[Taxacom] A good year indeed!

Richard Jensen rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Fri Nov 14 07:46:38 CST 2014


Mike,

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear.  My point is that excellence alone
cannot ensure success.  Just as in nature, the "most fit" individuals in a
population may fail for a variety of reasons unrelated to factors that
determine fitness, in many academic/institutional environments the same can
happen to excellent individuals.  By politics, I meant that someone may be
fired (not-tenured, promoted, etc.) for reasons that reflect nothing more
than the internal politics of the institution or simply because someone
higher up does not like the individual or (as in one case I know well) does
not believe that taxonomy/systematics is good science!  Yes, we can learn
how to play the political games, but that doesn't ensure success when
others don't play by whatever rules are the foundation of those games.  I
have seen individuals whose work is, at best, mediocre, "earn" tenure and
have seen individuals who were excellent denied same.

In a world in which selection worked well, this wouldn't happen. But, it
does, so obviously there is more to what's going on than simple survival of
the "most excellent" or even survival of those who are "enough excellent."
The vagaries of human social interactions are exactly why the natural
selection model fails in human societies.

Dick

On Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 5:01 PM, Michael A. Ivie <mivie at montana.edu> wrote:

> Dick,
>
> No one wants to admit the dirty little secret, but we should never really
> forget that among the skills needed to be excellent are those of
> personality and ability to politic that allow one to succeed.  A brilliant
> scientist that cannot be tolerated personally will not be good for our
> science.  They are not "excellent." Some that are so adept as to be virtual
> charlatans can sometime garner resources that support others who are not.
> It is a total pool issue. As we train students, these characteristics must
> be nurtured as well as others.
>
> Mike
>
> On 11/13/2014 2:35 PM, Richard Jensen wrote:
>
>> As long as we don't forget about genetic drift, then there is a kernel of
>> truth to what Mike says.  And, unfortunately, there are often instances in
>> which those who survive (get hired, "earn" tenure), do so by virtue of
>> politics and personalities.  I have seen several such cases and colleagues
>> have told me about others.  It's the nature of the beast, and all any of us
>> can do is try our best to ensure that those selected and retained have
>> succeeded by virtue of the quality of their work.
>>
>> Cheers,
>>
>> Dick J
>>
>> On Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 4:01 PM, Stephen Thorpe <
>> stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz <mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>> wrote:
>>
>>     Who has the right to decide what is or isn't "good enough" or
>>     "best enough"? If those who end up with the jobs are by definition
>>     the "best enough", then it is meaningless circularity ...
>>
>>
>>     --------------------------------------------
>>     On Fri, 14/11/14, Michael A. Ivie <mivie at montana.edu
>>     <mailto:mivie at montana.edu>> wrote:
>>
>>      Subject: Re: [Taxacom] A good year indeed!
>>      To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>>      Received: Friday, 14 November, 2014, 8:32 AM
>>
>>      Jason,
>>
>>      On further reflection, I may
>>      see where you misunderstood.  Social
>>      Darwinism is the idea of the survival of the
>>      fittest.  It is absolute,
>>      and the social
>>      losers lose because of a fault of their own.
>>
>>      This has nothing to do with my
>>      comments. It is more the "survival of the
>>      fit enough."  Do not look at it from the
>>      individual side, where the
>>      underemployed in
>>      our science cannot be said to be deficient, but from
>>      the health of the science, where those who
>>      "win" a job are as an
>>      aggregate,
>>      a highly selected pool of excellence.  This makes things
>>      grim
>>      for any individual, as the
>>      "best" might never get a job, but the "best
>>
>>      enough" does.  However, I am talking
>>      about the future of insect
>>      systematics, and
>>      it is looking solid.  Many jobs this year, and a large
>>      pool of excellence.
>>
>>      Mike
>>
>>      On
>>      11/13/2014 1:00 PM, JF Mate wrote:
>>      >>
>>      As in all human enterprises, the laws of Malthus apply to
>>      our science.Our "reproductive capacity" is far
>>      higher than the carrying capacity of our institutions. There
>>      will always be a larger supply of propagules than can
>>      survive (i.e. be provided academic jobs), and selection will
>>      take the best and discard the others, often a majority. Some
>>      cohorts will have very strong selection, so that a tiny
>>      percentage make it through, and at other times selection
>>      will be relaxed, and a larger percentage will make it. Of
>>      course, this means that sometimes very excellent propagules
>>      will be discarded in lean times, and less excellent ones
>>      will make it through in fat times. However, the academic
>>      reproductive rate will always provide a diverse pool with
>>      different attributes and abilities, so that the overall
>>      resulting set will be maximally beneficial to the future.
>>      > Mike, you are flogging a dead horse with a
>>      new stick. Do you think it
>>      > wise to
>>      appeal to social darwinism to support your own personal
>>      > opinion?
>>      >
>>      > Best
>>      >
>>      > Jason
>>      >
>>      _______________________________________________
>>      > Taxacom Mailing List
>>      >
>>     Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>>      > http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
>>      > The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be
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>>      >
>>      > Celebrating 27 years
>>      of Taxacom in 2014.
>>
>>      --
>>      __________________________________________________
>>
>>      Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D.,
>>      F.R.E.S.
>>
>>      Montana Entomology
>>      Collection
>>      Marsh Labs, Room 50
>>      1911 West Lincoln Street
>>      NW
>>      corner of Lincoln and S.19th
>>      Montana State
>>      University
>>      Bozeman, MT 59717
>>      USA
>>
>>      (406)
>>      994-4610 (voice)
>>      (406) 994-6029 (FAX)
>>     mivie at montana.edu <mailto:mivie at montana.edu>
>>
>>      _______________________________________________
>>      Taxacom Mailing List
>>     Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>>     http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
>>      The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be
>>      searched at: http://taxacom.markmail.org
>>
>>      Celebrating 27 years of
>>      Taxacom in 2014.
>>
>>     _______________________________________________
>>     Taxacom Mailing List
>>     Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>>     http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
>>     The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
>>     http://taxacom.markmail.org
>>
>>     Celebrating 27 years of Taxacom in 2014.
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> --
>> Richard Jensen, Professor
>> Department of Biology
>> Saint Mary's College
>> Notre Dame, IN 46556
>>
>
> --
> __________________________________________________
>
> Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D., F.R.E.S.
>
> Montana Entomology Collection
> Marsh Labs, Room 50
> 1911 West Lincoln Street
> NW corner of Lincoln and S.19th
> Montana State University
> Bozeman, MT 59717
> USA
>
> (406) 994-4610 (voice)
> (406) 994-6029 (FAX)
> mivie at montana.edu
>
> _______________________________________________
> Taxacom Mailing List
> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>
> Celebrating 27 years of Taxacom in 2014.
>



-- 
Richard Jensen, Professor
Department of Biology
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556



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