Maybe you’re astigmatic!
Nah just old.
Been short sighted since I was ... well, found out I was short sighted at age 11.
Developed long sightedness over the last 3 or four years, simple age related lack of ability to pull the lens into the shape need to focus on close things.
quantification of ability
This is the bit that is causing difficulty. I, and I believe Lucy as well, am saying that there is more than just a quantitative difference at the top end, it's a qualitative difference in ability. In my experience those people can never be replaced by any number of good people.
My problem with funding students the way we do now is that those qualitatively different people will choose to avoid science. We don't have person A to give funding to because they have chosen a profession that will pay their loan back faster.
Ben is arguing (I think) that there is no qualitative difference and that the quantitative difference is insignificant. We don't need the best and brightest we can make do with more of the good ones.
now inventing positions for me
Read your response to Lucy on page 4 Ben.
I didn’t “dismiss” anything
Yes you did. Lucy and I have presented examples which you have simply dismissed as either luck or sexism. We presented the examples as instances where a person of exceptional ability made a change in the field that few were able to understand. And you ignore those examples.
It's hard to have a discussion with someone who is willing to ignore and dismiss data.
That luck and sexism exist in science does not mean that all brilliant women are merely average and suffering from sexism and that all brilliant male scientists are merely lucky.
Another option is that many people can have input into the decision
Ben have a look at the way science funding is managed in New Zealand. Apart from The Marsden Fund the overriding deciding factor in all other funding in New Zealand science is economic benefit to New Zealand as determined by accountants. It is not that I demand that accountants have no say in science funding but that I want a system where accountants are not the ONLY ones who decide science funding.
And to get back to the analogy. I don't mind if we can't afford Dan Carter in the Foulds Park 15, unless of course the reason we can't afford him is because we have to pay the club accountant $300k.
Quantity of difference??? Lucy and I have presented you with examples of people who either changed science utterly or advanced it by decades if not hundreds of years. You've casually dismissed those examples as irrelevant. We've tried to explain the hands on effect of these people in the lab and you dismissed our experience as so trivial as to be immeasurable.
gah Barbara McClintock, not the name I mauled.
and Bart should be listening to the market signals to decide how best to organize his own kind of research
Are you sure about that. If scientists in the DSIR had listened to market signals there would have been no kiwifruit industry in NZ.
Markets forces can only tell you about things the market is aware of. There was no market for an iPad until it existed. No market for a personal computer.
Markets work well to guide incremental change.
Which might not matter if you’re not paying the bills, but when it’s a matter of funding this or that person, the people with the money like to make the choice on more than “I worked with some brilliant people and it was great”.
Ah so that's the problem. OK here's the choice Ben, either you let scientists who have had the experience of working with brilliant people make the choice on who should get funding or you let an accountant in wtgn make that choice on who should get funding.
I'm not being specious it really is an accountant making the choice at the moment.
You are arguing that you should ignore the advice of those with actual experience. That's an experiment that has already been done.
I’m offering this challenge to you and Bart
And when we present you with examples you dismiss them as luck or sexism. Sorry Ben but that isn't productive.
Here's an example you should read Barabr McClintock discovered transposable elements. Bits of DNA that could move within the genome and change genes within one organism and therefore change the progeny of that organism.
All before the structure DNA had been discovered
She was difficult and had trouble communicating her ideas. truth be told not many were smart enough to even understand her. But she was recognised as really smart. She made leaps of understanding that are actually hard to teach even now. Nobody in science now thinks of her as anything other than a brilliant mind.
I'm not alone in believing that what she discovered would not have been understood until the genomes could be sequenced 50 years later.
Oh and the observations she based those discoveries on - they were known for 200 years prior to her work.
Oh and BTW Darwin's contribution wasn't a Theory of evolution it was the Theory of natural selection. The only reason it couldn't be tested was the timescale involved for most organisms - it has been tested now and every prediction it makes confirmed. Of course it isn't proven, no theory is, merely failed to be disproven.
I think we overrate the importance of talent
hmmm two days late. I wouldn't normally bother arguing this with you Ben but to me it's one of the serious flaws in kiwi culture. You say we overate talent, I say we overate the mediocre and call it egalitarianism. You're right of course the analogy to Dan Carter is false because nobody is trying to stop the brilliant from performing ... well no-one except those jealous of ability and talent.
You want examples, chase up Sydney Brenner. I have had the pleasure of sitting at the conference dinner table with him. You say eventually someone else would have had the same insights and maybe you're right. But if you stroll through the history of science you'll find periods of a century or more where everyone knew all the observations but nobody could fit them into a theory that allowed progress, Niels Bohr or Mendelev are nice examples. If those guys were just average then how come one of the many average people working over the 100 years prior to them didn't make the step forward?
But it's more than just what the talented do themselves that matters. It's what they inspire in the average. I've seen labs I've worked in simply lift in performance after just a visit from one of the leaders in plant biology. Just a seminar and a day chatting with the students and post-docs and suddenly everyone is approaching their experiments and data with a different attitude.
That's what talent does and I really really believe we should honour and respect intellectual talent.
I'm not saying we shouldn't respect the good capable people who do most of the work. Just that we should recognise the really great ones.
and cherish the close-up vision I still have in my right eye
May you keep it a long time. I'm now both short and long sighted :(. It was just a feature that I hadn't ever though of as being useful and for me it is a great boon.