monday, April 30, 2007

Publish and Perish

Some years ago, the Dutch, upon realizing the apocryphal value of starving artists, decided to put them on the dole. Just complete a little masterpiece now and then, and the government will gladly purchase it, and encourage a world of artistic creation in the bargain. Well, what they ultimately got was more than they bargained for, as warehouses begin to overflow with 'masterpieces' of every stripe. Art became denominated by a new measure, not by inspiration, but by the pound.

The obvious problem is that by valuing art by quantity rather than quality, you get quantity aplenty, which buries the needle of inspiration under a ton of hay. Thus not only are you paying plenty for works of dubious and superfluous inspiration, not to mention its storage, but you lose sight of what's truly valuable. It also encourages partisanship, since now that everyone has the inspiration to be an artist, they can champion their own pile of artistic genius, tucked unseen in a warehouse corner.

It is good that the Dutch recognized the error of their ways, and that this didn't become a universally favored means for the inspiration of the artistic mind. After all, the natural demand for genius is made of a different stuff, namely a love of beauty and of truth, hardly things that can be produced at will, like an edict to produce paper clips. Unfortunately, although art cannot be commoditized on demand, it seems that the rule doesn't seem to apply for science, which is after all needed so we can make new and better stuff, or commodities. Indeed, the Dutch model is a template for nearly all modern scientific research, that has in the last fifty years multiplied the production of 'science' nearly a thousand fold.

So nowadays, we make or should we say scribble down a lot of science, tons and tons of it. So do we produce a lot of of wisdom that that is as sharp and pointed as a needle? Not really, but we make a heck of a lot of hay. For every science (including psychology) the motivation is the same. To get tenure you have to publish, get grant money, and otherwise show yourself to be a creative sort. So you write lots of journal articles, get grants, and get them published in journals that are sequestered in large warehouse facilities (college libraries) that pay a pretty penny for all this accumulated wisdom which is only available (somewhere) miles from you.

Psychology Stacks at Harvard

When the pecuniary motive supplants the creative one, then creativity is swamped by intellectual manure that does not stimulate creativity, but stifles it. This makes psychology (as well as other scientific fields of inquiry) into a constipated discipline that is so full of shit it is proverbially bursting at the seams with offal awfulness, a torrent of verbal logorrhea (see definition below), that this writer can only damn with irony.

For more on the how the Dutch model stifles science, an excellent article by the physicist Frank Tipler on its perils is here.

Logorrhoea or logorrhea (Greek λογορροια, logorrhoia, “word-flux”) is defined as an “excessive flow of words” and, when used medically, refers to incoherent talkativeness that occurs in certain kinds of mental illness, such as mania. The spoken form of logorrhoea (in the non-medical sense) is a kind of verbosity that uses superfluous or fancy words to disguise a useless or simple message as useful or intellectual, and is commonly known as “verbal diarrhea.”

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